NEW ORLEANS — A declaration that women today can “marry whoever they chose" during a Career Day address by attorney Desiree Charbonnet at Cabrini High School led to a quick address to students by a local priest condemning the remarks.
The entire incident played out at the event designed to expose students at the school to a variety of career options for the young women as they prepare themselves for the adult world.
An initial address by Charbonnet, a former judge and former mayoral candidate in the most recent election, was meant to motivate the students by highlighting a successful alumnus who has played a vital role in the New Orleans community.

In Charbonnet’s apparent zeal to tell the young women their lives and life choices were up to them, a student said she stated that women could be whatever they wanted to be and marry whoever they want to marry. According to a student who heard the speech, Charbonnet’s remarks were met with applause.
It was because of the latter comments – and the applause by at least some in attendance - that Father Jonathan Hemelt, said he was asked to talk to the students about the apparent endorsement of a gay marriage choice.

A voice said to be Hemelt’s, in a recording captured by one of the students present, can be heard addressing the remarks. He starts by saying that Ms. Charbonnet “had many good things to say” about the empowerment of women, but he quickly shifted gears and made it clear that her remarks about marrying whoever you wanted, were not something the Catholic Church accepts.
“Unfortunately, a few seconds of that presentation was severely lacking in prudence and faithfulness,” he said. “You’ve all heard Ms. Charbonnet refer to the re-definition of marriage, that as you all know, has been a constant push of our culture in the last few years.”

Hemelt said that as a priest, and as the pastor of the parish where Cabrini High is located, that it was his duty “to stand up for our faith and be a light for you in the darkness of her comment.”
“From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave the father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh,” said Hemelt, quoting Genesis 2:24. 
He added that this declaration is not made up, saying, “It has been given to us directly by God. And our only response as faithful Catholics is to accept the divine law that God gives up.”

Hemelt said he was especially concerned about the applause from some of the students, which seemed to indicate they endorsed the concept of marriage outside of that between a man and a woman.
“It has been given to us directly by God. And our only response as faithful Catholics is to accept the divine law that God gives up… Do you wish to be faithful to God and all that he teaches you? Or you do you wish to make your own way?”
The comments by Hemelt generated a response on social media, with several commenters on Twitter blasting the school for what they called an "anti-gay" speech.
One mother said her daughter was extremely distraught, coming home in tears and sharing the audio of Hemelt’s address with her parents, who shared it with WWL-TV.

“It’s disgusting to me,” said the mother, who did not wish to be identified. “She was emotional. She went from crying to being outraged.”
The mother said her daughter told her that many of the other girls were also upset, and that some tried to walk out, but, if they did, they were given a detention.
“They didn’t have the freedom to walk out,” said the mother.

Charbonnet said she was surprised that such a “small part of her talk” created such a stir.
“After I said, ‘I’m not here to promote it… I did say, but it is legal. The entire church started clapping. They entire student body that was there started clapping… I understand what father said after is, he pretty much told them the fact that they clapped was inappropriate.”

Cabrini High issued a statement on Hemelt’s address Friday afternoon.
As a Catholic community, Cabrini High School follows, teaches and supports the teachings of our Catholic faith. To clarify the position of the Church and to provide an opportunity for our students to ask questions, Father Jonathan Hemelt, the pastor at Holy Rosary Church, addressed the students about the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. At an age where our girls are exploring and have questions about their faith, this was an opportunity for them to listen, learn, and inquire.
Father Jonathan’s comments were not demeaning or judgmental toward anyone. Our faith is a faith of love and his remarks reflected that love and respect while sharing the teachings of the Church.