Holy Cross High School’s valedictorian and student council president say they were denied permission to speak at their graduation due to the “political” undertones in their speeches, but that didn’t keep them from trying to have their voices heard.
Eighteen-year-old Christian Bales, an openly gay student and valedictorian of the Catholic school, which is located in Covington, Kentucky, was reportedly told by officials with the local Catholic diocese that the contents of his planned commencement address were “not in keeping with church teachings,” according to ABC News. So Bales grabbed a bullhorn and began reading the speech from his phone, just outside the graduation venue.
“‘The young people will win’ is a mantra that I’m sure many of you have heard if you’ve been attentive to the media recently. It’s a phrase adopted by the prolific Marjory Stoneman Douglas teenagers who are advocating for an agenda — our rights to feel secure as humans,” he said, referring to the group of young survivors of a mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, who organized and rallied for increased gun control in the wake of that tragedy.
He added, “We are dynamic, we are intelligent, we have a voice, and we’re capable of using it in all communities. We must take what we’ve learned in this community and apply it to the world we are about to encounter.”
Katherine Frantz, the student council president and salutatorian for Holy Cross High School’s graduating class of 2018, also said her graduation speech was cut from the lineup, and later submitted the full, unedited version, with added op-ed commentary, for publication in The River City News.
“At first, I was confused. I had no idea how my speech was in any way controversial or did not reflect what I had been taught the last 13 years that I have attended Catholic schools in the Diocese of Covington,” she wrote. “I have been taught that the Catholic Church is loving and is for all people. To have my faith and my beliefs put into question by the diocese was extremely insulting.”
Frantz also delivered her speech on a bullhorn following the graduation ceremony.
Bales, who is best friends with Frantz, believes their involvement in social justice movements made them a target for the Diocese. Both students were involved in a campaign to remove a Confederate statue from the Kentucky state capitol, which is mentioned in Bales’ speech.
Frantz’s speech appears to be devoid of any mention of political activity.
Diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald spoke out Friday night, defending the decision to ban the two speeches.
“School officials and representatives of the Diocese of Covington reserve the right to review and approve all student speeches to be presented in public at high school graduations,” he said. “When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
The controversy comes at a time when the Catholic Church as a whole has made marginal progressive strides under Pope Francis. The Pope recently told a gay man, for instance, that “God made you like that and loves you like that.” However, weeks later, the Pope pivoted back, reportedly telling Italian bishops to carefully vet applicants to the priesthood and reject anyone suspected to be homosexual.