By John Seewer
TOLEDO, OHIO: A band and choir director at a Roman Catholic high school said Tuesday that he knew announcing his engagement to another man likely would mean he could no longer teach at the school because of the church’s teachings on marriage.
Still, he hoped to finish out the school year, but the school parted ways with him immediately.
Brian Panetta said he was forced him to resign last week after he told administrators at Sandusky Central Catholic School about his engagement over the Christmas break.
“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,” Panetta wrote in a letter to members of the school. “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.”
The Catholic Diocese of Toledo said it backed the school’s decision “in light of the Church’s clear teaching on sacred marriage” while noting that Panetta acknowledged that his marriage plans were contrary to the church’s doctrines.
Panetta said he told the school’s president Jan. 3 that he was engaged because he didn’t want her to be surprised or find out from someone else. He offered to resign at the end of the school year, he said, but he received a termination letter that evening.
At a meeting with school and diocese officials last week, they gave him the option to resign, he said.
“I understand what the issues are, not to say I agree with them,” Panetta said Tuesday. “I just wish things could be different in this day and age.”
Panetta said he doesn’t want this to reflect negatively on the school or its students. He thinks bringing attention to what happened will cause more people, including those at the school, to talk about the church’s position on marriage.
“As long as that’s happening, it’s a good thing,” he said.
A group of school alumni has taken to social media to oppose the move and is asking for Panetta to be brought back, the Sandusky Register reported.
Panetta said he has no plans to challenge the decision.
Two teachers at Catholic schools in Ohio have recently fought their firings over actions that administrators said went against teachings of the church.
A lesbian teacher who challenged her firing by a Catholic school in Columbus didn’t get her job back. Carla Hale and the Diocese of Columbus reached an undisclosed settlement in August. Hale was fired after her mother’s obituary included the name of Hale’s partner, and someone complained.
A jury in June found the Archdiocese of Cincinnati discriminated against a teacher who was fired after becoming pregnant via artificial insemination. Christa Dias, who isn’t Catholic, was awarded more than $170,000 after winning a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit against the archdiocese.
An attorney for the archdiocese and the schools said Dias was fired for violating her contract, which required her to comply with the philosophies and teachings of the Catholic Church. The church considers artificial insemination immoral and a violation of church doctrine.