The principal of a Catholic school in Bucks County is apologizing to parents for using a photo of Ellen DeGeneres on an invitation to an Oscars-themed graduation dance, and is demanding students return them to be destroyed.
It was "completely wrong" to use DeGeneres' picture because the lesbian celebrity "lives her life outside the teachings of the Catholic Church," St. Andrew Elementary School principal Nancy Matteo wrote in an email to parents on Tuesday. The text of the message was provided to Philly.com.
The email doesn't specifically mention DeGeneres' sexual orientation. She famously came out in 1997 and married actress Portia de Rossi in 2008.
She first hosted the Academy Awards in 2007, becoming the first openly gay entertainer to do so. DeGeneres also hosted March’s ceremony. The image on the graduation-dance invitation appears to be a promotional shot of DeGeneres holding an Oscar statue taken in advance of this year's event, and the top of the invitation reads "Live from the red carpet."
In the email, Matteo says she was "obviously NOT thinking" when she let the invitation to the June 8 dance be distributed with DeGeneres’ photo.
"Perhaps I was distracted by the Oscar," she wrote, calling the entertainer a "poor role model."
"A role model, as defined by Webster's Dictionary, is a person who is unusually effective or inspiring in some social role, job, position, etc.," the email says. "This does not describe her at all. We work so hard to be good role models and then I go and do something stupid!"
Matteo declined to comment for this article.
She said in the email to parents that students needed to return the invitations featuring DeGeneres to school and new ones would be issued.
"I need every single invitation returned and I will personally destroy them," wrote Matteo, who in 2002 became the Newtown school’s first lay principal, according to its website.
She added: "Once again, I am sorry for my lack of forethought. I look forward to receiving the old invitations and distributing new ones."
Msgr. Michael Picard, the pastor of the parish, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said the principal apologized on her own accord after parents questioned the photo.
"All Catholic schools in the Archdiocese are firmly rooted in Gospel-based values and the teachings of the Church," spokesman Ken Gavin said in a statement. "As such, it is expected that any promotional materials developed by these schools would feature images and themes that correspond with their core mission and identity. That approach is logical and our school families have a right to expect it."
In several recent incidents, Catholic schools and students have asked the "Ellen" show to highlight their causes. Last year, 11-year-old Caroline Pla appeared on the show after starting a petition to let girls play in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Catholic Youth Organization football league. Archbishop Charles Chaput later decided to permit girls to play after Pla started a petition and raised awareness about the issue.
And earlier this year, staff and students at a Buffalo-area Catholic school protesting the school’s planned closure wrote to "Ellen" in a bid to have the show air their fight.
Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.
Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.