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

DickTracey

Wow, you should be ashamed, St. Mary's.

Unassumer

If more people would start thinking for themselves and stop believing antiquated 'teachings' that have no bearing on modern society, we'd all be better off. While there are many good passages in the bible, there are just as many that contain confusing or outdated ideals. There is no instruction book for life; if you treat others as you yourself would like to be treated you will probably fare well. If you expect others to believe as you do, well then you won't get far even if you use the bible to back you up.

DEEPsix's picture
DEEPsix

YOU ARE SOOOOO WRONG... Look up "A" book called the TALMUD, AND "THE" ZOHAR... They may be beyond your intellect, but you will learn piece by piece, there IS A BOOK FOR LIVING A LIFE ON THIS RELM...

Factitious

So, back to lower case...

This will prove to be a question of sovereignty.

It is the position of the Catholic Church that all governments are subordinate to God. That sounds OK until you realize that it also holds that it alone represents God. Does it follows that the government of We the People are all subordinate to the Catholic Church? That claim is never heard directly but often implied in expressions of opposition to laws it doesn't like.

This issue goes way beyond freedom of religion and separation. The question at hand is whether ANY church may violate a person's constitutional rights because it doesn't like them.

At the end of it all, the courts will end up deciding whether it's the government that is sovereign, or a church. And that can only lead to one conclusion, because if it's a church, then which one? You can't have freedom of religion if you favor one religion's beliefs over another. All religions must be subject to the sovereign state, and everything else is untenable.

Truth2u

Only a person who never read the bible would post such rubbish.

Dcfred20036

I have resigned my alumni membership, 1982. Will the school president also terminate employees who are divorced, maybe are obviously using birth control, all violations of catholic teachings? My guess: not, they never have. Memo to SMCC parents: there is a world beyond Sandusky, Oh and the school is doing a disservice to your children. The school now will be forever associated with this unfortunate event, and it does not have to be this way: Pope Francis said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?" Mr Panetta saved the band from near-extinction and he is loved by his students and band parents. Right a wrong, give the students their band director back!

DickTracey

Dcfred, to answer your question, NO they will not fire other teachers that do not live the lifestyle of the Catholic teachings.

They will turn a blind eye to them, just as they did with Brian for over four years, he was not hiding the fact that he had a boyfriend.

St. Mary's left themselves wide open for a lawsuit. They knew for years he was in a same sex relationship, yet they allowed him to continue to teach.

The contract doesn't say, you are allowed to be gay, but your not allowed to get engaged to the same sex. He broke the contract the minute he signed it, and they did nothing.

No one has mentioned the silent victim in this mess...the poor little boys that are just coming of age, and have feelings for the same sex. They may have looked up to, or been able to relate to Mr. Panetta. Now they are watching what happens if you admit your feelings, or come out. You get fired from a job you love and are good at. As if their lives were not confusing enough already.

I read one commenter who said "this is so hard to explain to our younger kids, why Mr.Penetta is gone." like you can't tell the younger kids he is gay, because that is gross and wrong!

I pity all kids being brainwashed at Sandusky St. Mary's .

DCFRED is right! There is life outside Sandusky kids, run!!!

DickTracey

Many current St. Mary's parishioners also turned a blind eye when Rev. Lawrence Varney was there!

All they did was pass him along to another church, no one called the police.

These same people now think they can pass judgement on on a young man in love, not hurting anyone.

Shame on you St. Mary's .

anthras

dicktracey says :St. Mary's left themselves wide open for a lawsuit. They knew for years he was in a same sex relationship, yet they allowed him to continue to teach.

Dick, the Catholic has no problems with gay persons and no problems with gay persons that have friends. However the engagement would conclude that they are planning to live as a married couple including sex. Ergo just being gay is no problem and being gay with a gay friend is no problem but making a commitment to live as a married couple then becomes a problem.

A straight male could have a female friend however you could not conclude that just because they are friends that they are having a sexual relationship but if they become engaged you could conclude that they are planning on marriage which is good however if they engage in a marriage type relationship without getting married is wrong.

DickTracey

I see, anthras, that after drinking so much Catholic Kool-Aid, you can't even think clearly and, do not realize how full of hatred your comments truly are.

You see, us normal people know that when a person is dating a person for five years, one can only conclude they are having sex.

I wasn't brainwashed my entire childhood, by religion. So it's confusing to me why a man can't just marry a man? After all, you all think it's perfectly normal for a man to marry a brick and mortar church.

I only wish the Catholic would fire pedophile priests as quickly as they fired this innocent man.

anthras

DickTracey says ; I see, anthras, that after drinking so much Catholic Kool-Aid, you can't even think clearly and, do not realize how full of hatred your comments truly are.

Dick I am truly sorry that you were not able to comprehend what I was saying. In lieu of hatred I was only giving persons the benefit of the doubt. You allude to normal people however it has been said that a man thinks of others as he thinks in his own heart so if you conclude that they are having sex then in your mind that is how you feel however I feel sure that there are persons out there that have had friends and long engagements that have saved themselves until the wedding night.

