Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Congratulations, not rejection, in order for Belen Jesuit alumnus, husband

Belen Jesuit alumni Victor Vianello and banker Joseph Cross married in New York in January, but the Miami school won't run the wedding announcement in the alumni magazine.
Belen Jesuit alumni Victor Vianello and banker Joseph Cross married in New York in January, but the Miami school won't run the wedding announcement in the alumni magazine. Courtesy of the family/Vianello

The estate agent and the banker met at a dinner party in Miami Beach almost 16 years ago. Friends thought Victor Vianello and Joseph Cross — successful professionals and Catholic gay men — might be a match, and set them up.

“Since that day,” Vianello remembers, “we have been inseparable.”

Storybook love became a marriage-like partnership in every sense. The only thing that kept them from legalizing their union was Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. But after Vianello, 57, had a heart attack last year and was fitted with a pacemaker, the couple decided to wait no longer and marry in New York. They planned a January wedding — and even though Florida had no choice but to acquiesce to a historic Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage across the land that same month, they kept their big day in Manhattan.

Back in Miami, their union was blessed by a Jesuit priest, who, as is Vianello, is an alumnus of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School. And Vianello sent a wedding announcement to the alumni magazine of his beloved alma mater. His father and brother also attended the Miami school, and Vianello, a former altar boy, is a donor and supporter.

When he didn’t hear back for months, Vianello pressed the issue with the alumni association.

“Due to the Catholic identity of our School, we are not at liberty to publicize this announcement,” Mariano Loret de Mola, the association’s executive director, wrote him back Tuesday.

Vianello is deeply hurt and disappointed.

“They are my brothers,” he said. “We’re a family at Belen and I wanted to let my brothers know about the most important milestone of my life, my one and only marriage.”

A private school may have the right to publish what it wants in its alumni magazine, but is exclusion of a gay alumnus fair?

Are heterosexual announcements scrutinized to see whether the unions adhere to the canons of the Catholic Church? Is a divorcee remarrying? Are newlyweds using birth control other than the rhythm method? Do the alumni featured have pro-choice views? Should alumni who cheat on their spouses be banned from announcing milestones in the magazine?

All of those behaviors go against church teachings.

In a statement, the school stands behind its decision: “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.”

Sadly, Belen is only pretending not to acknowledge its gay population. In these days of social media openness, they’re in plain view: Gay parents who send sons there. Gay students. Gay alumni. Gay teachers and counselors. A petition urging Belen to accept Vianello’s announcement at change.org has gathered more than 250 signatures in a day.

And so, while the church grapples with its homophobia, it’s my pleasure to publish for posterity (or to cut-and-paste into the Belen alumni magazine) the censored announcement:

“Victor Vianello, Class of ’76, married Joseph Cross in New York City on Jan. 21, 2015.”

Congratulations, not rejection, are in order.

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