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social sciences

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Judge, Father Mychal (1933-2001)  
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Whenever a fire call went out, Judge changed from his typical brown Franciscan habit to a fireman's uniform (for reasons of safety) and raced to the scene. The last call to which he responded was at Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Fellow members of the fire department discovered him after he had been wounded by falling debris. They rushed him outside, but he was beyond help. Not wishing to leave him lying on the sidewalk, they reverently carried his body to the nearby St. Peter's Church.

Sponsor Message.

Father Mychal Judge was listed as victim 0001 of the attacks on September 11.

His funeral Mass on September 15 drew a crowd of three thousand to St. Francis Church, with many more outside, watching the service on specially set-up television screens. No one will ever know how many AIDS patients, homeless people, and recovering alcoholics joined in the sorrow that day.

On November 18 Senator Charles Schumer of New York requested that Judge be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, noting that "Father Judge died as he lived--serving others" and that, when "advised to move to a safer location, he refused to leave his compatriots." Senator Hillary Clinton joined in supporting the nomination.

In June 2002 the United States Congress passed the Mychal Judge Act, signed into law by Bush over the objections of Attorney General John Ashcroft. The legislation authorized the payment of federal death benefits to anyone named as a beneficiary on the insurance policy of a firefighter or police officer who died in the line of duty. Previously, only spouses, parents, and children had been eligible.

The passage of the Mychal Judge Act meant that, for the first time, gay and lesbian partners could receive a federal benefit. (In Judge's case, his two sisters were the beneficiaries.)

The bill was sponsored by Representatives Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York with a strong record of support for glbtq rights, and Republican Donald Manzullo of Illinois, whose record was quite the opposite.

Nadler commented, "I disagree with Don on just about everything," but said that they had worked closely to pass the bill. For his part, Manzullo denied any intent to benefit same-sex couples. "I'm in zero contact with the gay community," he stated (apparently forgetting that several members of the community were his congressional colleagues).

In March 2002 organizers of the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade recognized Judge by symbolically naming him Grand Marshal. He was also honored at the New York parade, in which he could not have marched as a member of Dignity and so chose not to march at all. The proud son of Irish immigrants had marched in a different New York parade, an inclusive one in Queens organized by his friend Brendan Fay in 2000 to protest the banning of glbtq people from the main event. Judge responded to the jeers of protesters by offering a smile and a blessing.

In the months after Judge's death, his fire department colleagues asked Cardinal Edward Egan of New York to begin the process of canonization, but the Archbishop was not receptive to the idea. Nor was the Franciscan provincial minister, Father John Felice, who considered the push for sainthood "a mistake."

Their reluctance is hardly surprising given the church's teachings about homosexuality. Judge was clearly at odds with Roman Catholic authorities in his views on the topic and his vision for the future. He once told Fay, "Look at who we are as gay people at this moment in history as being a gift to the church, to witness change and be agents for change both in church and society."

Although church officials have been discouraging, others have pressed forward. Television producer Burt Kearns established the website to provide information about Judge and promote the effort to have him canonized. By 2003 readers had sent Kearns reports of four incidents that they considered miracles attributable to the intercession of Judge. (Two miracles accepted by the Vatican are one of the requisites for sainthood.)

A parish of the Old Catholic Church has already chosen to honor Judge by naming their church in Dallas St. Mychal Judge. The church, which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, describes itself as "open and accepting" and "welcom[ing to] both saints and sinners, and most of us are closer to sinner than saint." It is progressive in accepting women as priests and conducting celebrations of holy unions for same-sex couples but even more traditional than typical Roman Catholic churches in holding regular recitations of the rosary in Latin.

As for the question of the possible canonization of Judge, they state, "Although we honor and respect our Roman brothers and sisters, we are not bound by anything they do or don't do. If asked, we would suggest that the Vatican recognize the sainthood of Father Mychal. They don't ask, so we don't tell."

Judge is the subject of a documentary film, Saint of 9/11 (2006, directed by Glenn Holsten). Narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, it is a touching portrait of Father Judge, capturing the man not only in his enormous sense of duty and service to others but also in his gifts as a witty story-teller with an irrepressible sense of humor and an abiding belief in hope.

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

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arts >> Bingham, Mark

Mark Bingham, San Francisco businessman and rugby enthusiast, is believed to have helped avert the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a populated landmark on September 11, 2001.

social sciences >> Gomes, Peter

After coming out publicly in 1991, to protest a homophobic incident at Harvard University, the Reverend Peter Gomes lent his eloquent voice to the cause of equality for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Hawkes, Brent

Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, the Reverend Doctor Brent Hawkes has worked with fervor and dedication to secure equal rights for glbtq Canadians.

arts >> McKellen, Sir Ian

Arguably the finest Shakespearean actor of his generation, Ian McKellen was the first British subject to be knighted after publicly revealing his homosexuality, an event that proved more controversial within the gay community than in the mainstream.


Bumiller, Elisabeth. "Washington Memo: The Most Unusual Story Behind a Gay Rights Victory." New York Times (June 27, 2002): A25.

Feister, John Bookser, and John Zawadzinski. "No Greater Love: Chaplain Mychal Judge, O.F.M." St. Anthony Messenger (December 2001).

Goldstein, Richard. "Bush's Gay Gambit." Village Voice (July 23, 2002): 51.

Saint Mychal Judge Church--Dallas, Texas.

Senior, Jennifer. "The Fireman's Friar." New York Magazine (November 12, 2001).

"Should He Be Saint Mychal?" U. S. Catholic 68.3 (March 2003): 11.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Judge, Father Mychal  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated April 29, 2014  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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