Catholic Church has school's back on firing

Sandusky Central Catholic School's forced resignation gains national attention, outraged alumnus creates blog to follow story.
Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 13, 2014

The Catholic Church broke tradition Monday, releasing an official statement in support of a band and choir director's recent departure from Sandusky Central Catholic School.

Meanwhile, a group of outraged alumni are assembling on a blog and social media, expressing support and aiming to springboard the story to national media outlets.

Brian Panetta, who was in his fifth year of employment with Sandusky Central Catholic School, was forced to resign this past week after announcing plans to pursue a gay marriage next year.

He initially received an unsigned letter of termination indicating he was fired, but school officials and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, which oversees the school, later agreed he could resign.

Click here for all Register coverage of this story.

Panetta, who identifies as Catholic, plans to marry his fiancé in July 2015.

A newly created blog,, is advocating for Panetta's rehire. It also links to a petition, which netted more than 200 signatures and supportive comments in its first day.

"Everyone loved him, even people who aren't in favor of gay marriage, because they loved him as a person and a teacher," said alumnus Fred Staffeld, who is managing the new blog from Washington D.C. "We're outraged by the hypocrisy. Instead of firing others who are breaking rules, they only fired somebody who was just upfront and honest about who he is."

Staffeld graduated from St. Mary Central Catholic High School in 1982, during what he calls the "glory days" of band, when John Kustec, now a Perkins Schools employee, was his director.

Panetta reminded Staffeld of a young Kustec, because he ignited passion in his students and more than doubled the once dwindling band's size.

When Staffeld received mixed messages about who was responsible for Panetta's abrupt resignation, and later learned the truth, he felt inspired to take action, he said.

"I've received some angry messages about creating a circus of this," Staffeld said. "If this school didn't want a circus, it shouldn't have discriminated in 2014. It's going to create a firestorm."

The story has since picked up national attention, most recently being featured on and LGBTQ Nation, two of the world's largest websites for gay rights news.

Panetta issued a public statement about the matter Friday, which permitted the Catholic Diocese of Toledo to respond today, according to its statement. The diocese typically doesn't comment on personnel matters, in order to protect individuals, it said.

"In light of the Church's clear teaching on sacred marriage and the fact that Mr. Panetta himself has publicly indicated his marriage plans are contrary to Church teachings and are the issue at the heart of this matter, the leadership of Sandusky Central Catholic School properly determined that his employment could not continue," the diocese stated. 

"When Sandusky Central Catholic School informed the diocese of the situation, the diocese fully concurred it was the correct decision and in keeping with the terms of his teacher-minister contract," it concluded.

Click here to read the full statement.

The statement offers little, if any, new insight, as the diocese's spokeswoman offered a brief comment this past week, in which she also stated Panetta's forced resignation was a "local decision," and the diocese only offered consultation.

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

After he became engaged on Christmas Day, Panetta told school principal Melody Curtis about his wedding plans, anticipating the pair would agree an end-of-the-year resignation would be the most appropriate way to ensure no conflicts resulted. He received his letter of termination later that night.

His five-year relationship with his now-fiancé, Nathan David, was not a secret, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.

Panetta has no plans to take any legal action against Sandusky Central Catholic School.

He cares deeply for the school, its faculty and its students, and only wants to perpetuate the truth about why he can no longer teach them, he said.

He is currently a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. He plans to graduate in May and seek employment elsewhere, possibly near his hometown in North Carolina, or David's hometown in Illinois.

Sandusky Central Catholic School issued a news release this past week about the matter, simply stating Panetta had resigned. It also provided a link to Panetta's statement, in which he called himself a "proud and gay Catholic."


Other Catholic school firings circulate in national media

Sandusky Central Catholic School's forced resignation of its gay band and choir director addresses a hot-button issue constantly circulating in national media.

On Friday, the same day Panetta issued a statement about his resignation, Michael Griffin, a gay teacher at a Catholic school in Pennsylvania, was fired after filing for a marriage license with his partner. 

The pair had a civil union and the teacher wore a ring, and as with Panetta, school administrators knew he was gay. 

Their relationship didn't become a problem until Griffin emailed school administrators about his marriage license, which they interpreted as a public statement.

Earlier this month, Mark Zmuda, a gay vice principal in Washington, was also fired for marrying his partner. School officials suggested Zmuda get a divorce to keep his job, but he rejected the idea, he said.

Students have rallied in support of Zmuda and actively protested his departure, staging a sit-in and then walking out in solidarity, effectively shutting down their school. They have also rallied a social media campaign and crafted an online petition with now more than 32,000 signatures.

The most prominent firing case in Ohio involved a Catholic school in Columbus, whose officials fired lesbian teacher Carla Hale for listing her female partner in her mother's obituary in The Columbus Dispatch this past year.



Well, now that's a great idea. A gyro cart for the multi-purpose room and all the fellowship that will follow. See, now you're talkin.


So typical for a "small pond" type, he was foolish enough read below.