Even if a normal person would conclude that they were having sex it could not be proven and a person could be normal in some ways but not in every way. Ergo giving them the benefit of the doubt I feel is showing understanding and compassion in lieu of hatred as you allege.
I can also say that as being baptized and raised as a Greek Orthodox that the Catholic Religion is a somewhat liberal and then there are religions that are very liberal allowing persons to choose what they wish.

sugar

HeyDC we support your decision!

concernedtruth

I would rather stand with an organization that stands on the Word of God than one that stands against the Word of God.

sugar

I've been raised Catholic, 8 years in Catholic school, when we went to Mass every morning. In all those years I heard over and over to love everyone, no matter what. Remember the story of the leper who touched Jesus robe and was healed, the people wanted to stone her for touching the Lord, his reply indicated that he would prefer her to touch him than any of the hypocrites.

Curley

Sugar no truer words are spoken we were always taught to love one another this surely isn't happening.

concernedtruth

Sugar, you're scripture interpretation is inaccurate, the scripture you are talking about is the woman with the issue of blood and she was not going to be stoned. Your reference of the stoning was the woman who was caught in an adulterous affair and Jesus who was writing in the sand, looked up to the hypocrites and said whomever is without sin may cast the first stone and they all walked away. Please be accurate with your scripture verses. The leper verse was never about a woman or anyone being stoned.

sugar

Sorry, but the moral remains the same. That's the important part

Raoul Duke

Maybe he should have found another job first. It's not like he didn't know this would happen, obviously. People need an income to survive.
Though, it's kind of un-Christian-like of SMCC to demand an immediate termination.

Truth2u

"The further away society moves away from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it"

Yours and other anatomists posts against St Mary's prove Orwell's quote to be accurate.

takeastand

Hate the sin and not the sinner! However St. Mary's is not hating this man just cannot allow him to continue to disobey the Christian laws. I think our society has become way to liberal against God's word. No we should not haters but we cannot bury our heads in the sand either. Sin is sin and their are consequences!

whyilefttown

a sin written in a book by another human in a world rule by men

whyilefttown

what I find hilarious is the catholic church will go to great lengths to hide and move around pedifile priest not fire them (that's actually a crime Catholics case you're wondering)

justsaying..

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

YoMamma

Why should they be ashamed? They are a CATHOLIC school. What if it was a Muslim school and the teacher did something against their teachings? Would you say the same?

coasterfan

But it IS against their teachings, YoMamma. The New Testament says a lot more about treating your common man with respect, dignity, forgiveness and unconditional love than it does about homosexuality. This decision is far less about the Bible than it is about MAN'S judgemental nature.

Babo

You clearly are not familiar with the New Testament and the teachings of Christ as Catholics believe. He taught that all sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful and we will be judged by Him. Sin can be forgiven but there has to be desire to repent and acknowledge the sin and not continue to engage in the sin.

This is what the Pope meant when he said who am I to judge as long as the person is right with God. To be right with God, a Catholic has to be striving not to sin (impossible) and to be truly sorry when we do sin. We are not given carte blanche to willfully continue to engage in conduct we believe to be immoral. There has to be genuine repentance and a desire to change.

The Answer Person

So are you then going to get rid of the adulterers and divorced staff as well? Or just this particular "sin"?

Babo

The decision is not mine to make. It is up to the individual to decide if they need to "remove" themselves from the Roman Catholic Church because he or she disagrees with fundamental teaching of the church.

In the case of employees of the Roman Catholic Church, one would assume that if a married teacher at any Catholic School openly and flagrantly entered into and continued an adulterous relationship, that the teacher would be terminated for violation of the morals clause in the contract. Your question about divorce is not relevant because divorce for certain grounds is recognized through the church.

This is a private employer and like any private employer has the right to establish rules of conduct that the employer deems is not consistent with its Institutional policies. For example, in professional baseball, a player will be thrown out for betting on baseball. In medicine a Doctor will loss his or her license for engaging in sex with a patient.

And if the Sandusky Register has any moral/ethical standards for journalists, a reporter or editor would be fired for fabricating a story or sensationalizing a private matter for the sake of monetary gain i.e. web hits.

cockynurse

I agree, Babo.

John Harville

This is NOT a private employer. This employer receives public taxpayer dollars for things like its lunch program, certain teaching specialists, occupational therapy for certain students, transportation subsidies, withholds tax for Medicare, utilizes public agencies for background checks, pays BWC taxes.
In recent years the Diocese 'downsized' a teacher in an area Catholic school... the teacher sued, the Diocese lost.
The school/dioces also pays FICA taxes AND is charged for Unemployment Compensation.
Oh... and about the site of home football games? Even though they pay a rental, that stadium is provided/supported by public taxpayers.
Seldom, though, do "good Catholics" want to take the Church to court.

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