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.



Not at all. The Constitution has no impact on a contract between private parties. It spells out the limits of what GOVERNMENT may do.

John Harville

"The Constitution has no impact on a contract between private parties"

What GOVERNMENT may do is make CONTRACT LAW which impacts a contract between private parties.


Actually, according to this nation's founding principles, the only contract law government may make is to enforce contracts and require that they be entered into freely.


Commerce clause. Unconstitutional but used every single day.


Yes, well don't get me started on Commerce Clause mission creep.

John Harville

I recently attended a baptism for a child conceived in vitro by two loving, committed, MARRIED IN THE CHURCH parents. The baptism was by a Catholic priest.

...and then there are those four employees openly living in a state of adultery - as defined by the Church and Jesus.

How do these fit with the contract language below...?

" 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."


Again, the veiled accusations but never with any names.

First of all, did that priest KNOW how the child was conceived? Second, even if he did, there's no conflict here unless the parents openly declared a commitment to use in vitro fertilization again.

John Harville

Blog policies disallow naming names. Besides, a couple of them are very good friends.

First of all: the priest did know but believed the child still was a child of God.
Second: in-vitro seldom produces only one embryo. Are you saying then the priest would insist they leave the rest of the embryos on ice? Life begins at conception yes? So the remaining embryos are to be effectively aborted?

Seems you haven't read YOUR Catechism recently.


I somehow doubt they will remain good friends after you air their laundry on the web like this.

In many cases, all the viable embryos are implanted because most will not 'take.' Even if they do implant additional embryos, that's still another single instance of sin. There is no illusion that Catholics never sin - the issue of being at odds with any church's doctrine lies in unrepentant sin, which embodied in the case of your cited friends by a declared intent to continue sinning.


Why after employing this man for over 4 years did they fire one is addressing this. They knew about his private life. He in confidence went to Melody Curtis to discuss..within hours te diocses is involved and he is fired.
Two problems here why after so long aftr they knew about his life choice and Melody Curtis....she is the fire starter here ....Feeling sorry for SMCC, the kids and Brian ....She needs to go as well from what I have heard about what she has done at other schools.

John Harville

The firestorm Melody Curtis started for the school, the local church, the Diocese are more than sufficient to demand her resignation.

If she truly was living 'a lifestyle accoridng to the Catholic faith', she would have allowed him to resign quietly at the end of the year.

As it is, I think she will have no choice but to resign her position immediately and let the school, churches and communities move forward.

Simultaneously, the music teacher should be reinstated through the end of the year. Righ now no one knows whether he and his fiance have broken any Church rules regarding chastity, fornication and certainly they haven't gotten married in or out of the church.

Interestingly, marriages of heterosexual Catholic - or mixed faith couples - who marry outside the Church also are not recognized.


"Righ now no one knows whether he and his fiance have broken any Church rules regarding chastity, fornication and certainly they haven't gotten married in or out of the church."

They have openly and publicly declared their intention to do all of the above, which, according to Christian doctrine, is worse than any singular instance of the sinful acts, because it excludes repentance.

Marriages outside the Church ARE recognized, such as when already married couples become catholic.

John Harville

"...according to Christian doctrine..."

So you are saying this 'doctrine' condemns as 'sin' a persons 'intention' to do something? If someone states an 'intention' to rob a bank, is the person then guilty of bank robbery?

And exactly when BEFORE Melody Curtis and SCCS terminated his contract, did they declare intentions "openly and publicly"?

Just create 'factoids' as you go and then try to make them fit.


The Christian doctrine that forgiveness of sin requires repentance is well established in the Bible. Repentance means turning away from the sin, i.e. acknowledging that the sin is wrong and resolving to avoid repeating it. The Bible is very clear that those who do not repent are to be excluded from fellowship.

"And exactly when BEFORE Melody Curtis and SCCS terminated his contract, did they declare intentions "openly and publicly"?"

When they announced their engagement to be married.


Dancing with your significant other at Octoberfest is not public? The mistake Mr. Panetta made was thinking that everyone was on the up and up and loved and accepted him, all of him, which most did but apparently not all. He was used and backstabbed, how Christlike.


I've seen plenty of examples of people dancing with friends, although admittedly it's usually women with women. Nonetheless it doesn't constitute evidence that people are having sex, or else SCCS would never have a prom.

His mistake was in ignoring a fundamental conflict between his lifestyle and the philosophy of the institution with which he took a job. He wasn't backstabbed - he was given the opportunity to spend 4 years building his resume until he took actions that could not be ignored, and then he was given the opportunity to voluntarily resign. Most madrassas and most evangelical schools would not have been so accommodating.


All to my point of his qualities of providing an admirable music program being used. Comparing Catholicism to radical fundamentalism is not helping your argument, the church was created on the teaching of Jesus Christ and no where in any of Christs teachings does it say to discriminate against your fellow man, that ALL men were created in the likeness of God. Now you want to go along with human leaders who think they can decide who Jesus would keep in his presence, then go for it. But, like I said earlier, you cannot fill your rectories with priests, you cannot fill your schools with nuns and you cannot fill your pews with people. One more sad epic tale in the coffin of the Catholic Church.

