Sent to me by Thomas Bloom:
Commencement speakers should offer a voice of wisdom and hope for graduates. They should offer insight into the world that graduates are stepping into, and inspiration for graduates to change it. They deliver the parting words of the University, reminding students of the power their education carries. For these reasons, the announcement of commencement speakers comes with great anticipation.
Saint Louis University announced on Friday, May 7th that the commencement speaker for the class of 2010 would be Archbishop Pietro Sambi.
This announcement was met with widespread disappointment. For LGBT seniors at SLU, the selection of Sambi is a slap in the face. Sambi was instrumental in the efforts to shut down an LGBT pride festival in Jerusalem in 2005. He referred to the festival as an “offence” and a “provocation.” The Church’s stance on same-sex marriage and sex are well known, and a condemnation of either of these things by Sambi would be unfortunate but expected. However, the Church has something different to say about the human dignity of LGBT people, the focus of the 2005 pride festival:
"Respect for the God-given dignity of all persons means the recognition of human rights and responsibilities. The teachings of the Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them (cf. The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, no. 10). It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358)." http://www.usccb.org/laity/always.shtml
Pietro Sambi showed no respect, compassion, or sensitivity in his opposition to the pride festival. Instead, he joined a coalition of religious clerics and released statements that can only be described as homophobic.
More recently, Pietro Sambi was alleged to have made a number of offensive remarks towards a victim of sex abuse in the Church. If true, these remarks are shocking and demonstrate a complete lack of compassion and human decency.
Since forming the Facebook group SLU Students United Against 2010 Commencement Speaker Pietro Sambi, I have seen a number of reactions. Some people feel that Sambi has not done anything wrong. Others feel like protests should be directed towards the Church rather than a commencement speaker. The most common and troubling reaction I have heard, however, is from people who are worried that protests will “ruin” their graduation. They don’t want their commencent disrupted. This troubles me because for my friends, graduation is already ruined. Instead of having a speaker who celebrates their identity and their dignity, they have a speaker who calls them offensive and tries to hide them in the closet. That makes me sick and I won’t stand for it.