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 Topic: Twenty Queer Catholic Saints, Popes, Sisters and Priests.

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Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Posts: 33
Interests: Queer History and Biography
Physical Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Posted: 5 Sep 2003, 5:00 pm    Post subject: Twenty Queer Catholic Saints, Popes, Sisters and Priests. Reply with quote

The following is a slightly re-edited version of my September 2003 column for Swerve: Manitoba's Monthly Queer Newsmagazine (I took July and August off):


I write this month’s column on summer holidays in Calgary, Alberta. I decided to combine the two most common bumper stickers I’ve seen on the streets of Calgary, coming up with: “Jesus Loves Alberta Beef” (ooh, I’m gonna burn in hell for that one, I can just feel it…)

Calgary is also home of the Catholic bishop who said that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was in danger of everlasting damnation for his recent support of same-sex marriage legislation. The news has been full of recent pronouncements from the Vatican that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered," and "contrary to natural law”. Hmm... now this calls for some reminders from the history books…

Twenty Queer Catholic Saints, Popes, Sisters and Priests

1. St. Augustine (354-430), Roman theologian, bishop of Hippo in Roman Africa, and Catholic saint (his feast day is August 28th); he is ranked #54 by Michael H. Hart in his biography book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History ; "Augustine apparently had at least one homosexual affair in his youth, and he was, by his own admission, tormented throughout his early life by an 'insatiable' desire for sex." (Rutledge, L. The New Gay Book of Lists. Alyson, 1996)

2. John XII (c.937–964), Catholic pope; "An insatiable bisexual, he was accused of running a brothel out of St. Peter's" (Rutledge, L. The New Gay Book of Lists. Alyson, 1996 p. 165)

3. Benedict IX (1020-1055), Catholic pope: "Benedict turned the Lateran Palace into the site of lavish homosexual orgies, and by the time he was twenty-three, his riotous conduct was so appalling that he was deposed. He was reinstated and deposed several times over the next five years. After finally being driven out once and for all in 1048, he died in obscurity." (Rutledge, L. The New Gay Book of Lists. Alyson, 1996. p. 165)

4. John of Orléans (circa 1080-1100 A.D.), French bishop of Orléans, lover of archbishop Ralph of Tours (who had prevailed upon the king of France to install John as a bishop): "In fact John had also shared his favors with the previous bishop of Orléans (Ralph's brother) and was generally so accommodating with his person that he was popularly known as Flora, in reference to a celebrated courtesan of the day." (Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, p. 213)

5. St. Hildegund (?-1188) Catholic saint (her feast day is April 20th) who lived as a man named Joseph from the age of twelve; she was discovered to be female only after her death: "She was born in the 1100s at Neuss, Germany. After the death of her mother, Hildegund, at age 12, went with her father, a knight, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. For her safety, she was dressed as a boy and called "Joseph." After her father died during their return trip to Germany, she was able to make her own way home. She continued to disguise herself as a boy and eventually as a man. Later, she made a pilgrimage to Rome, during which she had several adventures. On one of them, she was condemned to be hanged as a robber and escaped only when a friend of the real robber cut her down from the gallows. After that, she returned to Germany and entered a Trappist monastery at Schönau, concealing her gender until her death in 1188." (quote source: Staley, Tony.'This female saint lived the derring-do life of a man: St. Hildegund even had to be cut down from the gallows' The Compass newspaper (Catholic Diocese of Green Bay), April 13, 2001; article online at

6. St. Joan of Arc (1412?-1431), the most famous gender rebel of the Middle Ages, a French peasant girl who took up arms and led the French army in a victory at Orléans that beat back an English attempt to conquer France during the Hundred Years' War; she was later captured, sold to the English, and burned at the stake at the age of 20; she is considered the national hero of France, and was made a Catholic saint in 1909.

7. Alexander VI (1431-1503), Catholic pope and patron to many Renaissance artists (including Michelangelo)

8. Julius III (Giovanni Maria Ciocchi Del Monte; 1487 - 1555) Catholic pope from 1550 to 1555, who caused what may be the worst homosexual scandal in the history of the papacy when he made his 17-year-old lover, Innocenzo Del Monte, a cardinal; Innocenzo became one of the worst cardinals in the history of the Church, involved in a chain of heterosexual rapes, acts of violence and even murders after Julius' death.

9. Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte (1549-1626), Italian cardinal who employed the artist Caravaggio, helping him to get his first public commission in 1597, three scenes from the life of St. Matthew in the chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi.

10. Catalina de Erauso (1592? - 1650), Spanish-Mexican soldier and Catholic nun; also known as 'La Monja Alférez' (The Second Lieutenant Nun); at 15 she decided to escape the convent where she was raised and start a life of adventure, dressing as a man and traveling through Spain, finally crossing the Atlantic to the New World; under the name of Antonio de Erauso, she fought in the wars against the Araucanian Indians in Chile, which won her the military degree of alférez (second lieutenant); she won Pope Urban VII's blessing to continue cross-dressing as a result of her service.

(photo source: Feinberg, Leslie. Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul. Beacon Press, 1996).

