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



Steve P

He was going to resign at the end of the school year and admitted his decision violated his employment contract. Why not wait to turn in your resignation at the end of the year, save yourself a firing on your record and the turmoil in the school and community, unless you want to make it about you and your views.

John Harville

He never said anything 'publicly' which is the elementary element of the contract he was said to have violated.

And.. yeah... that's the good Catholic (if not Christian) way. Live a lie, deny your love, do whatever it takes to stay in your position.

Even if you're a priest and have to threaten that little boy you just molested with hellfire or that you'll have his parents killed.

Steve P

He wasn't dismissed for being gay, in fact he worked for 5 years while being open about his life style, he was dismissed for violation of his contract where it pertained to church doctrine. Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church between a man & women, this young man is educated he did know he was violating church doctrine. By waiting to the end of the year he was not deny anything only staying within his employment contract.

John Harville

He worked five years while being honest... but ONLY since July for THIS president-principal.

He did not violate the contract - even if it was legal. He did NOT live publicly with his boyfriend. He did NOT campaign publicly for gay marriage or even for the gay lifestyle. He did not publicly announce his engagement - actually Mrs. Curtis did that (which puts her in violation of her contract). He did not bring his lifestyle into the classroom. He did not MOLEST any children (oh, but that didn't get you fired in this Diocese).

Steve P

Wow why so angry and hostile, you bigotry against the Catholic Church is evident, you might want to seek counseling.

John Harville

My 'bigotry against the Catholic Church'?
About 10 years ago I was instrumental in saving the Church about $12 million in "Pedophile Priest" RICO lawsuit by researching the law and finding the flaw in the Plaintiffs' case that led to much of the case being dismissed.
If I come across as 'angry and hostile', all I can say is GOOD! I'm sure I've probably been Catholic longer than you've been alive. I'm from a family of Catholic school teachers, Eucharistic ministers and lectors.
The only reason I did not complete the application for the Diaconate was because I realized of the 24 people in the room completing the lay preparation, only six of us could ever be deacons - the other 18 were women.
I worked closely with several sisters who - though they cannot be ordained - routinely gave 'spiritual counseling' to Diocesan priests so they could better serve as spiritual leaders for their congregations.. Are you yet catching the irony here?
Five years I taught CCD classes - the last three to 8th graders preparing for Confirmation. The parish where I taught regretted when health issues forced my retirement. I have letters from many of those students as they graduated high school thanking me for helping them discover their faith.
Please delineate the 'evidence' of my alleged bigotry against the Catholic Church. I assure you it has nothing to do with the Church recently lifting the 500-year excommunication of Gallileo for insisting the earth moved around the sun.
And yet... the anger. I have spent decades watching the Church cling desperately to similar outdated and indefensible positions. I've watched as hundreds of my Catholic friends and relatives fall away, run away, or stay to work from within. Most of them use/used several means of contraception. At least 20 are divorced and therefore 'denied' the sacraments but only changed where they attend and continue to partake the Eucharist and attend weekly.
My anger is about a Church so entrenched at the upper levels that it continues to put 'doctrine' above 'believers in Christ' and thus forces away excellent members, leaders, contributors all in the name of a "Catholic Lifestyle" that even the priests and others don't live.
The Lord has blest me with opportunities to study and know the Law, the Catechism, the Doctrine, the Scriptures and to be an accomplished and nationally-awarded writer.
I've also been blest to live in several villages, towns and cities and develop friendships nationwide - nay, worldwide. Among my 'six degrees of separation' are Toledo, Rossford, Monroe Michigan, Sandusky - all of which have meaning for a key player in this unfolding saga.
So when I see, hear, read about the Faith and Church I love putting ahead of people in the pews a doctrine which burned people at the stake for daring to read the Bible; which left unbaptized dead babies in a place called Limbo (thank God they got rid of that); which made people pay money to be forgiven; worse - which coerced people into paying 'indulgences' to get loved ones out of Purgatory; which... oh why go on... or which tries to force its members and employees to surrender Constitutional rights - then I get angry. I know this one day will change - as sure as I know we don't go to Hell for speaking the Mass in English or reading the Bible for ourselves, or taking the Blessed Body of Christ in the hand, or celebrating folk masses - or even singing as a congregation. I just choose to be a part of the change and a part of bringing it about.
Besides, we now have a Pope who knows the meaning of humility, who believes we are called to be servants rather than served, that we are intended to worship Christ rather than worship the ritual of worshiping Christ.
About the evidence of my bigotry... are you man enough?


