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.



Ya know what? You're being REALLY pretentious, and it's people like *you* who pushed me (and many other persons my age) quite early-on into completely disavowing any notion of religious belief.

Threats and repercussions? HAHAHAHA! Ooooh, I'm so scared! Obviously Mr. Loving God isn't so "loving" if *that's* how he/she/it is going to act...

John Harville

But you spit in the eye of God on virtually comment you make on this or any other subject.

Your soul is so blackened by hatred you are incapable of realizing the wounds your language inflicts on innocent children K-12, their parents, Catholics who try to be loyal but face yet again an attack by their Church on things so long held sacred - like loving one another as Jesus loves us.

I'll light a candle for you.
And remember you can't pray 'forgive us our sins' until you 'forgive others'. Just sayin'

pigeon farmer

Brought to you by the protectors of Fr Gray. Be a good alter boy.

John Harville

...and the pedophile-protector Pope soon to be canonized.


Homosexuality, like drug addiction or alcoholism, is a destructive behavior that we should never encourage people or our children to continue
Thats statment right there is destructive alone. Do you know anyone that is gay? My cousin is gay and he has been with the same person for 20yrs. So how can you say that is destructive? Ive seen hetros more destructive than that.
I wanna know how everyone can quote the "bible" when noone knows who wrote it. Did god? Did jesus? Or all the disciples? I am not a very religious person but i do believe there is someone out there watching over us, and that person LOVES ALL OF US just not the peope who are supposably nonsinners. Bc in onne way or another we are all sinners


On top of it, what about all the kids coming out at 14-15-16 who are killing themselves, just because of that exact same sort of rhetoric?

And *that* is supposed to be "love"? They can keep their bill of goods, if that's what they're trying to sell...


Once a youth becomes indoctrinated and chooses to engage in homosexual acts, some realize their deviancy in human behavior. They don't want to be homosexual, but the medical establishment doesn't offer them the help they desperately need to regain their mental health. On top of that, atheists like yourself, tell them that their heavenly Father, which loves them and wants them to come to Him, doesn’t exist. Feeling there is no other way out, unfortunately, some commit suicide. It is sad indeed how little regard you have for those you have corrupted.


You know what that's called?


It has maybe, just *maybe*, worked for a number of people that I could count on two hands, and those already people already had the indoctrination (your word!) of religious fervor already put in them by people who are of your ilk.

In a realistic society that doesn't hold to the silliness and retrograde moralistic notions that evangelical religion holds, we wouldn't be having this discussion about Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.

For a party and a worldview that so loves personal liberty, the notion of allowing religion and governance to dictate whom a person can *not* be attracted to under penalty of loss of legal rights...

I smell hypocrisy!


Wonder what would happen if ANY of them, teachers, faculty, parents, any parishioner gay or straight - got caught in a sex club like a BDSM deal?

It could happen ...then watch the fur fly

Hmmm.. something to ponder.

Donald Szpozors's picture
Donald Szpozors

I would only 'hope' that a faculty member, parent or parishioner (straight or gay) would get caught in a BDSM situation or something similarly scandalous! My neighboring parish priest inexplicably has had a male visitor very late in the evening at unusual hours. It has also been accepted as common knowledge by parishioners that he is 'gay' and many have joked of his blatant hypocrisy. But as long as it's "don't ask, don't tell", right? What a disgusting role model he is for his faith. I only hope that hypocrites like this are openly exposed as so we collectively can see the fallacies of the church, the school and closeted communities like Sandusky and surrounding smaller towns. LGBT youth constantly struggle to find a niche and identify their true, honest personalities. They need openly proud men like Mr. Panetta for guidance and support.

John Harville

Want some names?
Try Craigslist.
Or the Pier.
Or most any of the bars.


Doesn't matter to me what the names are. I'm not from Sandusky, nor Catholic... I just thought I'd throw that thought out there.

Just a Girl

St Mary's is a PRIVATE school. If an employee of a PRIVATE Mormon or Jewish school behaved against the teachings of these faiths, he/she too would be fired or asked to resign. A private school has the right to make its own rules. If an employee or student feels those rules are discriminatory, they have a choice not to be a part of the institution.

John Harville

St. Mary's is NOT a private school.
Go on the site.
Read how parents may obtain free lunches for their students
Read the Federal Income Guidelines for free lunch.
Do you know WHO provides those free lunches?
I do. And so does every other PUBLIC taxpayer.
To accept PUBLIC funds the school sacrifices its PRIVATE status.
The DIOCESE takes even more taxpayer funds - and surrenders its 'privacy'.
NO SCHOOL, public or private, legally can require ANY employee or student to surrender Constitutional rights of FREE SPEECH under the First Amendment - which is exactly what the contract requires. Such contract may now be declared null.
Private Mormon and Jewish schools truly believe in their PRIVACY and - like the Amish in their schools - decline/do not seek public funding.
Next fallacious argument, please?

Just a Girl

School vouchers allow a student to take state money — normally distributed only to public schools on a per-pupil basis — to a private school of his or her choice. (Additional funds allocated for students enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs are non-transferrable.) Therefore, St Mary's can still designate itself as a PRIVATE school. There is no violation of the 1st Amendment which states "The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. No one is prohibiting Mr Panetta from being Catholic; the issue is violating the terms of his contract. Your argument is fallacious, not mine.


Thank you, Melody, for clearing that up for us.

John Harville

...and for demonstrating complete lack of understanding of the First Amendment which says CONGRESS shall make no law and thus putting the burden on states and local governments.
... and for stating SCCS accepts student vouchers.

