[Warning: Graphic links.]
In a Facebook post dated January 23, 2018, James Martin praised and recommended the work of “gay” priest and artist William Hart McNichols. According to Martin, an upcoming book will feature the work of McNichols who paints in a style reminiscent of Byzantine icons. Martin wrote:
Dear friends: I thought I might start recommending some new books that you might enjoy…Here’s a new one about someone whose work many people on this page enjoy: the Rev. William Hart McNichols, the great iconographer. A new book, “Image to Insight,” collects many of his most beautiful icons and pairs them with reflections by the philosopher John Dadosky, along with a foreword by Mirabai Starr. If you’re a fan of Father Bill’s amazing art I’ll bet you’ll enjoy this book, which is published by the University of New Mexico Press.
McNichols entered the Jesuits in 1968 and was ordained in 1979. In the early- 1980s, he volunteered with the dissident group Dignity and worked with AIDS hospices in New York City. In 1989, he contributed to Jeannine Gramick’s book “Homosexuality in the Priesthood and the Religious Life” which also contained contributions from gay historian and gay-marriage advocate John Boswell; at the time, Gramick was the subject of a lengthy Vatican investigation which later demanded the discontinuation of any involvement with her ministry to the “gay” community; she disregarded the directive. In 2017, James Martin called for the canonization of Jeannine Gramick.
Concerning Gramick’s book, and the entire push for gay-affirmation in the Catholic Church, in 1990, the late Richard John Neuhaus wrote:
The campaign in the church for homosexual rights, as they are called, is by its own definition a frontal attack on church teaching and practice and on cultural patterns that the church is thought to have blessed in the past. Homosexuality in the Priesthood and the Religious Life (edited by Jeannine Gramick, Crossroad) is a useful guide to the campaign’s developing attitudes, arguments, and strategies. It contains eight essays by proponents of a radically changed approach to homosexuality, and fourteen chapters of testimony by lesbians and male homosexuals in the priesthood and religious orders.
In 2002, McNichols spoke out against any sort of association between the burgeoning gay-priest child sex abuse scandal and homosexuals in the priesthood; he said in an interview:
The outcast status of gay people can provide them with a natural bent toward listening. They can be reconcilers; they can understand the sufferings of both sexes. They’re natural priests.
Concerning “gay” priests in the Catholic Church. McNichols continued:
We’re all sort of like Anne Frank’s family, up in the attic, waiting for the Nazis to come. And that’s wrong…The Church of Christ should not be a fearful place.
Also, in 2002, McNichols resigned from the Jesuit Order, but remains a priest in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
Although the artistic work of McNichols is on occasion highly intriguing and his abilities as an iconographer are notable, his choice of subject matter remains highly problematic. He has painted images of non-canonized individuals as Saints, including the controversial anti-war and gay-activist Berrigan brothers, murder-victim Matthew Shepard, an anonymous gay priest at Sachsenhausen, Zen-Buddhist teacher Maura Soshin O’ Halloran, and the Buddha himself. But his most controversial work is probably a drawing from 1986 entitled “AIDS Crucifixion” which depicts Christ on the Cross wearing modern men’s underwear being mourned by His Mother, a young blonde-haired St. John, and Mary Magdalene in a low-cut sleeveless dress; above the body of Jesus reads a sign: “AIDS, homosexual, faggot, pervert, Sodomite.”
In 2010, according to lesbian activist and author of the homoerotic novel “Jesus in Love,” Cherry Kittredge, McNichols’ “agent” granted her permission to repost the picture of the “sodomite” Christ to her blog. Several paintings by McNichols were featured in Kittredge’s 2007 book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More.”
The “queer” Christ meme is one that has found extensive favor in gay-affirmative Catholic circles and ministries; proponents include James Martin, the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province, and the LGBT ministry (Out at St. Paul) at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City.