A Catholic school in Michigan, US, has withdrawn the invitation it issued to one of its alumni to be the keynote speaker at his brother’s graduation, after authorities there discovered he was gay and engaged to his partner.
Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, who graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Mount Pleasant in 1998, had been invited to speak at the school’s graduation ceremony on May 20, when his brother was due to graduate from the same school. However, the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, upon discovering his engagement photos on Facebook, decided to withdraw that invitation on account of his homosexuality.
The invitation was withdrawn over the phone, by speaking to Mr Sheahan-Stahl’s mother. In a statement, he said of his mother: “She was upset, she was crying and she was so worried about how I was going to feel, how I was going to react. I was shocked, I was hurt, and I said ‘You know what? I’m not going to get angry, I’m not going to fight, but I’m going to let the whole world know that I’ve been discriminated against.”
The diocese said in a statement that both the invitation and its withdrawal “were done independently” [sic] of the Catholic Schools Office, and that of the bishop.
One Bishop Joseph Cistone was quoted as saying: “The Catholic Church is very clear in her teaching, that men and women who have homosexual tendencies must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
The principal of the school, Denny Starnes, said that much as he supports the alumnus, he will abide by the decision of the Diocese. Noting that he was a neighbour of the Sheahan-Stahl family, he said: “The church is not sharing my position on this issue,” and added: “How can I not support this young man to come and speak to this class?”
The 32-year old put up a heart-felt message on Youtube, where he says: “My speech was about putting faith over fear… I wanted the students at Sacred Heart Academy to know that life should be lived with the goal of achieving their dreams, and knowing that fear is something created in ourselves and can be the biggest setback.”