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




I feel the same JohnDorian12. The church has been around longer than any of us or TODAYS society. Catholicism was born from the Bible and what it reads and will always follow it. He did sign the contract and knew what the religion was all about, if he didn't than shame on him. If he would have respected their ways he would have never applied in the first place.

John Harville

Catholicism was NOT born of the Bible. Read it.
Catholicism was born of the Emperor Constantine who set the rules and the hierarchy - and killed Followers of the Way who did not agree with it.
Christ gave Peter the keys to the Church and Peter and James and others were leading 'the Church' until Paul fell off his horse and forced them to allow Gentiles and changed the words and thoughts of the Gospellers.
We weren't even 'Christians' until the Fourth Century.
But... go on...


Do any of you actually read these posts or do you just spout off ? Church will be around kinda like Ford in Sandusky, or the ever losing the battle UAW??


Sugar, the Church has to adapt or become irrelevant.


Fast on its way to irrelevancy.

John Harville

Too late. But we who love her still keep trying - much like in any holy marriage that is till death do us part.


"I think reasonable people can disagree on this or any other related subject"

Except that to disagree with Harville is to be valled a hateful bigot and other nasty names. Why is it that one side of this debate labels the other with a term for mental illness, but not vice versa?

"the Church has to adapt or become irrelevant."

Because God has to run for reelection?

Here's a hypothetical scenario and question, plus some follow up questions for you, Sugar, and Harville. I ask them because (to my best recollection) all three of you claim to be Catholic or at least Christian, and you all espouse an interpretion of God's view of homosexual conduct which is at odds with thousands of years of dominant interpretation of Scripture.

Next week, Jesus comes back, in all His glory, and standing there on a cloud, in a voice heard round the world, explicitly endorses the stance of the RCC and most evangelical denominations on homosexual activity - it's a sin and love doesn't mitigate it.

What's your gut reaction, should that happen?

I ask because, with most people who oppose religious teachings against various sexual and related practices (e.g. abortion) if you scratch deep enough, you'll find it comes down to denying God the authority to proscribe something that feels so good. Most of them don't realize that's the basis of their position unless pressed socratically to really dig deep enough, but at the core, most of the time, it comes down to a variation on hedonism.
Follow up questions:

1. Do you believe God has the authority to proscribe something that people really, really like, and are deeply driven to do?

2.If #1, do you believe God might actually do so?

3.If #3, how do you propose one should determine what God has proscribed?

4.With each passing generation, the number of people who deny the very existence of God, and who emphatically oppose the faith of others, increases. What, then, is your basis for believing the current generation is better qualified to discern God's will than all those in the past?

5. Throughout the Bible, one reads about those whose loyalty to God cost them wealth, popularity, and in many cases, their freedom or their life. Jesus said his followers would be despised. What, then, is the basis for the repeated assertion with regard to this editorial's issue that the Church must change and conform to the current political and cultural fashion in order to flourish?


I will stand before Christ and take whatever he doles out. You spout interpretation, my beliefs are in my heart, with a dose of intellect and common sense. No where in all my years in the church have I ever heard too NOT love another and treT another as I would desire. This man offered nothing but love and acceptance to the cCatholic community. Where is yours?


Lol I don't despise you but it is obvious you do me. Mostly because you cannot demand that everyone agree with you. You lost.


"I will stand before Christ and take whatever he doles out."

That's not an answer to the question, but whatever - I had low expectations of an answer from you and you met them.

"You spout interpretation, my beliefs are in my heart, with a dose of intellect and common sense."

No, they're all based on your feelings, and there's no intellect involved. This is evidenced not only by your refusal to discuss the issue at more than a kindergarten intellectual level, but also your attempts to shout down anyone else who is discussing it at that level. Your posts are like so many 5 year olds clapping their hands over their ears and shouting "la la la la I'm not listening!" People whose positions involve intellect are ready and willing to rationally support their assertions, rather than believing that repeating something enough times makes it true.

"No where in all my years in the church have I ever heard too NOT love another and treT another as I would desire. "

And now you're not applying the necessary reading comprehension to realize that no one here is asking you not to love another and treat them as you would desire to be treated.

"This man offered nothing but love and acceptance to the cCatholic community. Where is yours?"

I haven't offered a position on his situation. I'm merely exploring how you and Harville arrived at your aggressively expressed positions, and you've offered no evidence that yours was anything but an emotional knee jerk.

"Lol I don't despise you but it is obvious you do me."

I find you amusing and sad, but no I don't despise you. You, on the other hand are playing the part of the despiser well.

"Mostly because you cannot demand that everyone agree with you. You lose."

That's even more amusing - how can I be demanding that anyone agree with me when I have not offered a position with which they might agree or not? I can't lose because I'm not competing.


Such anger, this has really got you pissed off. Good.


No anger, only amusement.
Clearly, you didn't comprehend a word.


Your not amused you're seething with anger and arrogance. It's obvious. I don't really read what you post I pick up the drift, no sense reading all the garbage.


The only problem is that you're completely wrong on the drift every single time.

