Go away, gay

Matt Westerhold
Jan 20, 2014

The firing of Brian Panetta as the St. Mary Central Catholic High School band and choir director is one sad story, on so many levels.

The saddest part, perhaps, is the school had the courage to hire Panetta nearly five years ago likely knowing from the beginning he was gay. That was a courageous step for a Catholic school, and Panetta thrived as director, doubling the size of the band and giving it back its “Panther Pride.”

From a believer's perspective, one might think God had a lot to do with Panetta getting hired in the first place; he served those students for 4½ years and nobody has even suggested he did not serve them, and their families, well. He, and they, both appear to have prospered from the experience.

Men and women who don't have faith often envy those who do and wish they too could be believers. From a non-believer's perspective, however, the decision to fire Panetta might appear to be a man-made occurrence in defiance of the universe, in defiance of God.

Click here to read related articles and watch interview with Panetta

It wasn't an easy decision for the school and church doctrine appears to mandate that Panetta be cast aside and sent away from the parish he loved and the parish that loved him. Panetta could have stayed as long as he didn't make a “public” statement about who he really was, as long as he agreed to deny his own self-worth in front of the God who created him, and the world.

It's difficult for many to understand that hide the sin-use the sinner hypocrisy. It creates an image of Panetta being cast out in shame from the great institution St. Mary's is, and always has been, despite past difficulties with real sexual misconduct involving priests.

There also likely have been gay parishioners who gave a lifetime of devotion to the church and school, and past staff members at St. Mary's, who, as long as they denied their own sexual identities, were allowed to “sin” and prosper in the faith.

Making good people hide their true selves, for people of faith, must be like forcing them to deny God's perfection in creating them differently than he created others. And it's likely those past people of faith struggled with that every day of their faithful lives.

Understanding God is easier, perhaps, than understanding church doctrine, and the decision to fire Panetta does appear to have come more from outside Sandusky, and even outside the reach of the Toledo Diocese..

Again, these were difficult decisions made in the clash of 2,000-year-old tradition and belief system against the modern enlightenment that every person — regardless of orientation — has the right to love and marry the person they choose, and to love God.

But the battle over words that ensued after Panetta was fired, over the terminology to describe the separation and who made the decision, also seemed disingenuous. It was a speak the lie-hide the truth approach. Panetta was fired. Period. If they agreed to let him return, he likely would be at the school Monday morning.

Initially, school officials seemed to want to make it clear that Brian resigned, and was not fired. But firing someone one day and giving them the chance to resign a week later or remain fired is still a firing. It's sad that the “public face” they hoped to portray is not the “true face.”

There was a similar word game as to where the decision was made, with the Diocese initially suggesting it was a local decision, and local school officials suggesting it was forced by the diocese. In the end, the edict likely comes from Rome, and the men and women involved here appear to have tried their best to do what they felt compelled to do.

And one last time, these were difficult decisions in a changing world involving a religion that cherishes its traditions and beliefs and is slow to change or evolve. Local decision makers and the Diocese missed an opportunity to speak truth and foster a change that many — including Catholics — believe is needed.

Panetta seems to be a person more clear in his convictions who knows who he is, as a man, as a teacher, as a Catholic and as a musician and future spouse to Nathan than most of us do.

And he should know, his presence in Sandusky has changed us and sparked a conversation that might never have happened without him. It is truly a teachable moment, as he suggested, and the lessons for his students, especially, and for the community at large, will be reviewed and considered by many for a long time to come.

Watch the "between the Lines" interview with Panetta




What's a shame is that so many people believe the teachings of a religion that attempts to control and shut out many and a book that was not written by any god and promotes violence to and obedience from women. Few question it, yet its origins are in question and the contents may not even have been translated properly. People have 'faith' (an ambiguous term) but no compassion for other people that do not act or live as they do. How can that be 'christian'? To truly be a good christian would be to accept everyone despite their differences. Most just believe what they were taught as children and carry it into adulthood without even questioning any of it. I am glad that I am not catholic because I would have to renounce the religion as an adult. I do renounce most religion anyway because of the hypocrisy and cult like following of most of them. No one knows what God wants from us but if we treat others as we would want to be treated and don't go along with ridiculous opinions of the majority, I think we're farther ahead than by going to church and reading a book that is only good in parts.

Pterocarya frax...

Matt said: "Men and women who don't have faith often envy those who do and wish they too could be believers."

Where did you pull that gem from Matt?


LOL, for me God is the same as Santa Clause. A story someone made up years ago, there is no Rudolph and never was a baby Jesus.


lol wow...you may not believe in God but a man named Jesus did exist and was born as a baby. That's a historical fact.


Maybe , maybe not, there's no absolute proof that he was ever born.

John Harville

oh bondgirl... "That's a historical fact." NOT. There is no record except Biblical accounts and even they differ. There is no long-form birth certificate.
There is as much written about Buddha and Mohammed as about Jesus - the only thing that MAY support the Jesus story is that it is told in the Talmud and the Q'ran... of course he's only a prophet and did not 'arise'.
"For those who believe no proof is necessary, for those who doubt, no proof is enough."
And even if Jesus did/does exist, I've seen little on any of these sites following his command 'to love one another as I have loved you'.
Have you?


You are absolutely incorrect. It is written about in Roman times as are many of the things that are in the Bible surrounding that era in time including the star that shone brightly over the town of Bethlehem and the order of Caesar to kill all children under the age of two near the time of Jesus' birth. The Romans were very fastidious in their records keeping and documentation of historical facts.

