An upcoming lecture at Cardinal Spellman High School is stirring some emotions, as some alumni say the topic is offensive and may make some current students feel isolated. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Cardinal Spellman alumnus Diego Santiago has fond memories of high school. So when an email newsletter about a planned lecture on same-sex attraction showed up in his inbox, he was shocked.
"I think it panders to fear and misinformation," he said.
The speaker, the Rev. Donald Timone, works with an organization called Courage. The organization says that its mission is to help men and women with same-sex attraction lead chaste lives, not to try to convert them to a straight lifestyle.
Santiago, who is gay, says he worries that the lecture will promote a hostile environment towards students questioning their sexuality.
"If I was a student at Spellman and I saw something, a meeting like that being advertised at the school, I would feel ostracized. I would feel afraid," he said. "I would say to myself, 'Oh, here's another person who hates me.'"
Santiago wrote a letter to the school but was dissatisfied with the response from Spellman's president, the Rev. Trevor Nicholls.
"There are two difficulties at present," Father Nicholls wrote.."The first is that the proposed meeting has not yet taken place and the second, that I am not actually the one giving the presentation. Whatever conversation you and I may have at this stage, therefore, is if I may thus describe it, 'unanchored.'"
NY1 received a similar response from Father Nicholls, although he did tell Santiago that he planned to meet with some alumni who emailed about the lecture.
Members of the new Bronx LGBTQ Center say that they'd also welcome the opportunity to start a dialogue with the school.
"All we're really asking from Spellman is that they be respectful of us," said William Schmidt, vice president of the Bronx LGBTQ Center. "I think it would be better if they gave an opportunity to both sides to make a case. That's what America's all about. It's about free speech."
As of now, there are no plans to change the format of the meeting, set for Tuesday.
Schmidt says he isn't jumping to conclusions and hopes that the rest of the LGBTQ and Spellman communities can have open minds when it comes to the topic.