Feel better now? It's "RICO" for racketeering and corrupt influenced organization as opposed to RICOH which is a brand of camera.

In your legal research you might want to research the Tort of False Light Invasion of Privacy and consider if you are being true to Christ in your writings.


Babo is still writing his thesis, oops that's right he didn't have too. LMAO!!


Well, that explains the seething anger, attacking everyone, including those who've agreed with you. Your postings vacilate between exemplifying Protestantism and Richard Dawkins-style militant atheism. You've ranted against Church doctrines in one comment that you've denied exist in another. You've criticized the Church for discouraging Bible reading in the past, and then in another post deconstructed the legitimacy of the Bible. You say you taught catholic doctrine, but you've posted misstatements of that doctrine. You seem to have a personal axe to grind with Melody Curtis - is SHE the one who apparently peed in your oatmeal a few mornings ago, because your approach shouts that SOMEONE did.

There is no one who is as anti-something as an ex-something. A few questions about this anti-catholic crusade you're on:

-You've gone on and on about Jesus' "one commandment" which, it should be noted was not His only commandment, but rather what He named as the most important commandment. Is it then your position that nothing is sinful as long as one tells oneself one is doing it out of love?

-Do you believe that love means never disapproving of what someone does?

In general, this topic seems to inspire a lot of anger from the side that you appear to represent, and it really doesn't make sense. All reasonable people place a boundary between acceptable and unacceptable sexual expression, except for the Shaker sect which sees all sexual activity as wrong and a criminal element who don't even see rape wrong. Why does it make people so furiously angry that some people choose a slightly different places to draw that line?

In two comments you referred to 'Open and Affirming' churches whose members 'embrace all of God's children'

If that's how you feel, John, why don't you just join one of them? I'll tell you, though, if you really want a church where Catholic-bashing is in fashion, you're going to have a problem, since the most anti-Catholic congregations are the Independent Fundamentalisr Baprists, and they take an even harder line on the sexual morality you seem to think is so evil.


Another "leave" if you don't like it comment. All of that rambling for that final thought.

John Harville

Nemesis... your argument falls apart on the 'only commandment' statement. It is the ONLY commandment Jesus spoke and was given on his way to the cross when he was telling us how to carry on his work..

When, much earlier, he was asked which is the greatest commandment - meaning of the Big 10, he replied "The first, to love the Lord your God with all.... and the second is like unto it to love your neighbor as you love yourself." But those were not his!
"THIS is my commandment. I command you to love one another as I have loved you."
Keep railing at me Nemesis... it's your favorite past-time. I have cited specifics in Catholic doctrine. What have you offered except broad statements that I'm wrong? Give us the right ones.
As to another of your points... i believe love means loving disagreement. I'm not in a position to 'disapprove'. If someone interprets what I say as disapproval, the determination is theirs/yours, not mine.
I am so tired of you accusing me and others of Catholic-bashing. Interesstingly, that's the same approach taken when adults came forward to tell of abuse they suffered as children by priests.


John, how do YOU know all of that? How do YOU know he worked for 5 years while being honest? I doubt very much that he announced he was a gay man during his interview, and I doubt the school asked. Is it possible he slowly, over a long period of time, introduced his partner to students and families? Do you think some thought they could have been just been roommates, sharing expenses? Do YOU know because he told you, that they have never lived together? Do you think, possibly, that no one was asking him if he was gay, and he wasn't offering it. It was assumed.....just as you assume so many WRONG things about this situation. WERE YOU THERE when Mrs. Curtis was discussing this with the diocese??? Please tell, how are you so all knowing?

Do you know, FOR SURE, he wasn't telling others about his engagement? How do you know he wasn't bringing his lifestyle into the classroom. Are you a student of his??