John Harville

Bondgirl. Citations, please.
- Actually it was Herod, King of the Jews who allegedly ordered the killing of infants under the age of three - two years after Jesus was born. -Bible
- Actually, as an astrologer just taught on a Christian Television program, that 'star' - Jupiter (Saturn?) in retrograde - appears every year.
- The Romans cared very little about a baby born in Bethlehem in Judea under the monarchy of Herod. The Romans kept no records of Jewish babies born in Africa
- The entire Jesus' birth story was created by Matthew et al to 'prove' Jesus was the Messiah of Isaiah and other Old Testament books. There was no record until Mark wrote a few decades later and then Matthew went into great detail with the 'begats' to prove the lineage.
BELIEVERS like me don't really care about the story or the 'facts. God came to Earth to walk among us in an attempt to understand us. Jesus was a prophet recognized in the Talmud and the Qu'ran along with his mother and his mission.
God wants us to know that three things abide - Faith, Hope and Love (Charity) and the greatest is love.. maybe the one time Paul got it right.


John your posts are fascinating!! Please keep us updated with your inside knowledge.


Check out roman documentation also along with caesar's accounts as you are correct about herrod and the birth it was the Romans who documented a man named Jesus' death. It is a fact he lived whether you want to believe it or not. Son of God? That is your determination to accept or reject. Again the man that signed the contract with SMCC knew, as we all do, what the Catholic Church's beliefs are and decided to sign on the line. Why all the hoopla now?

John Harville

Cite the Roman documentation, please.
'Jesus' or 'Yeshua' (Joshua) was among the most common name for boy babies named for the hero who led the Israelites into the Promised Land and "fought the battle of Jericho".
Want to give me some other 'fact' about Yeshua bar Yusef. Remember God did not name his only 'begotten' son.
Even the Catholic church doesn't know what its beliefs are - left entirely to the local parish priest or school president to interpret.
I speak as one who 'represented' the Church in its pedophile priest case several years ago, under the auspices of an attorney, of course.
You can sign any contract you want... but if it's not a legally binding contract, it's worthless.
You cannot sign away your constitutional rights.


You were or are a lawyer? That's hard to believe in view of the fact that you do not understand fundamental legal principles. Or did you misrepresent your "representation" of the Church?


Aren't you?


My status is irrelevant as I'm not the one claiming to represent the Roman Catholic Church in legal proceedings involving pedophilia. If John Harville is a lawyer then it's not a problem (other than the Church could have claims against him for violating privilege).

But if he isn't a lawyer and he claims he represented the church in legal matters then he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.


I don't think so, are you?

John Harville

There are many areas of law practice not requiring one to be a lawyer. One can 'represent' under supervision of a lawyer... do the research, write the briefs, sit at the table, prepare depositions...
What privilege? The outcomes are part of public record.
Beyond that, as a Catholic I 'represent' the Church every time I speak, write...
...just like you - Catholic or not - represent the Church every time you regale us with your knowledge of law and the Bible.


The only area of law where one can "represent" someone without being a lawyer is before the Patent and Trademark Office. Other than that if you work under a lawyer, it is the lawyer who represents the client not the law researcher.

Any lawyer has a duty of loyalty to a client and should not engage in conduct detrimental to the client such as disparagement of the client in public forums.

You do not represent the Catholic Church nor do I when we post our opinions.

John Harville

BABO... or Pro Se - which is another form. Then one gets to participate as part of the defense. Or am I wrong on that, too?


Yes. Pro se means to represent yourself as an individual in a court of law.

John Harville

...or as a party or interested person.


A person appearing pro se can only represent their own interests as an individual as a party or as a third party (interested party. An individual who is not a lawyer is never allowed to represent any person or entity other than themselves.


Mr. Westerhold, this is very well written. Thank-you.

I realize it’s a viewpoint. But, I do not agree that people who don’t have “faith” have any envy for those who do. People who don’t categorize themselves into a religion or people so don’t believe in a Supreme Being aren’t envious of people who believe in a God (at least, from my viewpoint – I could be wrong, we’re all different). I think people who are Atheists (or….whatever they may be) are just as devoted to their beliefs as someone who prays to a statue or kneels to a God. Honestly, I don’t think there is any envy.

That being said, Mr. Westerhold, I know you’re a journalist…and writing is your job. But, I have to say it…you really have a way with words. This is a nicely done piece.

John Harville

Beware of confusing 'faith' and 'religion'. The second seldom involves the first.

From the Grave

The vast majority of our belief/faith is fear based(don't strike me down), with the rest being hope based(help me get through this). I can't believe in a God that is vengeful OR selective in bestowing good fortune. I CAN believe in a God that experiences the world through us, and who considers me as important as everything, and everyone else in the world.
Catholicism seems 100% fear based to me.


“as long as he agreed to deny his own self-worth in front of the God who created him, and the world.”

That is exactly what all followers of Christ must do.

Matthew 16:24-25
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

“forcing them to deny God's perfection in creating them differently than he created others.”

Like all sin, the homosexual life style is a choice made from free will. A deviation from Gods plan for His children.

Matthew 19:4-5
4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’

5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

The author pretending to understand a believer’s perspective is quite amusing.


Thinkagain, I couldn't have said it any better myself. Thank you.


Sorry, but a 2000+ year old book of make believe stories does not trump a 225 year old US Constitution prohibiting discrimination.


First, don't spew your own interpretation of the Bible and try to pass it off as fact. Second, you're referring to the same U.S. Constitution that allows freedom of religion, and yet the government has continually tried to crush those rights.


How so?


One example would be forcing religious institutions to pay for health services such as abortion that directly go against the teachings of Christians. "Freedom of religion" but we're going to force you, by law, to support services against your doctrines.