Catholic High School Swiftly Deals with Religion Teacher's Anti-Gay Tirade

Patricia Jannuzi’s Facebook post

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A Catholic high school in New Jersey placed a teacher on administrative leave last week after her anti-gay comments on social media became public and drew criticism from celebrities and alumni alike.

Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Immaculata High School, Somerville, wrote on her Facebook page that gay people “want to reengineer western civ (sic) into a slow extinction” and should not be afforded 14th Amendment protections, an idea which she called “bologna.”

Administrators at the school released a letter on Friday announcing that Jannuzzi was now on leave and she had deleted her Facebook account at their request. Msgr. Sean Brennan, pastor, and Jean Kline, principal, said the comments were “completely inconsistent with our policy and position as a Catholic Christian community.” reports the letter continued:

“Immaculata ‘is a community that follows the example of Jesus Christ in welcoming all people.’

” ‘We will do everything we can in this trying time to make clear that the philosophy of Immaculata High School is one of inclusion rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ…taking every necessary step to reinforce established guidelines and promote a clear understanding of acceptable use of social media and to refresh sensitivity awareness consistent with Christ’s teachings.’ “

Susan Sarandon

This reaction comes after more than 1,000 alumni signed a petition asking Immaculata to address “the systemic problem of homophobic undertones.” Petitioners included Scott Lyon, the gay nephew of actress Susan Sarandon, and Greg Bennett, a 2004 alum who starred in television’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

Sharing a letter from Lyons, Sarandon said, “High school is a tough time anyway…Students don’t need teachers making it even more difficult.” Lyons’ letter to Jannuzzi said, in part according to

” ‘You have a responsibility as a teacher to lead by example and the words that you have been throwing out there are detrimental to the well being and health of the youth that you inspire…I am certain that the pope himself would take issue with your extreme point of view on homosexuality.’ “

Meanwhile, anti-LGBT activists are rallying around Jannuzzi who they claim is a victim whose religious liberty is violated by the school’s censure. In reality, LGBT youth are particularly at risk for mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide in the vulnerable teenage years, and the church’s educational efforts should provide a welcoming, affirming place for students to mature and live into the people God calls them to be.

Immaculata administrators made a decision in the best interests of their students, faculty, staff, and parish community by standing up to prejudiced and uninformed remarks. It is important to recall last Sunday’s Gospel though, which calls all of us to love everyone, including those who oppose LGBT equality. Though justice is being enacted, it is essential for this also to be a moment of reconciliation which can hopefully educate Jannuzzi, the Immaculata community, and all those affected in a positive manner.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

6 replies
  1. winterhavenlarry
    winterhavenlarry says:

    I am rather shocked. I know Ms. Januzzi and travelled on European pilgrimages with her Parish. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten her and move her with God’s Love and Compassion.

  2. Larry
    Larry says:

    I commend Immaculata for the way they handled this – – swiftly and publicly. I happen to live close to this parish and they are a bright spot in what has been bad news from Catholic institutions of late.

    To those who feel her civil liberties were harmed, please look at the statements noted above – she rants that gay people [as if we were one monolithic entity] want to “re-engineer” society and should be denied civil law protections. This goes way beyond an opinion about gay marriage. This is an effort to paint gay people as demons destroying society. I shudder to think what else she thinks that she does not post to Facebook but maybe only tells her students which would adversely effect both straight and gay kids.

  3. scottsella72
    scottsella72 says:

    Tom Robinson who worked on the petition agrees… he recently posted on his fb page “I still I don’t think she should be fired. If she has truly learned something, she has an amazing opportunity to teach a strong lesson to her students based on her own life experience: Hate Speech is wrong. There is a ton of media material to teach from, and it’s a very powerful message when it comes from life experience.”

    • Larry
      Larry says:

      I understand both sides of the issue when the suggestion is made to fire this teacher. However, I come down on the side of letting her go. I do not know the woman but as scottsella 72 says below he still bears the scars of what the school did to him. Firing this teacher sends a clear and unequivocal message [especially now the case has gained notoriety] that individuals who deal with students cannot act in this manner. While I understand that a firing will upend her life I think of the many, many gay students whose lives were upended by her bigotry.

  4. scottsella72
    scottsella72 says:

    Personally, as an alumni and former student of Mrs. Jannuzzi, I was totally impressed with how the school handled the situation. Their letter showed a great respect for ALL students. Now I look forward to them putting their words into action. I have volunteered many times to speak on bullying/hate speech, and have been told they do enough of that. Unfortunately my years at Immaculata and those of many gay students were not happy, supportive times. I personally blame Immaculata high school with forcing me into deeper denial of who I was, and giving me anxiety I live with to this day. Reading comments on the petition, show that many who were “out” in high school suffered deeply with no person to turn to. While I was in the school, Mrs. Jannuzzi was my guidance counselor and I fear what I would have been told if I ever went to her asking for her assistance with my feelings in those years. I pray this truly does show the school that it needs to SHOW acceptance of all God’s people.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Immaculata Catholic high school, Sommerville, N.J., was reinstated to her job, after having been suspended for one month because of her anti-gay Facebook posts, according to a Religion News […]

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