St. Mary band director fired for gay wedding plans

(UPDATED WITH FULL STORY)
Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 11, 2014
Sandusky Central Catholic School forced its band and choir director to resign this week, shortly after officials learned he and his boyfriend recently became engaged to be married.
 
Brian Panetta, who is in his fifth year of employment, initially received a letter of termination Jan. 3, which stated he was fired for violating the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church.

This letter came just hours after Panetta approached the school’s president about his engagement, to discuss if an end-of-the-year resignation would help avoid any conflicts concerning his gay relationship, he said.

On Thursday, however, Panetta met with school administrators, a priest and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, who offered more information and agreed he could resign instead of having a termination on his record, he said.    

“I’m satisfied with their explanation, and right now I’m just praying for understanding and strength,” Panetta said. “It’s hard for me to walk away, but it’s what’s best for me personally, and I hope my students will understand that.”

Panetta and his fiancé, Nathan David, started dating while attending the University of Dayton five years ago. They plan to wed in July 2015.

Their relationship wasn’t a secret to the Sandusky Central Catholic School community, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.

“This community has been like a family to me, and I’ve always had nothing but support,” Panetta said. “I never had to hide.”

After David popped the question on Christmas Day, however, Panetta said he knew things could get complicated.

All Sandusky Central Catholic School employees must sign a contract stating they will live a lifestyle according to the Catholic faith, he said.

“I knew if we ever wanted to get married, it would limit my time teaching at the school I love,” Panetta said. “When I met with the diocese, they basically told me my engagement is a public statement of my support for equality for gay marriage, which the Catholic Church does not support.”

Panetta identifies as Catholic and attended Catholic school for grades K-12. He said working at Sandusky Central Catholic School was an ideal first job.

In his four and a half years working there, Panetta grew the school’s band from 18 to about 50 members, and also produced similar numbers for its choir. He oversaw band for grades 5-12 and choir for grades 7-12.

Panetta said he still doesn’t feel his work is done, but he understands why he is no longer permitted to work at the school. After Thursday’s resignation agreement, he said he feels he is stepping down with the school’s support.

He distributed a letter to the school community Friday that announced his resignation and his engagement to David, in which he called himself a “proud and gay Catholic”

“The hardest part was not getting to speak to (my students) about it, so I’m thankful for that opportunity,” Panetta said. “Everyone knows about my lifestyle, and I always thought the best way to handle this was to be upfront, honest and proactive. I just wanted to provide clarity about this situation”

It’s unknown who will take over Panetta’s job, as students resumed classes Thursday after winter break extended three extra days because of bad weather.

After the Register left a message for Sandusky Central Catholic School president Melody Curtis on Wednesday, she responded within minutes with an emailed statement.

“Mr. Panetta is no longer employed at Sandusky Central Catholic School,” the statement said. “We do not discuss personnel situations with the media.”

Two days later, however, she emailed a revised statement, which she also distributed to the school community.

“It is with great sadness that we extend to you that Mr. Brian Panetta has resigned his position today as director and coordinator of music at Sandusky Central Catholic School,” it said. “Although parting ways is never easy, especially in the midst of a school year, we would like to thank Mr. Panetta for his devotion and service to the school, and the gifts and talents he brought to the music program.”

The statement also provided a link to Panetta’s letter, both of which will be available on the Register’s website.

The school hired Curtis as president this past summer after adopting the president-principal administrative model for the first time. She was previously executive director of Monroe Catholic Elementary Schools in Monroe, Mich., and has almost 15 years of experience in Catholic education.

Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, which oversees Catholic schools in Northwest Ohio, said she couldn’t offer any additional comments about the situation when contacted Thursday.

A Catholic school’s decisions involving personnel are “local decisions,” and the diocese’s role is simply to be available for consultation if the school desires it, Oberski said.

“The school has a governing board, a president and a principal, and it’s a local decision,” Oberski said. “There’s nothing more I can tell you than what the local leadership has told you.”

Because Sandusky Central Catholic School is not funded by taxpayer dollars, it is not required to release personnel files or other documents to the Register.

