Yet another LGBT church employee has been forced out of a job, this time in Ohio where Brian Panetta resigned from Sandusky Catholic High School (near Cleveland) upon announcing his engagement to his partner, Nathan David.
Panetta received a January 3rd letter from administrators of Sandusky Central, where he has worked since 2009, terminating his employment because of violations of the Catholic Church’s teachings as the reason for his termination. Panetta had previously suggested to administrators that he resign at the academic year’s end to avoid conflicts over his upcoming same-gender marriage. The Sandusky Register offers further details, including comments from the music teacher:
“On Thursday, however, Panetta met with school administrators, a priest and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, who offered more information and agreed he could resign instead of having a termination on his record, he said.
” ‘I’m satisfied with their explanation, and right now I’m just praying for understanding and strength,” Panetta said. “It’s hard for me to walk away, but it’s what’s best for me personally, and I hope my students will understand that.”…
“Their relationship wasn’t a secret to the Sandusky Central Catholic School community, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.
” ‘This community has been like a family to me, and I’ve always had nothing but support,’ Panetta said. ‘I never had to hide.’ “
Seen in the light of his strong Catholic identity and strong work record, this choice seems even more difficult. The Sandusky Register notes:
“Panetta identifies as Catholic and attended Catholic school for grades K-12. He said working at Sandusky Central Catholic School was an ideal first job.
“In his four and a half years working there, Panetta grew the school’s band from 18 to about 50 members, and also produced similar numbers for its choir. He oversaw band for grades 5-12 and choir for grades 7-12.”
In a letter to the school community, the teacher expanded upon his decision to resign:
“As a proud and gay Catholic, I understand the Church’s teachings on marriage and agree that my engagement is a public statement of my position for marriage equality, which the Catholic Church does not yet support. I am hopeful to see change in the future, but until then I am praying for strength and understanding and encourage my students to do the same.
“Over the last four and a half years, the Sandusky Central Catholic community has become like a family to me. I am proud of the work that I have accomplished and take comfort in the fact that I am leaving SCCS and its department of music in better condition than when I first arrived.”
Poor and unjust employment policies not only hurt fired employees, but leave Catholic schools bereft of talented and demonstrably qualified teachers. Equally valuable is the positive role model Panetta and other LGBT employees provide as out and practicing Catholics who harmonize faith and sexuality, which can support students’ development.
This resignation is only the latest in a string of discriminatory firings of LGBT people and their allies in Catholic institutions, which you can read more about by clicking on the ‘Employment Issues‘ category on the right side of this page. You can also take action to stop these firings by implementing inclusive non-discrimination policies at your Catholic school or parish.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry