Abstract

After authoring the groundbreaking 1976 book The Church and the Homosexual, John McNeill immediately became the most notable figure in late twentieth-century U.S. Catholicism when it came to the pastoral and moral challenges related to homosexuality. Subsequently silenced by church authorities and ultimately expelled from the Society of Jesus after publicly criticizing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” McNeill’s story helps to shed light on the history of two post-1945 phenomena: first, Catholic theologians’ and church officials’ increasing interest in the issue of same-sex sexual relations; and second, an emerging narrative, promoted by the gay liberationist movement, which portrayed the church as an oppressor of gay men and lesbian women.

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