John Harville

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.
"Its psychological genesis remains LARGELY UNEXPLAINED. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." (NOTE: the exact same language in the Catechism to describe masturbation). They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life (THE SAME LANGUAGE USED IN REGARD TO THOSE WHO USE ANY CONTRACEPTION EXCEPT 'THE METHOD'). They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.



These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."

Please show me the 'respect, compassion and sensitivity' from Melody Curtis.


Simple - in employing/retaining him for multiple years, she did not act on the mere fact of his orientation, or on mere speculation (however reasonable) regarding his conduct. She only took action when he himself presented unambiguous and explicit evidence of his intention to act in violation of his contract. He knowingly forced her hand, which was why he planned to resign at the end of the school year. The only point of contention between him and the school was a matter of timing.

John Harville

SHE did not employ him for multiple years. She only arrived in July.
SHE does not have the power - even under the new 'structure' in place that made her principal - unilaterally to terminate a legally-binding contract.

Think about it... They could have agreed on an end-of-year resignation, quietly, and saved all this AND international exposure of the school and its students.

She - and others - terribly mishandled this "point of contention".


She and her predecessor hired and retained him for multiple years. Of course they could have agreed to an end of year resignation, and he could also have waited until June to get engaged. He took the precipitating action which established violation of the contract, so the timing was his doing. "Flying under the radar" by avoiding "all this" isn't necessarily their goal. Their doctrines, unlike those of say, the Freemasons, are not secret - they have nothing to hide. Their goal is not to hide from or to appease the media or the masses; it is to serve what they believe to be God's will.


Amazing a few people who have the audacity to determine what is Gods will.


Well, then, what's the point of a church, anyway?


To commune in Gods presence, to share and support one another. Funny it has never felt that way in the Catholic Church.

John Harville

"May we live according to the nature
you gave us
and do the good you intend us to do."

Prayer of Melody Curtis while Executive Director at MCES in Monroe, Michigan.


John Harville

...the diocese can remove its support at any time without notice. Beware Ms. Curtis.


"Prayer of Melody Curtis while Executive Director at MCES in Monroe, Michigan."

... and your point is?

John Harville

Practice what you pray.


There is nothing in this story to indicate that the targets of your remarks are doing otherwise.

Truth or Dare

Organized (NOT FOR PROFIT) religious orgs. spend multi-millions lobbying on Capitol Hill to pass laws that intrude on the basic civil/human rights of all within this country, not to mention the millions spent in foreign countries and their human rights. Ex: Belize and the violent anti-gay agenda.

There is an organization that some here within our community may be interested in, it's "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State". I'll be sending articles regarding this issue to them, and too the SR, please know that I have permission to print this information. They actually like to have the information shared, as it may just possibly bring enlightenment to a country filled with bigotry and discrimination of all forms, this being one. May I also state, I have no problem as to how one worships, what church they belong too or choose to work within. What I have a problem with is their hierarchy and religious org. lobbying, shaking hands and making deals w/political representatives that pass laws across all states affecting an entire nation. I also have a major problem w/Supreme Court Justices that have aligned themselves w/orgs.. One would think such orgs. wouldn't be so anti-Middle East, as the majority of their people are against Homosexuality, and will just outright put one to death, right along with a law passed in Belize (Section 53) that supports imprisonment and the thought process too "Just Kill the Gays".

The TOP 10 to watch for, along with their NOT FOR PROFIT income that is used as bribery on Capitol Hill, as well in other countries that supports putting people to death:

First and foremost, the Catholic Church, of which no income is provided, but estimated in the BILLIONS.

Found within the November 2013 issue of "Church and State":

1. The Falwell Empire - $630 MILLION

2. The Robertson Empire - $400 MILLION

3. Focus on the Family - $98 MILLION

4. American Center For Law and Justice/Christian Advocates
Serving Evangelism - $59 MILLION

5. Alliance Defending Freedom - $40 MILLION

6. American Family Assoc. - $ 18 MILLION

7. Family Research Council $16 MILLION

8. Concerned Woman for America - $15 MILLION

9. National Org. for Marriage - $10 MILLION

10. Faith and Freedom Coalition - $4 MILLION

Another interesting article is "Thousands of Religious Right Activists Gather In Washington to Plot Strategy At The Values Summit". This was a summit that took place Oct. 11, 2013 in Washington, D.C., led by U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), just a few guest speakers, Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Ken Blackwell- former Ohio Treasurer, Senator Marco Rubio, U.S Rep. Michele Bachman - Information found in "Church and State", Nov. 2013 - Volume 66, Number 10.

Should one be so inclined, you may contact: Americans United for Separation of Church and State @ 1200 K St., N.W., Suite 850, East Tower, Washington, D.C. 20005, or you may call @ (202)466-3234.