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



John Harville

Pirate 1334...then the Government shouldn't 'force...by law' Catholic institutions like hospitals, nursing homes, children's homes, etc. to take Medicare payments or accept patients/residents who make you 'representative payee' for their SS to pay their nursing home bills.

John Harville

Pirate 1134
First.. don't spew your own interpretation of the Bible and try to pass it off as fact. That's heresy - and the Church has a variety of ways to continue burning heretics.
Second...The Constitution - despite what the ConGANGos try to tell you, allows all of us to believe or not believe as we choose - and you can't do anything about it.
Third... The "Government" really could care less about religion. Even the currency didn't say In God We Trust until 1956 and the the postwar Red Scare of the fifties, about the same time "under God" was added to the pledge to state that the pledgers were not Communists. Prior to that the unofficial motto on money and elsewhere was "E Pluribus Unum" - "From Many, One".


in Ohio you can be fired for any reason they want


Not to mention that he signed a contract and knew that any violation COULD result in being fired. SMCC took advantage of the clause.

John Harville

mikesee... any relation to holysee?
Key word "MAY (not could) result in being fired."
SCCS (let's get it right) 'may' have taken advantage of the clause to allow resignation effective at schoolyear's end. Think is, he did not publicly announce his intention - he told her privately.
This all comes back to Melody... which may be SOP since she left her previous - similar - position after less than a year due to performance.


John..Curious do you know this to be true about curtis's last position...I see that you do not drink her"kool-aid" which is refreshing.....hoping that more people in Sandusky including the powers at be see through her glass house I am sure if they googled her and her family (sons) they would come up with some interesting information....hoping it is not to late for SMCC as it was was for her two previous schools who I have heard are still recovering

John Harville

...if the employer is willing to pay unemployment...


The Archdiocese of Cincinnati lost a case in federal court: A teacher who sued the archdiocese for firing her after she became pregnant through artificial insemination won her anti-discrimination lawsuit. She was awarded more than $170,000.



In fact the First Amendment to the US Constitution in 1791 expressly protects the "free exercise of religion". The first ten amendments (Bill of Rights) were adopted shortly after the US Constitution itself which in its original form consisted of six articles. The Bill of Rights were drawn in large part from moral teachings or natural law from the Judiac Christian tradition found in the Bible.

The Constitution (the document you revere) in its original form applied only to white men. The US Constitution had to be amended three times to allow black men to vote and be full citizens(13th Amendment); to apply constitutional rights to citizens (only men of any race) to the states (14th Amendment) and then in 1920 to allow women of all races to vote and be considered full citizens. (19th Amendment)

So the free exercise of religion (really the right to free thought and conscience)dates to the founding of this nation, while the Constitution has been used since the beginning of this Country to discriminate against large classes of people.

Jesus Christ taught in parables i.e. simple stories that taught a complex moral lesson. His truths are eternal while the thoughts of man are ephemeral.

John Harville

Babo "So the free exercise of religion (really the right to free thought and conscience)dates to the founding of this nation (YOU MEAN 1791?), while the Constitution has been used since the beginning of this Country (YOU MEAN 1776 OR 1620 OR 1607?) to discriminate against large classes of people." YOU MEAN LIKE THE PURITANS WHO FORCED THE CATHOLICS INTO RHODE ISLAND? OR THE PURITANS WHO OUTLAWED THE OBSERVANCE OF CHRISTMAS?

Or perhaps the 'mixed marriage laws' that imprisoned couples who married who were Black and White? Many branches of 'the church' said such marriages were prohibited by the Bible (even though among Jesus' ancestors were Boaz and his Moabitess Ruth).



What is your point John?

The freedom to exercise one's religion or no religion dates back to the original settlers. It is why the states insisted it be included in the First Amendment to the Constitution in 1791. All of the rights in the First Amendment [speech, association, press, religion (establishment and exercise clauses), petition for redress] together protect expression of ideas or freedom of conscience from the government.

Obviously the Country officially began upon the signing of the Constitution by the representatives of the 13 States. That document did not include the original Bill of Rights which were ratified in 1791.

The original Constitution did not grant rights to black men nor to any women. Thus, racism and sexism are part of the history and actions of the government of this nation. The religious examples you cited were by private religious groups and are therefore not relevant to the discussion.

The example you cited of government banning marriage between black and white men or women is relevant because it demonstrates the government's history of white male domination seeking to outlaw activities by black men and women or white women. This example underscores the government's history of discrimination against blacks and women.

However, the fact that some religions believe interracial or more accurately inter ethnic marriage to be contrary to the Bible is not relevant as again religious groups are free to believe what they want to believe. Even today, ethnic racial discrimination exists in some religions and is protected expression of conscience. For example do Hassidic Jews marry outside their ethnic group?

Finally I note that you ignore the long standing government sanctioned discrimination against blacks and women and tried to distract from the real issues. Therefore isn't it fair for me to draw the conclusion from your lack of concern with the history of government endorsed discrimination against blacks and women that you are likely a white male who views blacks and women as inferior to you?


No racism or sexism in the Catholic church, eh?


I do not discern racism or sexism in the "Church".


But I did.

John Harville

no sexism in the church...?
So when is the ordination service for the first female priest? Or even a female deacon.

John Harville

BABO "freedom to exercise...dates back to the first settlers..."? The Puritans allowed free exercise of religion? They outlawed Christmas, turned away Catholics....