Click here to read letter from school's director

Click here to read letter from Panetta to students

Click here to visit Brian Panetta's website

Comments

Babo

OK John Harville, then every private business that pays income taxes accepts grant funding, and any individual who receives any benefit whatsoever from the government has no right to their personal values? For example the NAACP can be forced to retain an employee who decides to become a skinhead or joins the KKK?

coasterfan

Score: Answer Person 1, Bobo 0

Geez75

AMEN Answer Person!

JMOP

@Babo
You're right.
I wish more people would understand this. I'm not even catholic, but I grew up baptist, and was taught the same exact way.

Stop It

That would be the words of Paul, not Jesus. Paul taught his own brand of christianity.

Babo

If you are going to post comments about the Church, i.e. the Body of Christ, you really should provide citations to support your point. The Church has been around a lot longer than the US and it will be around when this nation collapses from within due to moral decay just as happened repeatedly to nations throughout history.

In Matthew Chapter 19, Jesus Christ states that marriage is between a man and a woman, a union created by God. This union is the foundation of human life and the social order as ordained by the Creator. The union predates the existence of communities, villages, cities, states and nations and man made law.

Jesus also states that some people are incapable of marriage for a number of reasons and are to accept their role in life. In other words, if one is homosexual, one can be a member of the Church and right with God (not engaged willfully in sin), if one practices celibacy.

Stop It

Hello pot...WTF is up with you today and how is your game goin'?

John Harville

Babble: Noting The Church allows divorced Catholics to remarry, heed your own admonition to provide citations.
Matt 19:3--12.
The Pharisees (those rascals) asked if it right for a man to divorce his wife (notice the specific question about 'wife' which does not exclude other unions). Jesus (verse 6) says a man and his wife "are no longer two but one" and "let no man put asunder".
The Pharisees pushed on and asked why Moses in his 600+ commandments said a man could give his wife a bill of divorce. Jesus says Moses allowed it but "from the beginning it was not so".
In verse 9 Jesus says whoever divorces a wife - except for unchastity - and marries another commits adultery and causes her to commit adultery.... (verse 11)"Not all men can receive this precept but only those to home it is given...he who is able to receive it, let him receive it"
THE CHURCH throughout the centuries you mention has changed its position... for centuries Priests were allowed to be married...until Dunstan put an end to it. And that's just one example.

Babo

I stated allows some divorced Catholics to remarry.

Your statement that reference to 'wife' does not exclude other unions is ignorant and proves you know nothing of the times the statements were made.

Moses didn't give Commandments, but the Mosiac law. The law at that time concerning a man giving his wife a Bill of Divorce was due to the "hardness of men's hearts" and intended to protect women from adulterous and or abusive men. These are grounds on which a marriage will be annulled (it's an "unlawful marriage") in the Catholic church and a person allowed to remarry in the Church today.

Nothing prevents a Catholic from entering into civil marriages or civil divorces. It's just that the Church will not recognize these marriages or divorces for its members and that member would have to examine their heart to determine whether they can participate in the Eucharist.

What is your point about Priests being allowed to marry? Yes they were allowed to marry women not men in the past.

John Harville

Read your Cathechism. The Church is "The Bride of Christ"

anthras

coaster fan says :The New Testament says a lot more about treating your common man with respect, dignity, forgiveness and unconditional love than it does about homosexuality.

But if it says that homosexuality is wrong only one time it would be wrong. We do love the homosexual as a person however his engaging in any sex acts with a person of the same sex is wrong just as it is for a male and female to have sex outside of wedlock.

John Harville

"...sex outside of wedlock..." But in Matthew 19:9 Jesus allows divorcing a wife for unchastity...He also says divorce for any other reason, if either remarries, commits adultery.
...male and female to have sex outside of wedlock. Does that include SMCC students? I notice you didn't mention masturbation - which the Church considers "sex outside of wedlock". What about oral or 'interruptus' which the Church also considers sinful since it is contrary to the production of children - which is the primary purpose of sex within wedlock.
So if an SMCC student tells the priest or principle s/he has engaged in any of the above....?

Babo

A student will be told to participate in an act of contrition and to sin no more.

