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Growing support for 9/11’s ‘St. Mychal’


JULY 30, 2015, 9:46 PM    LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2015, 9:37 AM

His grave lies just inside the cemetery gates, a few feet from a chain-link fence and the rattle and swoosh of cars, trucks and buses on Totowa’s Union Boulevard.

If you go there, you can understand on some level why many people want the Rev. Mychal Judge to be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.

Judge, a Franciscan priest known for his infectious smile and eloquent preaching, served in parishes in Bergen and Passaic counties before moving to Manhattan in the 1990s and becoming a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department. He was killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 – officially listed by the city’s medical examiner as the first casualty among the nearly 3,000 people who died that day.

Judge’s grave, amid the final resting places of more than 280 other Franciscan priests at Totowa’s Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, has since become an informal pilgrimage site, with many visitors leaving behind keepsakes – statues of firefighters, prayer cards, rosary beads and even personal notes to “Saint Mychal.”

“If you were here for Sept. 11, you totally get the connection and how much he meant to people,” said Holy Sepulchre’s manager, Mirian Tanis. “He does receive a lot of love even though he is not with us.”

But can love and attention turn Mychal Judge into a saint? And would it matter that Judge was also a recovering alcoholic who reportedly told several close associates that he was gay but never acted on his homosexuality because of his priestly vow of celibacy?

Whether Judge will be officially considered for sainthood may not be decided for decades, if ever, say experts familiar with Catholicism’s scrupulous and often politically and theologically fractious process of naming saints. But Pope Francis’ visit to New York City in September, which includes an interfaith prayer service at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, has prompted some advocates to push harder for Judge’s sainthood.

5 thoughts on “Growing support for 9/11’s ‘St. Mychal’

  1. If he only refrained from sodomy because of his priestly vow of celibacy he was not and is not a likely candidate for sainthood.

    One refrains from sodomy because it is a grave sin that contravenes God’s natural order. Period. One hopes he died in a state of grace, but if he did not, there is still hope for his immortal soul in the form of prayers from us who still form part of the Church Militant.

  2. Anonymous 458 – I once lived in your fearful world of obsession with “grave sin,” internalized Inquisitions, and God as angry Fuhrer — until I met Father Mychal Judge who showed me the way to Christ through love.

    Given Mychal’s extraordinary holiness in life, plus at least three medically documented miraculous healings through his intercession, I would suggest that the “Church Militant” needs his prayers more than he needs theirs.

  3. M.H., how did Fr. Judge’s counsel you? Did his teachings adhere to church doctrine? If not, how did they differ? From your comments it appears he had some of his own ideas. BTW, giving up one’s doubts about the Catholic faith and going “all in” does not cause one to live a fearful life. It is possible to forego sinful ways and permanently mend the gaping holes in one’s soul. How often do you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e., for the uninitiated, “go to confession”)? It pays to keep close tabs on one’s own behavior and instances of neglect and periodically confess these shortcomings, however minor they may seem, to the Lord. Popes go to confession regularly, and so should we all. Unfortunately it is not happening as often as it should in the U.S., which unfortunately probably indicates a widespread failure of faith and humility.

  4. From the article:
    “Shifting attitudes”
    “In perhaps a small sign that official Roman Catholic attitudes toward gays and other traditionally marginalized groups may be shifting, the chief spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, pointed out in an interview that Judge’s alleged homosexuality or alcoholism would not necessarily disqualify him from becoming a saint.
    ““The fact that he was a recovering alcoholic and the fact that he identified as a homosexual, even though to the best of my knowledge he never betrayed his celibacy vows, I don’t think those would be impediment,” Zwilling said. “Being homosexual is not a sin. Being sexually active outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.”

    “Still, Zwilling said the archdiocese currently has no official plan to promote sainthood for Judge.”

    Zwilling confuses things by discussing Fr. Judge’s vow of celibacy in the context of his having identified as an SSA individual. If he were to have considered acting on his supposedly self-confessed same sex attraction, or if he did in fact give himself over to such urges, this would open up a much bigger can of worms than the simpler case of a Catholic priest violating his vow of celibacy by committing the admittedly still serious sin of fornication. The latter pretty much stays at the level of the individual priest. The former tears at the heart of the priestly mission and echoes much more loudly, resonating with the 50 year scandal that has destroyed the trajectory of U.S. vocations and placed the souls of countless thousands of lay Catholics at risk whose faith was misled or weakened by non-believing clergy.

    That said, fornication is nothing to cheer about. Its commonplace nature in our society for such a long time now has clearly paved the way for more serious forms of sexual sin, such as sodomy and pederasty, to begin to shed their senses-shocking veneer and creep closer to being considered “normal” by people who would never dream of engaging in any such behavior.

  5. Weehawken and Hoboken Catholics Going Astray, Openly Gay Priest Named as Pastor (this is the danger of not being attentive to the need to repent from sin–how are these people to get past the fact that their priest is an unrepentant sinner?)