11. François Timoléon, Abbé de Choisy (Comtesse de Barres; 1644-1724), French abbot, dean of the cathedral of Bayeux, and writer; he was raised by his mother to wear women's clothes; in 1676 he attended a Papal inaugural ball in female dress; when he moved away from Paris, he took the name of Comtesse de Barres, pretended to be a widow, and founded a finishing school for French young ladies; his posthumously published diaries are believed to be the first known published memoirs of a cross-dresser.

12. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695), Mexican poet, playwright, philosopher, and nun whose writings, both religious and profane, aroused violent reactions among her adversaries in the Catholic church, who did whatever they could to prevent her from writing and publishing.

13. St Giovanni Bosco (1815 - 1888), Italian priest who worked to improve the lot of homeless peasant teenage boys in and around Turin, and founded the Salesian Fathers religious order; he was declared a Catholic saint in 1934.

14. Francis Cardinal Spellman (1889-1967), American priest and the Catholic Cardinal of New York (1946-1967); one of his better-known quotes is: "Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon man."; he was a major figure in American politics during the first half of the Cold War, and a kingmaker in New York City politics; subject of the 1984 by John Cooney, The American Pope: The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman: "In the original bound galleys of former Wall Street Journal reporter John Cooney’s Spellman biography, The American Pope...Spellman’s gay life was recounted in four pages that included interviews with several notable individuals who knew Spellman as a closeted homosexual. Among Cooney’s interview subjects was C.A. Tripp...In a telephone interview with Tripp last week, he told me that his information came from a Broadway dancer in the show One Touch of Venus who had a relationship with Spellman back in the 1940s; the prelate would have his limousine pick up the dancer several nights a week and bring him back to his place. When the dancer once asked Spellman how he could get away with this, Tripp says Spellman answered, "Who would believe that?" (Signorile, Michelangelo. "Cardinal Spellman’s Dark Legacy" The Gist, New York Press, 15(18), 2002;

15. Father Mychal Judge (1933-2001), American Catholic priest and the New York Fire Department Catholic chaplain who was killed at Ground Zero of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; in the early 1980s, he was one of the first members of the clergy to minister to AIDS patients, and he opened the doors of St. Francis of Assisi Church when Dignity, a gay Catholic organization, needed a home for its AIDS ministry; he also marched in the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade, which his friend Brendan Fay, a gay activist, had organized in Queens.

16. Rev. Michael Peterson, M.D. (?-1987), American psychiatrist; an openly gay man before he converted to Catholicism and became a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington; he was the founder of the St. Luke Institute (a psychiatric hospital in Maryland for Catholic priests and religious-order men and women) and the co-author of a 1985 report to U.S. Catholic bishops, warning them about the level of sexual abuse by priests: "His report was dismissed by US bishops. Some may have thought he was touting for business for his clinic. Others regarded him as extreme. The report now reads now like prophecy." ("Hundreds sue Vatican over child sex abuse", The Sydney Morning Herald, April 6 2002); Peterson was also one of the first priests with AIDS to attract national attention (he died of AIDS in 1987).

17. Rev. Thom Savage, American Catholic priest and president of Rockhurst University (when he was chosen in 1988, he became the U.S.'s youngest Jesuit college president); board member for both the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Kansas City Board of Trade; he died of AIDS in 1999.

18. Rev. Rembert Weakland, American Catholic priest, archbishop of Milwaukee (considered by some to be one of the more liberal and reform-minded Catholic bishops) and former world leader of the Benedictine order; he resigned his postion as archbishop in 2002 after it was discovered that he paid $450,000 in hush money to buy the silence of former Marquette University theology student Paul Macoux: "The alleged ex-lover, Paul Macoux, is calling his decades-old encounter with Weakland 'sexual abuse', but from what we know now, that's not the case. Macoux, 54, was at least in his late 20s when he began a relationship with Weakland, and from an 11-page, handwritten 1980 'Dear Paul' letter Weakland wrote to Macoux, it appears that the archbishop and his paramour had a consensual relationship, one that Weakland ended when he decided to begin honoring his vow of celibacy. The letter reveals Weakland, archbishop of Milwaukee since 1977, to have been in 'deep love' with Marcoux, who comes off as a manipulative grifter who looked to the archbishop, 21 years his senior, as a sugar daddy." (Dreher, Rod. "Weakland's Exit", National Review Online, May 24, 2002,

19. Rev. William Hart McNichols, American Jesuit; Roman Catholic priest in Taos, New Mexico; worked in AIDS Ministry at St. Vincent's Hospice and throughout New York from 1983-1990; also a painter and renowned iconographer (creator of Christian iconic images); he came out nationally in an interview with Time magazine in May 2002.

20. Rev. John J. McNeill, American Roman Catholic priest who was silenced by the Vatican; he is a theologian, psychotherapist, scholar and writer (The Church and the Homosexual; Taking a Chance on God; Freedom, Glorious Freedom; Both Feet Firmly Planted In Midair); he has taught philosophy and theology at Fordham University and Union Theological Seminary; he was expelled from the Jesuit order in 1987 for refusing to cease his ministry to gay men and lesbians; his work has formed the basis for challenging the homophobic biases of Christian religions: "We are born gay! Our gayness is part of God's creative order."

For more information on these and many other queer figures throughout history and around the world, see the Rainbow Lives Web site at
Ryan Schultz, Reference Librarian
University of Manitoba Libraries
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
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