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Mychal Judge, O.F.M. (aka Michael Fallon Judge, May 11, 1933 – September 11, 2001), was a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest who served as a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. It was while serving in that capacity that he was killed, becoming the first certified fatality of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Following his death, a few of Judge's friends and associates revealed that Judge was gay – as a matter of orientation rather than practice, as he was a celibate priest. According to Fire Department Commissioner Thomas Von Essen: "I actually knew about his homosexuality when I was in the Uniformed Firefighters Association. I kept the secret, but then he told me when I became commissioner five years ago. He and I often laughed about it, because we knew how difficult it would have been for the other firemen to accept it as easily as I had. I just thought he was a phenomenal, warm, sincere man, and the fact that he was gay just had nothing to do with anything."
Judge developed a romantic relationship with a Filipino nurse named Al Alvarado in the last year of his life, which Judge documented in his diaries. The two often did not see each other for months because of Judge's work as a firefighter.
The revelations about sexual orientation were not without controversy, however. Dennis Lynch, a lawyer, wrote an article about Judge that appeared on the website catholic.org. Lynch claimed that Judge was not gay and that any attempt to define him as gay was due to "homosexual activists" who wanted to "attack the Catholic Church" and turn the priest into a "homosexual icon". Others refuted Lynch’s claims with evidence that Judge did in fact identify himself as gay, both to others and in his personal journals.
Judge was a long-term member of Dignity, a Catholic LGBT activist organization that advocates for change in the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality. On October 1, 1986, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an encyclical, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, which declared homosexuality to be a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil". In response, many bishops, including John Cardinal O'Connor, banned Dignity from diocesan churches under their control. Judge then welcomed Dignity's AIDS ministry to the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is under the control of the Franciscan friars, thereby partially circumventing the cardinal's ban of Dignity.
Judge disagreed with official Roman Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality, though by all accounts he remained celibate. Judge often asked, "Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?"
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