    ‘What the heck is the difference’ if my priest is gay? |

    Rev. Warren Hall, an openly gay priest, will be an assistant pastor at churches in Hoboken and Weehawken. Here, Hall leads a special mass for couples renewing their vows on Valentine’s Day 2014. (Frances Micklow/The Star-Ledger) 

    WEEHAWKEN — Joe Bradley was baptized at St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Weehawken in 1925. It was the end of the Scopes Monkey Trial and the year “The Great Gatsby” was published.

    Having bigger things to think about in 2015 — like his 90th birthday in a few days, and the state of his church in general — the lifelong parishioner couldn’t care less about whether his priest is gay.

    The Rev. Warren Hall, who is openly gay, and who says he was fired from his post at Seton Hall University over a pro-LGBT Facebook post, starts at both Bradley’s church and Saints Peter and Paul Church in Hoboken, which share pastors, on Aug. 15, a spokesman for the Archdiocese confirmed on Friday. 

    “If the Boy Scouts can put gays in there, what the heck is the difference?” Bradley said while embracing the summer heat on his front porch on Saturday.

    MORE: Gay priest removed from Seton Hall University post reassigned to Hoboken

    “I don’t care what priest is here as long as we have a priest,” he said. “The priests have been back and forth here so much lately we don’t know who they are.”

    Bradley and several other Weehawken residents in the small, tight-knit St. Lawrence neighborhood said they just want a stable priest for their church, which is coming back now after a period of uncertainty following devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

    “He ain’t gonna bother anybody at church. He’s just going to say the Mass,” said Anna Bradley, Joe’s wife. “As long as we have a church, that’s the main thing.”

    Marie Hablitz, 45-year parishioner who is also a Eucharistic minister and a second grade teacher at the church, was also “glad we got someone.” 

    “I’m really happy,” she said, adding that one of her best friends growing up was gay. “You know, some people, they don’t bother you, you don’t bother them. … I know it’s against the church but — what are you gonna do? What are you going to do, isolate them? It’s not fair. It’s not human.”

    In a house around the corner from the Bradleys, Carol McLaughlin, a 54-year parishioner, and her 22-year-old niece Lori Reeves, a lifelong parishioner, spoke similarly.

    Though she said St. Lawrence’s priests had never denounced being gay, McLaughlin’s only concern was parishioners’ potential confusion, given the Catholic Church’s complex, evolving stance on homosexuality.

    RELATED: Pope Francis’ ground-breaking comments on gays, abortion rattle Catholic church

    “(There is support for a gay priest) yet they’re against gay and lesbian marriage and everything. I don’t understand why. They should explain themselves more,” McLaughlin said. “They’re like hypocrites. Maybe they’ll explain it.”

    Reeves said one of her professors at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City encouraged her to attend mass at theMetropolitan Community Church in New York City, a Christian spiritual church geared toward the LGBTQI community.

    “I had to write a paper about it. The music was more lively. It wasn’t slow songs. The choir was nice. … I enjoyed it. I’m still Catholic and everything but it’s just nice,” she recalled. “They don’t preach about ‘oh, you have to be gay.’ It was just open to everybody. People brought their pets and everything.”

    Hoboken resident Caren Rankin, a parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul Church, was similarly unfazed and supportive of the news. She didn’t think it would bother her friends in the church, either.

    “I believe as the pope believes,” she said. “The pope said God doesn’t judge, so I don’t judge.”

    MORE: N.J. priest not reassigned over pro-LGBT post, church says 

    A couple of Hoboken neighbors of the church, who weren’t parishioners, also greeted the news warmly. Hoboken resident Danny DiMichino, 41, who is gay and formerly Catholic, called the decision “awesome” since he believes “religion and spirituality should … not follow strict rules.” Helen Crohn, a 19-year resident of Hoboken, said her daughter’s reformed rabbi in Queens is openly gay.

    “The pope said God doesn’t judge, so I don’t judge.”

    “I think it’s fabulous,” she said, of Hall’s new gig. “Good for him.”

    Hall, who has not yet responded to NJ Advance Media inquiries for comment, said on Twitter that he’s “thrilled” to be “back to work” following controversy. 

    Geoffrey Scheer, St. Lawrence’s office manager, has also sung at Saints Peter and Paul for 11 years. Noting that this area is “fairly liberal,” Scheer said he has only heard positive comments from parishioners so far.

    Priests, he said, “have a certain amount of freedom” to speak about what they want in the Roman Catholic Church.

    “I think it’s great that he’s open about it. I appreciate what he’s doing. I wish more could be open about it,” Scheer said. He said Hall has “got a great sort of folksy style. You get a sense that he’s speaking to you.”

    “It’s not ‘fire and brimstone.'”

    Laura Herzog may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LauraHerzogL. Find on Facebook 

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