-You claim I want to shut down discussion when I've invited more discussion.

-You accuse me of positions I have not taken or advocated.

-You claim I want you to support my assertions when I said I wanted you to support your OWN assertions.

-You project that I'm angry when I'm grinning from ear to ear.

John Harville

Nemesis... sorry, I just saw this.
I'm interested in your portrayal of me - and of Jesus.
FIRST... God already has come to Earth several times since appearance among us as "Emmanuel - God with us". He didn't come on a cloud when the Biblewriters named him 'Jesus/Yeshua' (Gabriel proclaimed his name to be wonderful, counselor, etc.)
SECOND.. backatcha... what if from his cloud in a booming voice Jesus proclaims sexuality is determined at birth and further notes that marriage is an earthly matter ordained by Man (Matt 22:29-30 for in Eternity they are not husband or wife...)
THIRD... love is not a mitigating factor? "This I command you, that you love one another as I have loved you."
FOURTH... I teach my catechetical classes with a "God" Box. Its wrapped in white paper with only "God IS..." on the front. Each week students write on a piece of paper a definition they feel, heard at Mass, have been told, with which they have been reared. At some unexpected time we open the box and begin reading all those perceptions. It's not unlike six blind persons describing an elephant close up (I give them that story too.) They are fascinated at all the perceptions of God.

In answer to all your rather ridiculous questions I leave you with the two most important lessons I hope my students take away.

"FAITH is a journey, not a destination."

God IS.


"I'm interested in your portrayal of me - and of Jesus."

I've offered no portrayal of Jesus - I asked you questions, which you avoided answering, including one which had a hypothetical manifestation - that manifestation was meant in no way as a portrayal - it was simply intended to be an example of what most reasonable people would call an incontravertable revelation given simultaneously to everyone.

As for portrayal of you, all I've done is condense your own self portrayal as given in your many comments, which are been self contradictory, hostile to everyone, including those who were not disagreeing with you, rambling and unresponsive, filled with non-sequiturs and irrelevant quotes, and generally unresponsive. The only other conversations I've experienced like yours have been with angry drunks. You spout off about love, but your tone and rhetoric are hostile and adversarial, and that's coming from someone who is no shrinking violet when it comes to confrontation,

"backatcha... what if from his cloud in a booming voice Jesus proclaims sexuality is determined at birth and further notes that marriage is an earthly matter ordained by Man "

First of all, I consider the nature vs. nurture question irrelevant to the morality question. The Bible teaches that, because of the Fall, all people are born with a sinful nature, but that doesn't excuse the actions which it motivates them to take. I dispute the assertion that it's inborn because it flies in the face of basic evolutionary science (and here I'm referring to the sort of evolution that we can observe in action today, regardless of one's position on origins) but I wouldn't begin to base any position on the morality of a behavior on the genesis of the motivation to engage in that behavior.

Second, if the proclamation was an actual counter to the one in my hypothetical, i.e. that the behavior in question is not sinful and is equally pleasing to God, then I'd consider the matter settled. There - I answered - see it's not that hard, so why have you pointedly avoided answering my

"THIRD... love is not a mitigating factor?"

Not to everything. More importantly, I don't stipulate to your claim that a given approach or action you advocate is necessarily loving. I also don't agree with your implied assertion that love equals approval of anything someone feels strongly motivated to do. It would seem your theology boils down to no rules, just love, but without rules, how does one define what constitutes love? Anyone can slap a "love" label on anything they do, and call it good.

You see, John, I'm really not interested in arguing with you about the theological implications of homosexuality.

I object to your insistence that ANY church be subject to government interference or pressure from the secular popular culture in its internal governance, including who it considers suitable to be a role model for its congregants and their children. I know various people who send their kids to various religious schools that would dismiss a teacher for driving a car on Saturday, for consuming alcohol or pork, or a female teacher for wearing pants instead of a skirt or not covering her hair. While I disagree with those policies (I drove today and I really like spareribs,) I will steadfastly defend their rights as parents and as people of conscience to have and enforce those policies. While I hold our government's current policy of prohibition of recreational drug use to be an unconstitutional and fascist, I wouldn't want drug users teaching my kids, and I reserve the right to choose a private school that subjects its teachers to drug tests. At the same time, I have no objection if someone else wants their kids taught by stoners. It's the same way with this.

I also find problematic your insistence that a major religious institution reject roughly 5000 years of religious scholarship and revelation and follow the whims of pop culture. You've provided no sound basis for your position other than parroting some cynical atheist's deconstruction of the Bible*, all of which is equally applicable to the the proposition that there is no God, a proposition with which I don't think you agree. Your claim that a reversal on this tenet is critical to the church's relevance flies in the face of historical fact. Every single denomination that has adopted your views on the morality of homosexual conduct has been in decline from that point forward, and the two largest and fastest growing denominations take a position that makes the RCC look positively progressive. Then we get to Islam, with 2 billion followers,which is spreading like wildfire across the globe, with positively medeival views on the subject.