My point is, you don't. You weren't there. You base these horrible accusations on rumors and your so-called complete knowledge of the Catholic religion. He resigned. He WANTED this to be a resignation. He is not fighting this fight. You and Fred are.

As others have suggested, maybe it's time to try another religion that is more suited to your personal beliefs.


Sanduskymom: I'm commenting on this article, just like everyone has been doing since yesterday. I don't know Brian personally, never have spoken to him before. But here is the thing, Brian chose to speak to the media-- on his own--and give his version of events: watch the extended WKYC interview in their website. My involvement in this matter has been, as part of the band alumni group, to help collect signatures for the change.org petition. Due to poor communication in the school's part -as they never return anyone's calls- we had no idea a new band director had been hired until we read about it in the Toledo Blade. By then the petition asking for Brian's rehire had been started, the blog was up and the rest is history.


Oh Fred, your involvement has been so such more than just being part of the band alumni group helping to collect signatures. You made sure this story grew "legs," and you sacrificed the place you proclaim to "love" so much and their current students in the process. Do you have any idea how THEY feel about the situation? I'm guessing not.

You spoke to the media on behalf of alumni, when in reality, you represent a very, very small fraction of the alumni. I've heard plenty of them speak with opinions opposite of yours, but they aren't out there hijacking Facebook groups or creating blogs.

This issue is NOT about SMCC. Do you really believe they acted unilaterally in the decision to end Brian's employment? Really?? This is about the Catholic religion, and the Diocese of Toledo which asks employees to sign a contract agreeing to model the Catholic faith in their actions. Brian chose not to do that - and therefore, could no longer work there. No one thinks less of him - he's a great person (and I actually know him!) He knew his engagement would probably end his employment. A great sticking point seems to be that Brian wanted it to end at the conclusion of the school year, and the Diocese needed it to end immediately (as stated in the contract.) If you have a problem with that, take it up with the Pope. Change may or may not be coming, but one thing is for sure....it hasn't happened yet. You can provide all the Pope quotes you want, but there has yet to be a change in the doctrine.

Since you admitted yourself you don't know Brian, I find it interesting that you have taken on his cause. Why? How do YOU know the terms of his employment, or who knew what when, or how this situation was discussed by church or school leadership, or how finding his replacement was handled? YOU don't. I don't. So, how is it fair to request the president's "immediate termination" when you have no idea what REALLY happened? You have some news stories and some TV footage, but the only ones with the truth have NO obligation to discuss this personnel issue with you, or me, or anyone else.


Sanduskymom, three things I think you should know:

1- I have a pretty good feeling that the initial tip the SR about Mr. Panetta's firing actually-- oh my God, NO!-- came from within the school community itself.

2- The alumni group only found out about the real reason for Mr. Panetta's departure when a member with close ties to the school, a former school board member- posted the real reason. Yes, how about that! And anyone who is a member of the group then can confirm this.

3- The petition through change.org was started by another person. I simply linked it to the blog. Check it!

I did not give this story legs. Once the Sandusky Register published the original story, it was beyond question that it was going to go viral: any story of this nature does in 2014. And sure, I kept track of the stories as they appeared, so? Everyone who is interested in this matter has been keeping up with developments.

In the SR article I never claimed to speak for the band alumni group, and the Hire Brian Back blog has a disclaimer in it that it is not associated with the group. Read the article again, please!

When news of Mr. Panetta's departure broke, there was a heated debate within the Facebook band alumni community: Some wanted this kept hushed, some wanted details, others were outraged and wanted to do something about it, hence the petition...And many alumni members did sign it, their real names on record. The moderator of the group chose to let the discussion go forward. And, as they say, the rest is history. And there you have it.

John Harville

Methinks Sanduskymom thou doth protest too much.
You say "...the Diocese of Toledo which asks employees to sign a contract..." But the Diocese said the contract and its enforcement is a 'local issue'.
Again, you say "...the Diocese needed (the contract) to end immediately..." Again, the Diocese repeated the matter was a local matter and the Diocese doesn't intervene.
This cause is not about Brian and Nathan.
This cause is about people like you who claim to be good Catholics and Christians and yet in no way act like either. This cause is about putting individuals above Church and alleged faith. This cause is about a few people who spout Bible verses and 'Catholic Doctrine' with little or no knowledge of either.
When IS the last time you even opened your Catechism?

