Live Through Love: An Open Letter to Bishop Joseph R. Cistone

May 15, 2012
The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop
Catholic Diocese of Saginaw
5800 Weiss Street.
Saginaw, MI 48603

Your Excellency,

I'm writing to you as a faithful member of the Roman Catholic Church and as a third-generation alumnus of Sacred Heart Academy. At Sacred Heart, I was taught the values of honesty, integrity, perseverance and faithfulness. I have been successful in my life after graduating from Sacred Heart, pursuing my calling of acting. Leaders at Sacred Heart saw my success as an inspiration to others, which is why I was invited to speak at the 2012 graduation ceremony. It was significant for our family, since my brother is the latest of three generations to graduate from Sacred Heart.

My address was to include the Catholic values I learned at Sacred Heart and how I've been able to apply them out in the real world. I wanted to discuss how fear stops us from making a difference in the world. I wanted to encourage the graduates to make their mark on the world, not being afraid of what might happen. In too many instances, we allow fear to control us. Ironically, I think that fear, not faith, ruled the day when I was uninvited and each day following.

My family was told that I was uninvited because I put engagement photos on Facebook with my fiancé. Principle Denny Starnes feared that my keynote address would turn into a political statement, which it would not. It concerns me that my mere presence on the stage, extolling the Catholic virtues of patience, kindness and humility, was seen as a threat. Principal Starnes has already acknowledged that he overreacted and has apologized. However, the invitation has not been restored. I believe, Your Excellency, the decision of where we go from here is now up to you.

You have been cited as being distressed that people are being hurt through this process. It is true. Of all those hurt, the most harm has come to the youth in Mount Pleasant who are still struggling to figure out who they are. Through this situation, they are given the message that being gay is something to be ashamed of. They are being told that gay and lesbian people are not worthy of any dignity, no matter what good they are able to do in the world. They are seeing that the mere presence of an openly gay person is seen as a threat, which tells them that they have no worth. They are the ones who are most in need of a role model and a message that God loves them.

My mother instilled in me the teaching of Jesus that God is Love. Your Excellency, I ask you to let love, and not fear, rule the day. The time is over to silence voices with fear. Instead, we need to speak to one another directly in love. In that spirit, I have two invitations.

First, I invite you to speak with me directly and listen to the contents of my speech to evaluate it for yourself. I believe that direct conversation has a way of cutting through the fear and coming to better understanding.

Second, Sacred Heart graduates have planned to listen to me speak at Warriner Hall on the campus of Central Michigan University. This speech will be different than what I originally planned to give. It will encourage them to live in love and consistently reach out in love to every person. I think that it is a speech that you can also benefit from hearing. I invite you to come and listen.

It is my prayer that my brother and other graduates will come away from their graduation weekend with encouragement to live in love. Love conquers fear. It is the most important message for the graduates and for all of us.

Live Through Love,

Dominic Sheahan-Stahl