Why is it so offensive to you that our society has people and institutions who differ from you on where to draw the line separating sexual conduct which is morally acceptable from that which is morally unacceptable?

Finally, I find your little crusade counterproductive. It's my belief that everyone should find a church whose doctrines they can accept, and if they differ strongly, it's time to find a new church. The reason for this is because far too many people cling to a church whose tenets they reject, simply because it's the one they were raised in. They rob themselves of the sort of spiritual growth they could have in a church with which they were not at odds.

*Which, if we take at face value, means marriage is meaningless and gentiles are not fit to be Christians.


@Sugar:"Do any of you actually read these posts or do you just spout off ?"

Well, we know by your own admission that you don't.

Coram Deo

Another view:


God in His grace has a plan.

John Harville

Coram Deo... you still have not explaiined how membership in your organization places you In The Presence of God (translation) more than the rest of us. It seems you strongly believe in Pray Away the Gay.

John Harville

DC which people who still have ties to the school?
Specifically employed by...
Parents of students...
Catholics in the parishes that pay nearly one-fifth of the total budget through their offerings and assessments?
Catholics in general?

More upset it got out! OH YEAH!
It threatens an aged and decrepit monolith that finds more of its base crumbling. Sandusky Catholic Schools have lost much of the prestige they once held. Mass attendance is plummeting - and the accompanying donations. School enrollment is probably less than 1/3 of what it was just a decade ago.
A few years ago when they decided they had to consolidate, the committee tried to rename the group "Holy Trinity" - and the uproar put the first large chink in the foundation.
In neighboring communities the story is the same.
Tiffin Calvert a few short years ago had two k-8 elementary schools with two classes in each grade as well as a thriving high school. Today they have moved P-4 in Calvert St. Mary's School and 5-8 in Calvert St. Joe.
Fremont was a bustling deanery with St. Joe Central Catholic HS, Sacred Heart (a new parish in the early 60s), St. Ann's and St. Joseph as well as St. Mary's in Clyde. Today the Bishop Hoffman Schools (named for a Toledo Diocesan Bishop from Fremont) have SJCC (you can't even imagine the uproar when they tried to make it BHCC), St. Joe (5-8) and Sacred Heart P-4). They even instituted Tuition-free months to keep students.
OF COURSE SCCS didn't want this getting out. they want him to go away and the story to go away. Interestingly, some of the people involved in this at higher levels are connected to Troopergate in the OHP. Actually a gay teacher getting married in 2015 seems even more petty.
But again... do whatcha gotta do. Sometime we should PM and I can tell you what the Blade didn't.


John, a side and related note: I got an email today regarding my blog entry, Real-Life American Horror Story, and it was from a former employee at Mercy. And she goes on to say that when she worked there as an English professor, employees feared that they would be immediately terminated if they spoke in public about the killer priest-- that Satanic ritual one. Interesting.

John Harville

I worked with Mercy sisters when the priest was arrested. They weren't allowed to talk either even though many of them knew her personally.
As I've noted elsewhere, the Fremont, Ohio Retreat Center in whose cemetery the Sister is buried, was shut down by law enforcement when her body was exhumed for autopsy. Media gathered in the adjacent Catholic Cemetery where Bishop Hoffman (Fremont native) is buried to film/photograph.

Steve P

John Harville 51 or 197 posts=25%, sugar 31 of 197 posts=15% between them, always in lock step in their comments 40% of the total comments.

John Harville

zaatall? Gotta step up my game.
This event is too important to the longevity of the Catholic religion in and around Sandusky.
Go into the churches and restaurants here and in other communities. Employees, parents, students are afraid to say anything not totally positive about the church and school.
Ironically, today is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. In one area Catholic school students couldn't even ask for explanations.
Two students of which I know were sent home for inquiring about the history of abortion prior to 1973.
So, I'll try to maintain the count for you... you're behind... there are at least 217 posts - and I left before you counted.

John Harville

It woulda been more but I spent a little time on the thread about the State Trooper who shared porn and masturbation with a 12-y-o boy. Maybe you were too busy counting to notice that one?
...and THAT child-beating, wife-beating, SOB is STILL ON THE JOB!


Steve has ALOT of time on his hands. lol

Steve P

Correction, 33 comments, thanks for making my point, who has a lot of time on their hands and clearly no life?

John Harville

You're welcome. I will do all I can to keep the discussion moving.
....and not just in Sandusky, Ohio...

Ya see... I believe Jesus puts individuals way above 'rules' or 'doctrines' or 'contracts' or 'narrow minds'.
I try diligently every day to "Love one another as I have loved you." Jesus fully demonstrated in his parables, in his actions, in his remonstrances to the Pharisees (who among you would not take water to your animal if it thirsted on the Sabbath?)
John Paul II had the Catechism revised to bring the Church into the 21st Century). SCCS just set it back to the mid-20th.


John, I think you're forgetting a few parables, like the parable of the talents.


Yes I remember when they tried to bring the schools together and I remember who bailed who out, and who threatened and bullied about the name change when people spoke out. JUST LIKE NOW.