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




There's a reason that this "book" has lasted more than 2000 years. It's the word of God. Time doesn't take away the truth.

"Panetta seems to be a person more clear in his convictions who knows who he is, as a man, and teacher, as a Catholic and as a musician and future spouse to Nathan than most of us do." Than most of us do? Such a judgement don't you think Mr. Westerhold?

If you really believe Panetta is a man of his convictions, please accept it like he has, and move on to another story.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks JMOP. It was an observation, not a judgment. 


Thank you Mr. Westerhold, but it was an observation followed by a conculsion and opinion, aka a judgement.

John Harville

The Church calls it 'the word of the Lord' but then teaches that it is 'inspired' writing - but the writers were not scribes into whose ear God whispered.
They were writing from their experiences remembered decades later. The Old Testament wasn't even written until centuries after the events...it was oral tradition.
It lasts because people still need a weapon for beating people into submission - and because a lot of other people like to share the love and forgiveness it contains.


Well written? Yes. Do I agree with the sentiment at least? Yes. But THAT ISN'T THE POINT!

Whether you agree with the Catholic perspective on homosexuality is immaterial. The bottom line is that Mr. Panetta signed a contract, and then he violated it. Period. The end.

I don't care what faith you personally have or do not have, Mr. Westerhold. In fact, I don't really care what faith ANYbody espouses as long as they don't infringe the rights of others as they practice it. Mr. Panetta's rights weren't violated here. He agreed to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and then he decided not to. I'm not faulting him for being true to himself as you might put it. In fact, I admire him not only for that act but for his dignity in discussing the aftermath. But attempting to coerce a church to change its doctrine by suggesting discrimination? If anything's a violation of the First Amendment, it would be that!

Matt Westerhold

Thanks SamAdams. I am not attempting "to coerce a church to change its doctrine."  I merely offered an opinion on a topic that has generated a great deal of conversation, just as you have.   


I, personally, find inspiration in the Pope's following remarks:

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," -Pope Francis

What we are witnessing now, even in the SR's discussion forum, is part of this: Pope Francis wants us to shake things up!

John Harville

Happy Birthday Pope Francis!!!

John Harville

the final issue here will - IS - the validity of the contract.

"attempting to coerce a Church to change a doctrine...? Were you around for Pedophile Priest scandals? The CHURCH initially tried to claim FIRST AMENDMENT rights in that one too.

Mr. Panetta's rights WERE violated. Or did I miss the part where ANYONE claimed/proved Mr. Panetta and his boyfriend actually have 'consummated' their relationship? Did I miss the part where they GOT MARRIED? The Church's Doctrine says those men and women who claim homosexual attraction in their lives are to be loved, counseled and encouraged to understand the Church's position - LOVED being the key.
The pastors - F. Steinbauer et al - and Melody Curtis as well as the Board could have taken time to discuss this more fully and consider a plan that would protect the school and its students from adverse and painful controversy. If any of them are naive enough to not know the expected fallout then they should not be in their positions.
"this I command, that you love one another as I have loved you." - Jesus (who did NOT write the Catechism.


"Men and women who don't have faith often envy those who do and wish they too could be believers." - WOW. Why would you even THINK such a thing? I would never want to be lumped in with such a crowd. The way many of the "believers" treat others.....I would never want to be labeled as such.


Where did the story on Chief Ricci's retirement go? Did you guys realize it was a misjudgement on your part to publish it online as it was written?

Sorry this is off topic, but I figured you were at least checking these comments. SR took away the story and comments on Ricci's retirement. Why was it deleted if the role of the paper is to encourage dialogue, not shut it down as you claim above?

Matt Westerhold

The Ricci resignation article was pretty straightforward. There was some sort of coding problem that knocked it down the stream, but it's been restored. 


"Homosexuality is quite common in the animal kingdom, especially among herding animals. Many animals solve conflicts by practicing same gender sex."

"Recent research has found that homosexual behavior in animals may be much more common than previously thought"


I bet you’re glad your mom doesn’t believe the same way you do. In the animal world, some mothers eat their young…


Gosh isn't it insulting to men to analogize sex in the animal kingdom (yes I know Humans are in the animal kingdom) to sexual relations among humans? After all in the animal kingdom females in general other than human females cannot have sexual activity except when fertile.

It is this unique gift of human sexuality between a man and a woman that distinguishes us from animals. Part of the reason for this ability is the fact that a human child does not attain adulthood for 18 years and needs to be raised and nurtured in a family unit. Thus the loving act between a man and woman binds them together as a family.

The behavior described in these articles is a substitute for male violence and is a form of domination. It is how males establish dominance in their group. So these types of articles are really debasing to humans as it equates our behaviors (male primarily) as no better than animal behavior and infers that human males lack self control. We expect humans to practice self control and keep impulses in check in all areas of our lives.

