Victor Vianello, who graduated from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in 1976, sent what he described to the Washington Blade on Thursday as a “very short and sweet” announcement about his Jan. 21 marriage to Joseph Cross, his partner of 16 years, in New York to the Belen Alumni Association on Aug. 12.
Vianello a few weeks later posted a message to the Belen LGBTA Alumni Facebook page about the fact he had yet to receive a response to his Aug. 12 email. Belen Alumni Association Executive Director Mariano Loret de Mola on Oct. 13 told Vianello in an email that the group is “not at liberty to publicize this announcement” because of “the Catholic identity of our school.”
“I was very sad because I graduated from the school in 1976,” Vianello told the Blade. “I’m 57, going on 58-years-old. My partner and I have been together for 16 years. I’m totally not an activist or political. The fact they wouldn’t even acknowledge the most important thing in my life was very sad. I was taken aback.”
“This has really taken me by surprise,” he added.
Richard Rodriguez-Mahé, who graduated from the school in 2000, received a nearly identical email from Loret on Oct. 12 in response to the “blurb” about his marriage to his husband, Cédric Rodriguez-Mahé, he sent on Sept. 24.
“That definitely put a damper on things if you will,” Richard Rodriguez-Mahé told the Blade on Thursday during a telephone interview. “I will always speak highly of the education (I received), but they’re definitely not collecting funds from me like other schools.”
Belen opened in Havana in 1854, but relocated to Miami in 1961 after the Cuban revolution.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, former Florida Congressman Joe Garcia, gay American Express Global Business Travel Vice President Joaquín Aviñó, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, former Univision Networks President Cesar Conde and blogger Perez Hilton are among the school’s alumni.
Loret himself graduated from the school in 1958. The Belen Alumni Association currently has nearly 7,000 active members.
“Belen Jesuit Preparatory School is always happy to hear about our alumni and their successes in life, both professional and private,” said Rev. Pedro Suarez, the school’s president, in a statement sent to the Blade on Friday.
Suarez acknowledged the school’s alumni association “received an email requesting to announce a same-sex marriage in their publication.” He reiterated in his statement the comments Loret made to Vianello and Rodriguez-Mahé.
“The Catholic Church recognizes that marriage is between a man and a woman and because of the Catholic identity of the school, Belen is not at liberty to publish same-sex marriage announcements in any of its publications,” said Suarez. “The couples that made the request were notified privately and respectfully of the decision.”
More than 300 people have signed a Change.org petition that urges the alumni association to publish Vianello and Cross’ wedding announcement in the magazine. Members of the Belen LGBTA Alum Facebook page have also begun to share pictures of themselves with their partners and spouses in the hope that the school will reconsider its decision.
“This is a place we all admire a lot,” Alex Correoso, a gay man who graduated from Belen in 2006 and created the Facebook page, told the Blade on Friday during a telephone interview from Miami. “Regardless of what the church doctrine is, I have to feel disappointed.”
Javi Perez, a gay man who graduated from Belen in 2009, agreed.
“Our high school has no problem asking for donations or asking for endorsements of the school because of their successful alumni,” he told the Blade on Thursday, noting he and his partner recently became engaged. “As soon as it has something to do with their personal success, they turn the other cheek.”
“It should be published because it’s not about the school,” added Perez, referring to the wedding announcements. “We’re not asking Belen Jesuit to marry us at the school.”
News that the Belen Alumni Association is refusing to publish same-sex wedding announcements in its magazine broke less than a month after Pope Francis, a Jesuit, visited the U.S. and Cuba.
LGBT Catholics and their supporters have welcomed the Vatican’s more moderate tone on marriage rights for same-sex couples and homosexuality since Francis became pope in March 2013. Church teachings on the aforementioned issues have remained the same under the Argentine-born pontiff’s papacy.