John Harville

I'd rather have an openly gay man or woman teaching in my Catholic school than a closeted pedophile priest sexually abusing children in the rectory or sacristy.

But that's just me.

John Harville

" the catholic church is dying, can't fill rectories, or your school, so your suggestion is to lower the standards and beliefs to get more people to come..."

that's what the Church is doing... or haven't you seen the yard signs?

"there are a lot of nice people who are alcoholics, do drugs, sleep around, steal, etc..." and there is at least one of each currently employed at SCCS - and even more if you extend outward to the Sandusky Catholic churches. Some of them even occupy rectories in Northwest Ohio.


It is best to resign rather than being fired on your record....

John Harville

Even better when the employer pays you through the end of your contract.... huh?

Truth or Dare

I am an American as well, and this has everything to do with politics, the millions spent by this and other churches of like mind that have joined forces and lobby hard on Capitol Hill! My gosh, our tax $$$'s help support a huge church they supposedly worship in! Imagine all the more hungry, the sick, the poor, the elderly that those $$$'s could help!

According to our 1st. Amendment rights we have the right to practice our faith, as well no church has the right to push their belief system upon myself or anyone else. For arguments sake but not the same topic, Ex: On the issue of birth control and the Catholic Church's stance and hard-fought war on just that issue. As one baptized Catholic, raised Catholic, the same rules would apply to me here as I chose sterilization after 3 children. My CHOICE, and a wise one! I'm hoping God will not condemn me for not having more children than we could afford!

Way I see it, if they knew Mr. Panetta's sexual orientation when they hired him, they broke their own religious moral code of conduct, which explains the flip-flop on the firing, instead allowing him to resign. A contract that was broken centuries ago when the Church in Rome chose to compromise itself. When in Rome, do as the Roman's do! History proves their violence, greed, desire for world-dominating power. What better way to gain then to rule both politically and religiously. If you're a believer, the Book of Revelation contains prophecy for all the churches and just like us, they too will be judged and believe you me, they too have some deep, dark, buried secrets of their very own. Some we know of, most we do not. I am left with a question; How does the Catholic Church, any church reconcile their teachings, their moral code of conduct with the cover-up of the fact that for centuries, not just decades, children were/are being sexually abused? Food for thought.



John Harville

EXCELLENT. Although I'm sure Melody would point out that SHE didn't hire him.

Interesting how quickly there was a band director in the wings right after she listed herself as Director of Music on the SCCS website.


I agree that the SR likes to keep stories like these going. That being said, If you don't like the Catholic church and what it stands for, don't go. Don't tithe. Don't be a hypocrite. You can't have it both ways. Even if the church THOUGHT this man was gay, they had no proof until he announced his marriage plans. Ohio does not recognize gay marriage. This man has moved on. You should too. I wonder what would some of you men would say if a gay man wanted to work as a "Playboy bunny"? After all, they have certain criteria that they go by. Would you be up in arms to support this man? MOVE ON!!


I believe that your Playboy bunny analogy has already been answered. It's called Playgirl Magazine and the centerfold is called the "man of the month."

On a more serious note, you can't fault people for standing up for what they believe and trying to right what they believe is wrong. A good debate has never hurt anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact.

John Harville

A. he announced PLANS. He isn't married yet.
B. There are no playboy bunnies/clubs.
C. Should we return to the days when women - even nuns - were non-persons in the Roman Catholic Church, good only for cleaning the church and rectory and surrendering to their husbands' conjugal rights and being baby machines?
D. Do you still wear a head-covering when you go to Mass?
E. Do you take the Body of Christ in your hand?
F. Do you enjoy equal status with men in the Church - it hasn't been that way long.
What happens when Ohio DOES recognize gay marriage? And it will.

I still attend Mass to meet Christ in the Eucharist - which I never take from the priest because the pedophiles long ago destroyed 'holy orders' and I find most lay ministers much more Christlike.
Very few Catholics - or Protestants tithe. If you tithe, do you then take the deduction on your Income Tax? You actually give to God and Church and then take back part of it?



John Harville

"Ohio does not recognize gay marriage"

So now you're advocating non-separaton of church and state?

Discover a position and land on it...


The only thing that SHOULD matter is whether or not he was a good teacher. Maybe some day.


Perhaps he should convert to a religion which tolerates his lifestyle.


I'm not going to argue about the firing/resignation of Mr. Panetta. Homosexual behavior IS against Catholic tenets, and he DID sign a contract which he violated.

Instead, what we should all be looking at a lot more closely is whether or not the same standards are applied to OTHER school employees. They signed the same contract, and agreed to live according to the Catholic faith. Okay. But what that means is that those who engage in sexual activity outside the sanctity of marriage are ALSO violating their contract. So is everyone taking birth control. (Contrary to popular belief, divorce alone doesn't disqualify you as Catholic. It's REMARRIAGE that does. The Church rarely recognizes divorce, and thus any sexual activity with someone who is not the original spouse is, by definition, adulterous.)