Thus for me sexual activity outside a loving marriage between a man and a woman indicates a form of primitive animal behavior in people that are not suitably for a lack of a better word "evolved". Does it happen, yes, but like gluttony, sloth, pride, avarice, anger, and envy, one ought to strive to avoid lust.

In no other area of human behavior do we as a society condone low standards and an inability to control impulses. Why is it acceptable to "hate" people who aspire to the high standards set by Jesus Christ?

John Harville

What about sexual activity inside a 'non-loving' marriage.
Heterosexual activity 'inside' or 'outside' a loving marriage may include mutual oral sex, cunninglingas (mispelled for the censor), interruptus, mutual masterbashun (again for the censor) and other things we won't even mention. All those are sins but inside "a loviing mariage between a man and woman" is okay?
Who is demanding you lower your standards?
we are the thinking animals and yet animals like you refuse to engage God-given free will and THINK.


I do think and more importantly know that lust in all its forms is hazardous to your spirit. Why do you have so much hate in your heart for others who differ from you?

John Harville

I don't hate you Babo. Actually I pity you because you continue to deny yourself the chance to know the full beauty of Christ and fellowship with him.
Let us remember he walked among, ate with, talked with the poor, the downtrodden, the tax collectors, the shepherds, the laborers like himself, the prostitutes - always giving them hope their lives could be better, at least after this one. He only gave the 'hard' lessons to people who thought themselves more enlightened and more 'welcome'.
I pity you like Jesus pitied the Pharisees - of which you would have been a very good one.


We disagree. Your pity is not needed as you have no idea of my spiritual relationship with Christ.

The light of Christ is not discernible in your writings. You project hate of others especially those you perceive as weak. You forgot that Christ came to free the prisoners, not in the traditional sense but those who are enslaved as were the Pharisees and yourself by egotism and legalism.


But you offer veiled threats of the Christian community pulling their financial support from the paper? I'm not a legal professional but isn't that called BLACKMAIL???? Or correct me to the correct term.


People are free in this country to spend their money on products as they wish as long as the purchase is legal. If people don't want to purchase a publication because they disagree with its philosophy which may include bashing their religious beliefs, that is their right.

You seem to be suggesting people should be forced against their will to spend their money on causes with which they disagree or products that insult them. Forcing people to pay would be extortion or blackmail.

Similarly if people choose not to patronize advertisers of a publication because they disagree with the religious bashing of the publication that is their right in this nation. In fact such actions called boycotts were used by the NAACP and other civil rights groups in the past and are still used today by [surprise!] Civil rights groups, religious groups, and unions.

Again, isn't the homosexual community and its supporters attempting to encourage a boycott of St Mary's and the school through this newspaper and through an on line petition? I support their rights and yours under the First Amendment to engage in that conduct, just as I would support the Christian community's right to engage in a boycott of newspapers and their advertisers who bash and insult their religious beliefs.

It's the American way.


You can't have it both ways Babo (I may be wrong but I think it may be short for baboon??) you can't be the aggressor than turn around and claim to be the victim, typical professional spin.


Oh Levoglucose, you got me! I thought you like it both ways. But alas, I only go one way; the Dextro way.
While you...well you're simply sinister!


Harping on molecular structure? I didn't think lawyers had many courses in the sciences, heck you don't even need a Masters to go to law school.


Who said I was a lawyer?

Now go back to your research and try to understand.


Oh I see you're just a know it all then. lol

John Harville

BABO I pity you regardless.

John Harville

BABO. Is there a confession here? How DO you know about the hazards of lust?

Please be careful about libeling my heart.


"Thus for me homosexual activity in general and heterosexual activity outside a loving marriage between a man and a woman indicates a form of primitive animal behavior in people that are not suitably for a lack of a better word "evolved"."

Perhaps you took my links that I provided the wrong way. I provided the links to bring out more discussion among the readers. In fact, mankind is reverting back to primitive animal behavior.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s appears to have been the start of today's accepted sexual mores and morals which are unacceptable to me. What happened to the family unit? One unmarried mother with children who have different fathers is one example.

At one time, virginity was expected from both the male and female before marriage. Now if somebody is a virgin before marriage, it is viewed as an oddity.

Decades ago, the word "gay" meant to be happy, cheerful, excited, lively but today it refers to sexual orientation of the same sex. Look up the definition of the word "gay" online and in modern printed dictionaries. The word "queer" which means unusual, not normal, oddity was used decades ago to describe people with same sex orientation. Also homosexuality was hidden from the general public decades ago.

What does the Bible say about Virginity Before Marriage?


What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?