My Catholic relatives in Monroe, MI have little good to say about her or what she did to the school.


Reading comprehension a little weak today Harville? She didn't say SCCS accepts vouchers - she cited legal precedent that schools can accept vouchers where they are being issued without altering their private status.

As for the lunches, those are benefits being delivered directly to STUDENTS, whose rights are not diminished by their choice of school. You can also use Pell Grants and GI Bill money to attend Notre Dame or John Carroll. Retirees can take their Social Security money and put it in the collection plate on Sunday. You seem to have a real problem with this being a free country when people use their freedom to gather under ideals with which you disagree.


They do take vouchers, how many students are there this year being charged 10k but being paid for by the taxpayers?




What vouchers - there's no voucher program currently in effect.

John Harville

Nemesis... how many children have you had in Catholic school?

Lunches are not benefits delivered directly to students... the parents have to apply through the school and the money comes to the schools which then is required to meet certain standards of food amount, quality, and the money goes directly into school coffers like any other lunch money.

Have you ever had a student in a Catholic college or university? Grants and loans are made directly to the students and then paid to the college - which still has to file annual reports to the granting agency, the government, and the IRS.

Once my SS money goes through my bank account and I put it in the offering envelope and put it in the plate, the Church still has to provide a year-end report of my giving so I can take the deduction on my income taxes.

People can use their freedom to gather under any ideals including a gay wedding. But if it involves the Church getting money or other government considerations, the Church and School will lose some of its PRIVATE status.

I have a problem with this being a FREE country? Yeah. That's why I want churches, etc. to function in full light of the public - and not force individuals to sign away their Constitutional rights. Get a grip!


"Lunches are not benefits delivered directly to students... "
Oh? Then who exactly eats the food? Sorry, but when you are eating a tray full of food paid for by the government, you are the direct beneficiary. Colleges are not required to report anything, per se. The STUDENT has a requirement to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the grant, such as satisfactory academic progress. The school forwarding the evidence directly to the government is a service they offer their students. There is no requirement for a church to furnish donors with any year end tax report. Most churches do so as a courtesy to their appreciated donors, but it's not required. In fact, there are fundamentalist churches that refuse to furnish such reports because they don't believe their congregants should be taking a deduction for their contributions. The Salvation Army is actually an evangelical denomination/church, thus dropping something in the red kettle is just like putting it in the collection plate. Ever get a report on that?

You're just full of erroneous assumptions about the relationship between private entities and the government.

John Harville

Okay Melody, where did you find THAT reading of the First Amendment?
Regardless... "abridging the freedom of speech" covers that section of the Contract which states employees may not publicly participate in/comment on a whole range of items; may not publicly live together, may not participate in nor comment on in vitro or surrogacy....
Your argument is not merely fallacious - it is totally bogus. But thank you for posting it - and giving written evidence of the school's position.
BTW... those special reading programs, the computer programs in your feeder schools that are provided through public schools...THOSE are taxpayer funds.


1. Her reading of the 1st Amendment is correct. Under the Incorporation Clause of the 14th Amendment, NO government body in the USA, federal, state, or local, may make any law abridging the rights enumerated therein.

2. YOUR interpretation is a complete failure to comprehend the entire nature of the Constitution, which spells out what GOVERNMENT may not do. Private parties are perfectly free to contractually surrender their right to comment on an issue in exchange for something they perceive as being sufficiently valuable.

John Harville

The terms of his contract relate directly to Catholicism.
Do non-Catholics sign the same contract? As I have stated previously, I personally know at least three employees in the system who are not Catholic. And all three are divorced and on second or third marriages - which in terms of the Catholic Lifestyle makes them adulterers (that's one of the BIG TEN) and therefore a direct violation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
So you (Melody?) and the school discriminated against Bryan while allowing others to openly, publicly " to act and speak in a way that does not support the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings...thus serious actions contrary to the Church's teachings (including but not limited to publicly living together outside marriage, public support of abortion, public support or use of a surrogate, public use or support of in vitro fertilization or flagrant deceit or dishonesty) will not be tolerated."


Yes, non-catholics are subject to the contract. If your unnmamed three are NOT catholic, then odds are they were not married in the Catholic Church, and thus, according to one of your OWN comments, their prior marriages are not recognized by the Church, so how can they be considered adulterers by that church?

John Harville

C'mon Melody, you know that's not true. Or at least I hope Lourdes taught you that in six years of study.

Your school is not PRIVATE.

And please do NOT refer to Mormonism, Judaism, Protestantism - and especially Catholicism FAITH. Each is a RELIGION, a group of persons with like ideas who gather together to share (and sometimes force) their beliefs.

FAITH, however, is something that cannot be taught or learned. FAITH is experienced, realized, nurtured, grown, shared.
FAITH doesn't use the Bible as a weapon to beat people into submission.
FAITH prays for persons who take actions without considering consequences of those actions.
FAITH ponders ramifications of actions and words BEFORE acting.
FAITH is foreign to you, huh?


Faith, in the English language, can refer to a set of tenets held by a religion. Are you now so desperate for traction that you are stooping to sophomoric semantic sleight of hand?

John Harville

Contract Language:

" to act and speak in a way that supports the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings. I understand that serious actions contrary to the Church's teachings (including but not limited to publicly living together outside marriage, public support of abortion, public support or use of a surrogate, public use or support of in vitro fertilization or flagrant deceit or dishonesty) will not be tolerated."

So, check your US citizenship and the Constitution at the church/school door...along with your Christianity.