Here's a response from Father Dease to my letter, which appears in a post below:
I want to thank you for writing to me about remarks made by graduating senior Benjamin Kessler at the undergraduate commencement exercises May 20 at the University of St. Thomas and his subsequent apology.
I was present at the graduation ceremony and heard Mr. Kessler's speech. I do not believe it was appropriate for him to use our Commencement event as a venue for his comments. There is no question that he was speaking sincerely and upholding Church teaching, and there were certainly many ways that Mr. Kessler might have dealt with the subject of “selfishness” from a Catholic perspective that could have been edifying. However, to berate his classmates on what was to have been a joyous occasion of celebration and congratulation was not appropriate and was hurtful to many of our students and their families.
After reflecting on the matter Mr. Kessler has apologized. As you know, he issued a statement on Monday (May 22). I included the statement in a column that I wrote the same day for Bulletin Update, which was distributed via e-mail to all St. Thomas students, faculty and staff as well as many parents and alumni who are on the Bulletin distribution list. A copy of my column follows below, and I hope you will read it in its entirety.
A number of people have asked if any administrator screened Mr. Kessler's speech in advance. We did not. Past graduation speeches by Tommie Award winners at spring commencement and by senior class representatives at winter commencement have been non-confrontational. Consequently, we felt no reason to take any steps this spring in reading an advance text of Mr. Kessler's speech. We will carefully review our procedures in this area before our next commencement exercise.
Again, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.
Reverend Dennis Dease
University of St. Thomas