John Harville

Sandusky Mom... How do I know all that? Smcc student, Panther, other students, all manner of comments on this blog.
Do you know because he told you they HAVE lived together? My comment was that no one in authority or otherwise has said here that they lived together - which I brought up because it's one provision of the contract.
According to Sally Oberski at the Diocese, Mrs. Curtis didn't discuss it with the Diocese. According to my contacts at the Diocese, officials there were caught completely off guard - thus their original statement that it was a 'local matter'.
I don't really care whether he was telling others. The same as I don't care whether one of the elementary teachers is telling people about the church-defined adultery in which she lives.
I am not all-knowing... but I have explained previously about my connections to the Diocese, to their legal staffs, to the pedophile priest lawsuit and the work I did getting parts of it dismissed.
And yet you join the cacophony of people saying people who disagree should leave. Surely you know a Catholic is a Catholic for life - and I'm still in full communion.


John - please enlighten us with who exactly these "diocese contacts" are. I find it interesting that they would choose to speak to YOU - a paralegal - who has absolutely nothing to do with this situation. Or, maybe you're just making up this so called "connection?"

And, you feel justified in saying you are all knowing about this situation because you read "comments on this blog?" Because someone here wrote "the school knew he was gay when they hired him" that it's the truth? Really?

John Harville

the Mollom Privacy Policy does not allow me to give names.
However, if you go to the Diocese of Toledo web page and look at the Organizational Chart you can find all sorts of contacts including (though I have not contacted him) Catholic Schools Secretariat Christopher M. Knight who ALSO is listed on the SCCS Board of Directors on its local website.
Sally Oberski was quoted in the SR article - she's Director of Communications for Diocese. I could go on but I'm thinking you might be capable of doing your own research - contacts.
And I didn't contact them as a paralegal - that would have been their legal counsel ShuLoop.
"absolutely nothing to do with this situation"? Really? It's good to know I can stop putting money in the offering at SP&P parish. It's good to know I no longer need to attend the parish festivals. Unfortunately, I cannot stop paying my taxes which with countless other Ohions help to contribute to the half million in state funding (at least) SCCS budgets (check the Foundation website).


IF, in fact, you have spoken to somebody at the diocese about this situation (which, several times you have indicated as such,) I certainly hope they are relieved of their duties.

I don't even believe you are a member of SP&P, or make any contributions to the school or parish. I've come to the conclusion you're on here trolling for your own personal agenda, as it is quite evident you base your comments on rumors, a twisted view of the Catechism, and other hearsay posted on this site.

John Harville

Sandusky Mom... where did I say I am a member of SP&P?
As for your beliefs about my contributions, you certainly welcome to them. God knows and that's all that matters.
And my personal agenda would be... what?
How is my view of the Catechism 'twisted', pray tell - with specific items not broad generalizations.
"rumors...and other hearsay".
If that is what you believe, then stop telling me to take my money and beliefs somewhere else and, instead, contact the Diocese, the SCCS Board, Mrs. Curtis and insist they clear it all up.
BTW... they cannot hide behind their "private institution" when 13% of its budget (check the official website) is from "STATE FUNDING" (that would be taxpayers) not to mention other state and federal subsidies.
Have you asked the 'wonderful' President why no response?

John Harville

Sanduskymom.. "how do YOU know he worked for 5 years ..."

I give you Steve P "in fact he worked for 5 years while being open about his life style,"


Steve go back and reread the account, you didn't or don't understand.

Steve P

What don't I understand, its clear he violated his contract by violating church doctrine where it pertains to the sacrament of marriage. In the first article he understood that his decision would result in his lose of his employment, which is why he was going to resign at the end of the year


I guess some will be happy to live their lives with blinders on.

Steve P

And other ignore the facts..


And facts can be distorted, ask Babo he does it all say long.

John Harville

He was going to resign at the end of the year to keep the episode from exploding... his first concern was for the students and the school community.


Toledo Blade also has an editorial on the subject.