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Catholic Culture Overview

Don't call Patricia Jannuzzi's reinstatement a victory

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 14, 2015

Do you count it as a victory that Patricia Jannuzzi is back in the classroom? I don’t.

It’s a good thing, certainly, that the Catholic-school teacher who was suspended for her Facebook criticism of homosexual activists has been reinstated. I’m happy for her, and for the many good people who supported her. A gross injustice has been partially—partially—corrected.

Still this should not be counted a victory. We have gained no ground in the battle to preserve marriage. We have only returned status quo ante.

And not even that, really. In announcing Jannuzzi’s return, the pastor who oversees Immaculata School, Msgr. Seamus Brennan, conveyed the unmistakable message that in his view, Jannuzzi had been rightly disciplined:

It is the School’s position that a Catholic school teacher must always communicate the faith in a way that is positive and never hurtful. Tone and choice of words matter and I trust Mrs. Jannuzzi’s stated promise to strive always to teach in a spirit of truth and charity.
Given Mrs. Jannuzzi's otherwise good reputation as an educator over her 30 years at Immaculata, Principal Jean Kline and I have made the decision to reinstate her as a teacher as of today.

Her reputation was “otherwise” good. Thus Msgr. Brennan tells us that the Facebook comments were a blot on Jannuzzi’s reputation.

My colleague Jeff Mirus has already written about those Facebook remarks, so there is no need to belabor the subject. Jannuzzi’s arguments were not especially compelling not particularly new, and certainly not at all shocking.

Could she have made her points more elegantly? Sure; and so could virtually everyone else on Facebook. But she was not punished for inelegant prose; she was punished for opposing homosexual activists.

Would a Catholic-school teacher be suspended for making Facebook comments similarly critical of, say, advocates of tax cuts or of gun control or of raising the minimum wage? Not likely. And what would happen if a Catholic-school teacher made Facebook comments critical of Church teaching? Probably nothing. Jannuzzi’s “error” was not Facebook advocacy; it was her choice of topic.

”We are now and always have been united in our understanding and commitment to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Msgr. Brennan assures us. But those teachings must be conveyed in a way that is “positive and never hurtful.” So if students at Immaculata, or some other public school, announce that they are “hurt” by a forthright presentation of Catholic teaching? Msgr. Brennan’s final words tell the awkward truth about the solution reached as Immaculata: “By agreement with all parties involved, there will be no further comment on the issue.”

Patricia Jannuzzi has her job back, but her cause is not vindicated. Teachers at other Catholic schools, watching her case, now have reason to worry whether their own jobs might be in jeopardy if they stand in the path of the gay-rights steamroller.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Baturro54 - Apr. 15, 2015 5:57 PM ET USA

    Withh all due respect to a Monsignor, he has to be true to his call and support the Magisterium of the Church,not side with the world and be politically correct. Does he even understand that he and the Principal answer to a Higher Judge?. It's a shame that this is where we are, and we are talking about "Catholic" education. We need more Archbishop Cordileones!!

  • Posted by: shrink - Apr. 15, 2015 3:00 PM ET USA

    This episode has a slightly more positive ending than that of the poor Dominican sister in Nashville who last year was throttled by an irate Catholic group and then put out to pasture by her religious superiors.

  • Posted by: meegan2136289 - Apr. 15, 2015 9:28 AM ET USA

    I'm happy she was reinstated and her "superiors" should have clarified Catholic teaching. However, her comments DID make traditional marriage defenders look stupid. We shouldn't be providing the ammunition that the other side will use to kill us. She also squandered an opportunity to point out (charitably) how contemptible are the people trying to silence us, eg, Dan Savage. He made some disgusting remarks if I recall, but because P Jannuzzi's response was so rash, he emerged unscathed.

  • Posted by: geoffreysmith1 - Apr. 15, 2015 7:06 AM ET USA

    "Same sex unions" is an oxymoron. A better description is 'same sex duos'. The word 'unions' implies that such duos are in some way 'united' in their relationship, like married couples. The state can legalize such a relationship as much as it pleases; it will never make it a reality.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Apr. 14, 2015 5:33 PM ET USA

    I can only agree. She did absolutely nothing wrong as far as any publicly available information suggests. What kind of Catholic school would bar teachers from saying that it is contrary to the natural moral law to suggest that two people of the same sex could "marry"? As far as speaking about "gay marriage", taken literally there is no reason to do so since there is no such thing as "gay marriage." My bishop doesn't speak of it either, he says "same sex unions."