Friday, May 14, 2010

Statement on the SLU Commencement Speaker

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)."

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.


  1. Archbishop Sambi called the 2005 World Pride Parade scheduled for Jerusalem "an offence." If this is the statement which offends so many, apparently the truth hurts.

    Pope John Paul decried the previous World Pride Parade, held in Rome in 2000. The Pope's similar statement was justified. Unfortunately, the nobler intentions of such a parade, which celebrated accomplishments and acts of compassion and charity with calls for bans on discriminatory practices, were overshadowed by debauchery typical of many such parades, including public nudity, foul language and simulated sex acts. No wonder the Pope found the 2000 World Pride Parade to be "offensive."

    And the same organizers were responsible for the 2005 World Pride Parade. With the Parade's history of being unable (or unwilling) to harness public acts of depravity, how else could Catholic, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders be expected to respond when parade organizers planned to utilize a route along Jerusalem's holiest shrines? The in-your-face sexual conduct inherent in such a demonstration, in a city of such religious importance, left little conclusion but to presume that Jerusalem was selected not to celebrate dignity, but to provoke outrage.

    Hence Archbishop Sambi's accurate statement that the presence of such a parade "would not only be an offence, but a provocation to the Jews, Christians and Muslims of Jerusalem and all the world."

    It's a shame that some are offended by the truth.

  2. I'm a big fan of this blog and its positions, but, the fact is that SLU is a Jesuit Institution. Sambi represents Catholic values, for better or worse, and anyone who has a problem with him as the commencement speaker should have thought twice before enrolling at a Catholic university. I work at SLU and have to deal with researchers upset about Catholic policy all the time and regardless of whether I agree, if you can't abide, find a new job (or school).