BY NICOLE FROIO
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
The house on a quiet street in Davie is cozy, if not a bit cluttered, its walls decorated with award plaques, photos and old-fashioned bird plates. John J. McNeill greets me warmly, supporting himself with a cane in one hand and shaking my hand with the other. I have to raise my voice a little so he can hear me, but otherwise the 88-year-old is still sharp and sure of his convictions.
Decades before Pope Francis made front-page news with his “Who am I to judge?” remark about gay priests, McNeill was judged, and judged harshly, by the Catholic Church. A Jesuit priest for 40 years, he was expelled after writing The Church and The Homosexual, a book that argued homosexual love was just as valid as heterosexual love.
“In some sense it was my experience of a deep personal love relationship that led me to question church teaching about homosexuality,” says McNeill, who lives in semi-retirement with his partner of 48 years, Charlie Chiarelli. “I see gay love as another form of human love and just as valid as heterosexual love, and it's a gift from God to be celebrated and not to be condemned.”