"...obviously the country officially began on the signing of the Constitution..." What about the Articles of Confederation under which the nation operated from 1763 and the Continental Congress. The Constitution was born in a convention called in May of 1787 to revise the Articles - a lie told to Congressmen so they would come. When they arrived the doors were locked and windows sealed. the Articles continued to be the law of the land until September 1789 when it was ratified by 11 states - two southern states refused to ratify until they were promised a Bill of Rights - which finally was ratified in December 1791.
You incorrectly imply my race from your invalid restatement of my prior positions when you try to talk about the rights of the Constitution in an effort to distract others from my points.
Great tactic... but it won't work here. And you WILL NOT draw out my identity.

Peninsula Pundit

'The author pretending to understand a believer’s perspective is quite amusing.'
I took time to read the whole article.
Sadly, I don't see his opinion to be pretense, but incorrect conclusions based on the assumption of the tenets of a faith he has only anecdotal knowledge of. Seeing, yet he does not see, hearing, yet not understanding.
Since this is opinion, I guess one cannot say that this is poor journalism. But it is clearly an uninformed opinion.

I can tell you that any employer will fire an employee who is loved by all,does great work,shows up on time,etc. if they break a rule which has nothing to do with the work performance of the employee.
It happens everyday, in fact.
Everyone seems to be on board with employers being able to have direct control over what their employees do on their personal time.
What the school has done is no different.

John Harville

Oh ye misguided Pundit.
If your employer follows the standard you set, then your employer also probably agrees to pay Unemployment benefits rather than go through the long process of fighting such a claim for firing an employee "if they break a rule WHICH HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WORK PERFORMANCE..."

BTW... how dare you say Matt has "only anecdotal knowledge". Are you inside his head and heart? Do you know his beliefs?

From the Grave

Since those things were written back when a plague could wipe out most of humanity, it would make sense to have as many kids as possible. Maybe God has created a new plan now since we are on the verge of over populating the planet, and all dying from starvation. Don't limit God~only man is limited.

John Harville

The Church set its standards for marriage, procreation, sexual activity for one reason - to grow the Catholic population.
the Church even openly states the purpose of marriage is procreation.
Long before the Church appeared, laws and traditions abounded. "Caesar's wife must not only be free of sin but free of the appearance of sin."
A woman had to be a virgin - and married - so the man could be sure his heirs were his.
Jewish and other faiths' lineage is traced through the mother (it truly was only important that Mary be of the lineage of David) while inheritance is through the father. 'It is a wise man indeed who knows his own son."
Thus Deuteronomy says a woman found not to be virgin on her wedding night MUST be slain.
I'ts why if a wife died childless, her husband's male relative - usually father or brother - had sex with her until she conceived so her husband's line would not perish.

John Harville

thoughtlessagain. STOP using the Bible as a weapon. If truly believe it to be the inspired word of God/Jesus, then cease pulling forth some verses out of context to support your perverse interest in holding yourself up as supreme interpreter.

When did you decide you would be heterosexual?

John Harville

Unthinkagain. Why are you not man enough to post ALL of Matthew 19? Oh..because it puts your whole premise in the trash.

Donald Szpozors's picture
Donald Szpozors

Excellent piece, Mr. Westerhold. Very eloquent and well written. And I agree 100% with the above poster- the vast majority of our belief/faith is fear based. Its origins and content is 'always' misinterpreted by people who paraphrase and interpret it to their own personal advantages. Hence why the Northcoast region and male population is closeted beyond compare. They are often married with families or ordained priests, etc. using the façade of religion and 'family values' to hide their secret. Shameful. Embrace your sexuality to its fullest in all your senses, your spirit and your love.


@ Mr. Westerhold:

How much energy, ink and pixels do you want to continue to expend in attempting to keep this pot boiling?

Other than being a blatant provocateur, not one of your editorials are going to change past circumstances or church doctrine.

As Mr. Panetta said, the school essentially had a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.

In telling his superior of his engagement he essentially broke that covenant.

Was he totally unaware of the potential risks involved when he first took the position?

Move on and save this story for a future: "Today in History."

John Harville

Forgive Contango, folks. He loves being wrong.

Past circumstances ARE being changed in and out of the Catholic Church. As one closely in the litigation of the entire Pedophile Priests lawsuit, I can assure much has changed. Compensations and reparations still are being made.
Church Doctrine has changed dramatically over decades and over a few months - and WILL change again dramatically. Until now the Diocese could condone/ignore the LGBTQ personnel in its churches and schools.
It also could ignore adultery, in-vitro and surrogacy, and other similar issues OR quietly expunge the individuals from the ranks.
No longer. Melody Curtis has opened a serious can of worms that the Diocese - with which its interim administrator has no power to try to close.
Mr. Westerhold aside, this pot will keep boiling. After all there is a gay bar downtown....


Re: "Compensations and reparations still are being made."

Come up to speed:

U.S. dioceses continue to file for bankruptcy, leaving payouts in limbo.


John Harville

Huh, Contango. The noble upright Catholic Church is still 'raping' its victims by trying to wriggle out of 'compensations and reparations' which - as I said - still are being made.


John: The Catholic Church is exercising its constitutional and legal rights under the American system of justice. One of those legal protections is to file bankruptcy to ensure a fair distribution of assets to creditors including lawsuit judgments. Do you now wish to deny Catholics and only Catholics the right to equal protection under the law, and the right to petition for redress just as you wish to deny them their rights to privacy and practice their faith?

Wow, you are possibly the most thoroughly anti American poster on this website!

Also, why aren't you as concerned with pedophilia and crimes of violence perpetrated by law enforcement? (the incidence is much higher than in the RCC)


Diocese in Cali just did file bankruptcy. I take it you're not a big victims advocate?



It's unwise to jump to conclusions. Do you understand that the bankruptcy process is intended to level the field so that all victims have a chance at payment; not just the few with the biggest mouthpieces or connections to the media?