The Catholic Church isn't likely to change any time soon. Historically, change in the Church has been slow, often incomplete, and sometimes debatable at BEST. But I do think that the least the Church can do is apply the same rules across the board! By the way, that means FIRING pedophile or otherwise sexually active priests, too, NOT transferring them to visit others with their predations...

IMPORTANT NOTE: We have freedom of religion in this country. That includes religious tenets with which you may disagree. If you disagree, DON'T ATTEND THAT CHURCH! Making your own demands on ANY religion is inappropriate and definitively anti-liberty. STOP IT.

John Harville

Do non-Catholic employees ALSO sign the SAME contract? Do you have to go against your own religion to teach in the Catholic school?

Coram Deo

"Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices."

~Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis


let's start at the beginning, I never called for anyone to be fired, mistake #1, Brian never lied, the school "overlooked hid preferences", for 5 years mistake #2, without tuition the school would be hard pressed to keep it's doors open, I have subsidized your kids for years with my property taxes,so if you're not paying tuition butt out. Your understanding of Conservatism is about as vast as your tolerance. Comparing gays with criminals is pathetic mistake #3, oops you're out!!!
Thinking Catholics never day anything untoward is juvenile mistake #4. The Pope said HE cannot judge, so heed the advice. You must be a cop too otherwise you wouldn't give a rats butt what I said to him. Get a job you retired too early.


Sugar sugar sugar...#1 you did say in an early post from a different article that the president should be fired. #2 when Brian signed his contract to live the catholics religion faith which is against homosexuality, he lied that he would, I don't know what little world you live in but that's lying..twist it however you want that makes you feel good or right, but it's lying.#3 I went to a catholic school for 12 years, four of them at st Marys and worked to pay my own tuition...soooo butt in.#4 my comparison was that yes, there are nice gay people out there, there are also nice people who are criminals, there are nice alcoholics , I know really nice people that have done drugs so my comparison is that, just cause their "nice" doesn't mean they are right . now you're already out but I'm going to continue...I don't know where you get off saying that I'm judging...if someone robs a store and I call him a crook, I'm not judging him.. Bottom line is he's a crook and he's breaking the I'd someone signs up to be employed by st Marys and has to follow the catholic
Rules and he knows that and signs the contract knowing he's going to live opposite of what it says then he was wrong and lying that he is pretty simple, why so you and others try to make it so hard.. Now saying I must be a cop and retired to early, isn't that judging someone who you have no idea who I am ?? Or what I do ??? I'm not a cop and I am far far far from retiring, but I do work 50+ hours a week.. So your "judgment" of me was pretty far off. Please heed the popes advice.

John Harville

the Church is NOT against homosexuality (Cathecism 2357 et seq) but against ANY sexual act outside marriage. I haven't read anywhere that these men engage in sexual acts. Or did I miss that?

Also in 2357 et seq the Church is required to counsel with persons who may have this interest... didn't hear of anyone counseling him except to say he had to go NOW and not at the end of the year as he requested to avoid all this kinda crap (bet Melody wishes she could rewrite that verse).

let us not forget the Catechism is the project/product of Pope John Paul II and his successor - aka The Greater Protectors of Pedophiles and one of which will be the next saint.


In response to #4 - Are you insinuating that Pope Francis would continue to allow a gay man to work at a Catholic school? He said to love everyone regardless of their sins, not to support and encourage those sins. Were you involved in the conversations the school had with Mr. Panetta to know whether or not the school acted with love when discussing this with him?

John Harville

I didn't say it but I will. YES Pope Francis would allow a gay man or woman to continue to work at a Catholic school... or a Muslim, or a Methodist, or a Lutheran, or a..... and he would not require them - nay allow them - to teach the Catholic religion or kneel at school mass or take communion.

Pope Francis recognizes - as does the Cathechism commissioned by JPII - and as do many enlightened Catholics - more supporters are gained by example than by force.

The Jesuit Pope also knows many Catholics are just awaiting the 'final straw' to run screaming from the Church.

Gyro Cart Guy

Small Pond


I thought SMCC turned out scholars, not so I see, bigots YES! Arrogant as## YES! Hey you do remember that SPPS bailed your failing school out?


Sugar sugar sugar, just a couple things cause a really feel I'm lowering myself to your level, #1 I do remember cause I did go to spps . #2 just for the heck of it I looked back on the two previous articles and 3 different times you mentioned other people should be fired. #3 your demeanor and tone on your posts are far from Christian or catholic.. Just my opinion, but I would bet that a lot of catholic people reading these posts just gasp every time you write something... By the're out !! ..(again)


gasp!!! hahahahahahahaha

Smcc Student


Bigot's? Arrogant A$$es?

You are pathetic. All of your comments are filled with hate towards my School and religion. Amazing what watching to much MSNBC can do to you!


Student I am 100% Conservative, I watch FOX, Mark Levin is my hero, my favorite book of all times is Liberty and Tyranny, I abhor the lefts co opting of the gay movement to push their agenda. But... I do know the difference between right and wrong, hypocrisy and a campus that has promoted arrogance in a select few. It's KARMA baby. Now I wonder how many students even know what MSNBC is????