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




Well written piece, thanks. Anyone who knew Brian, spent time with him, watched as he led and instructed the children would have no doubt that he was a great instructor and carried the love of Christ in his heart. I for one am tired of hearing about church doctrine, I've said this 2 times before and I am going to repeat it. You cannot fill your rectories with priests, your schools with sisters your pews with parishioners. Will this discrimination allow the church to die? We shall see.


No you don't but you do have to LOVE them and treat them accordingly.

Erie County Resident

As far as this topic goes...
Hold on a second I think I saw the dead horse twitch again get out the ballbat and beat it some more.
Time to let it go!!!

John Harville

EC resident: this horse has legs - and a herd of others with it. You should become a part of the solution by contacting the administration - you can find all the directors on the school website - and take whatever action is necessary - for the students.


This topic has created more comments than any other, have you been following? If not interested by all means follow another thread.


Here is what I think SR readers don't understand: this story may be "old hat" in Sandusky, but every day that passes the story moves up the "news food chain" and becomes a new story for readers in other parts of the country and the world, actually: The story is now in the UK. I don't fault the SR for continuing to cover this, as this is now a story of national interest. News is a commodity, like any other: supply and demand. And the SR would be foolish to not cover this.

John Harville

I just talked to a Catholic friend from Fremont who now lives and works in Monroe where Melody was. It's well-known there through national headlines. More to follow.


Please do!


Again John Harville "IT WAS THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE DECISION, NOT MRS.CURTIS" Call the Diocese or go visit the Pope, I'm sure he would LOVE to hear from you!

John Harville

I have called the Diocese on three occasions. Sally stands by the 'local decision' statement. And that is borne out in other HR decisions in other Diocesan schools - like deciding who will be cut when 'reduction in force' is necessary as enrollment dwindles.
The Diocese does not have time to direct actions in all its schools unless it gets sued - which happened about five years ago (the teacher won).
I already contacted the Pope - but not about this - to wish him a happy birthday today. Godspeed Pope Francis - the last great hope for the Roman Catholic Church.

John Harville

Where did Cain find a wife when God sent him away?

I asked that separately of a priest and a Baptist minister.

The basic answer was the same. Cain married a sister - incest IS best, I guess. No one seems to have a clear Christian answer as to how we were propagated after Adam and Eve.

John Harville

Why didn't Jesus ever make any direct statement about homosexuality - the man who was followed by a group of men who were close friends.
And what WAS the relationship between David and Jonathan - even Catholic scholars think it was more than brotherly love by the ancestor of Jesus who committed two mortal sins - adultery and murder - and still was saved by God.


David was saved by God because he repented (acknowledged his sins) and sincerely sought forgiveness.


He read that in the bible...lol


Yes I did. A beautiful example is Psalm 51 also known as The Miserere: Prayer of Repentence.


Yeah it's kind of like when your 5 y/o says he's sorry so you'll give him a cookie.

John Harville

You'd like it to be that easy, wouldn't you BABO? You just condensed a whole segment of Biblical history into 15 words.

You didn't mention he repented AFTER the profit Nathan came to him and said God knew about his mortal sins. Of course, no one else knew about his sins so the king was not in danger of facing earthly execution. He knew Nathan spoke truthfully when Bathsheba's son died and his other wife turned his sons against him.
God had Samuel anoint David as a boy to be king. God had big plans for David. David had big plans to build the Temple. But God denied him that right. Then God hardened his sons' hearts against him. David died lonely and unfulfilled.
Many religion scholars opine the 'saving' was worse than would have been the punishment.


Gee John, why do you assume I didn't read the Bible in context? I directed Sugar to Psalm 51 to help her in her understanding of the Bible and Christianity. She's the one who appears to need some spiritual guidance and seems to admire your posts. Why are you attacking me and not helping her?


I certainly need no guidance from you. You are angry because your lie is exposed, so you attack and when I give it back to you, you become more angry. Hey I'm just having some fun!

John Harville

BABO... David didn't repent until he was told by the Prophet Nathan that he was going to be severely punished.
The Church calls that an imperfect act of Contrition - confession because of fear of punishment and hellfire.
David wrote the Psalm you mention to try to convince God he was repentant because he had damaged so many people.
Study your cathechism.

John Harville

What WOULD Jesus Do now?
Well, David MURDERED a man so he could commit ADULTERY with the man's wife whom he COVETED.
And what did God do? Forgave him, let him marry more than one wife and have multiple children - and made him the MAJOR ANCESTOR of Jesus.
But along the way, Jesus' ancestor Boaz married the foreigner Ruth, a Moabite.
There was Jacob (whom God renamed Israel) who STOLE his brother's birthright, married two sisters and also had sex with their maidservants and produced 12 sons and a daughter - the sons of Israel becoming the founders of the Tribes of Israel.
And Jacob and his brother Esau were twin sins of Isaac who - with the help of Father Abraham - stole the birthright of his older brother Ishmael who was conceived with Abraham's wife's maid (later that would be called adultery).
Lessee: Isaac stole a birthright. Jacob (Israel) stole a birthright, bore children by four women - only two of which he was married and the others were 'sister wives'. then came Boaz with a mixed-race/religion marriage. And David - well we all know about ALL his sexual activities - who became a great King of Israel and a several-times (Read Matthew) great grandfather to the Savior of the world whose conception was in doubt among his own people.
And Melody Curtis is upset in the name of the Church because Brian wants to marry Nathan.
Run away Catholics. or stick around and force these people to act like the Christians they proclaiim to be.


I usually enjoy your posts Contango but you are dead wrong on this topic.


Re: "you are dead wrong on this topic."

How so? I merely put this situation in the bureaucratic context in which it IMO properly belongs.

How long did the U.S. military operate under the official policy of 'don't ask, don't tell'?

Again: Mr. Panetta was unaware of the potential risks when he sought employment with the SMSS?

IMO, for Mr. Panetta there is always the Episcopal Church, who according to my understanding has a more lenient attitude.

"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." (MT 10:14)

Also, as Mr. Westerhold so honestly has stated: his job is to sell newspapers.

With all the comments this incident has generated, from a business perspective he must 'milk' this story for as long as possible until exhaustion.


Excellent points.

However, what if a backlash arose against the SR by members of the Christian community i.e. people not buying the paper or patronizing advertisers?


Re: "backlash"


IMO, it's undoubtedly a potentiality that the SR is willing to take.

John Harville

ABABO. A backlash from the Christian community? Doubt that. After all there are 'Open and Affirming' churches in and around Sandusky which welcome LGBTQs.
Many in the Christian community build their congregations from runaway Catholics - in droves - who long for congregations who have few rules, will entertain them with bands and bigscreen services. If anything, this story will swell the ranks of those churches. I'm fairly confident these articles have brought more sales to those Christians.


Still disagree, you can postulate all day long, still disagree and believe you are dead wrong. You don't always have to be right you know.


Re: "Still disagree," "dead wrong."

Good for you; opinions vary.

I asked: How so?


"I asked: How so?"

Contango, aren't you paying attention? Sugar doesn't want to think about that.