John Harville

Doesn't the student first have to 'confess' contrition and belief that the action is, first of all, a sin?
And the people who utilize 'interruptus' within a sacred marriage? Must they too be told to participate in an act of contrition?
It seems the only problem in this instance is that the music teacher chose not to commit a greater sin by living a lie.
BTW, Babo, I haven't heard ANYONE say this couple was engaging in any sexual act. How do we know their relationship is not chaste?
BTW once more, Babble. Nowhere does your CHURCH say ANYTHING about being engaged to marry.

Unassumer

People should not be fired for their sexuality or personal beliefs. It is wrong that employers can dictate what you can do, who you can see, what you can believe. We have allowed employers to have all the rights and employees to have none. That is what is wrong with this. If you can't see that, then you really need to open your mind.

Babo

So if it's an employee's personal belief that sex with animals, shoes or inanimate objects is a good thing and he brings those beliefs into the workplace, the employer has no grounds to fire him? Or what if an employee does not believe in property ownership rights and believes he is entitled to take other people's property. That's ok because his personal belief is that all property belongs to everyone?

I think you are advocating anarchy.

Lakerielife

Unless he was bringing his boyfriend into the classroom and discussing his relationship...his personal beliefs were not at work. He was just at work doing his job.

John Harville

AMEN Lake Erie.
Wonder if Babble EVER, since he had the ability, ever played pocket pool. If so, did he confess it?

John Harville

Wow BABBLE... we sure can tell when you're losing the argument and your perspective.
Shoes? Inanimate objects? Oh! But your hand is not inanimate so watching you play pocket pool shouldn't be abhorrent?
And how did we jump to property rights?
Actually the priest can give dispensation for anything...like a few years ago when the choir director and priest draped the Altar/table in black cloth and used it as part of the stage for Godspell.

sugar

LMAO, you,re killing them.

mikeylikesit

promote him to priest!

YoMamma

He left with grace and dignity by reading his letter. Best of luck to Brian!

DickTracey

So, wait, just so I have this straight.

If you are a St. Mary's priest that has been caught with numerous little boys, that's ok, we will just shuffle you along, to another church. We will put on our rose colored glasses, (wont tell the police) and send you off to a new church.

But if you are a talented band director, who is in love and in a committed relationship, we are going to fire you! It doesn't matter that we loved you and accepted you for five years, now that you are honest and open, we hate you!

wally44824

Typical hypocrisy that you get from that place and religion.

Commenter

Right on!

coasterfan

Panetta can hold his head high, for he did nothing wrong. After reading the letter he wrote to his students, I think he is truly a class act, which is more than I can say for the Catholic Church, both locally and globally.

What would Jesus do? He wouldn't have fired Panetta, that's for sure. But then, Jesus was a loving person, an inclusive guy who would open the door to anyone. The fact that St.Mary's closed the door says far more about them than it does about Mr. Panetta.

Brian has something in common with another good person who was wrongly persecuted: Jesus. How interesting that the church has decided to play the role of Pilate...

DickTracey

So people actually pay money to have their kids educated at this school??

JMOP

He seems like a great guy. His understanding of the catholic faith is why he is graciously stepping down. If he can accept his own termination with understanding, than everyone else should be able to too.

coasterfan

I concur. As a recovering Catholic, and former music minister, it's interesting for me to note that the youth of the Catholic Church are far more enlightened than the adults. Being gay isn't something that can be learned, it's not something anyone chooses. What are they so worried about? It's obvious that Panetta was an outstanding role model.

Anyone who doesn't understand that should ask themselves this question: How old were you when you decided to be heterosexual? Their answer, of course, will be "I didn't decide. I've just always been heterosexual". EXACTLY. And guess what: it's the same way for the LGBT community.

grandmasgirl

I don't understand why people support the gay life style and think it is the way a person is "made". Pedophiles are "made" that way. Kleptomaniacs are "made" that way. People are "made" to be killers, or rapists, or any number of other things. That does not mean that you have to act on your feelings. Personally, there are many times I would like to knock people up alongside the head, but I don't act on it.

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