Patricia Jannuzzi on gay activists: And the real problem is?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 27, 2015

Anne Hendershott wrote a pretty good column on the Crisis website the other day (A Catholic School Removes Teacher for Defending Faith). She rightly identifies the excessive backlash (both popular and official) against Catholic priests, religious and teachers who put a foot wrong on the question of homosexuality. But still, Hendershott’s title was a bit off.

It does not appear that Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Immaculata High School in the Diocese of Metuchen, has gotten into trouble for defending the Faith, but for stating on Facebook that gays want to “reengineer western civ into a slow extinction”. Here’s the entire post. It is a quick, off-hand comment on another article; I present it in all its hurried, mistyped glory:

See this is the agenda…one minute they argue that hey are born this way and it is not a choice to get 14th amendment rights equal protection…bologna…which was carved for permanent characteristics, unchangeable characteristics such as race and disability…but once they in the 14th amendment they will argue everyone should be able to choose being they gay or lesbian lifestyle…in other words they want to reengineer western civ into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity!!!! href=http://www.youngcons.com/crass-gay-activist-tweets-ben-carson-following-cnn-interview/

The first thing to note about this post is that it is a comment not on all those who experience same-sex attraction, but on gay activists. That makes a great deal of difference. Moreover, as a description of the strategy pursued by many gay activists, it would seem to be generally accurate.

But the second thing to note is that Jannuzzi is not particularly careful either in her description of the challenges of same-sex attraction (her apparent presumption that it is always impermanent and easily changed) or in her ascription of motives to gay activists (the presumption that they are deliberately aiming at social destruction). On the latter point, however, one can certainly argue that gay activism is one of many factors tending toward the erosion of a healthy social order, despite the obvious fact that such activists believe they are working toward reform, not destruction.

The problem, then, is not that Patricia Jannuzzi is being punished, even by her Church, for “defending faith”. Apart from her last statement, that “we need healthy families”, there is nothing taught by the Catholic Church in her post; it is all personal opinion. Moreover, it is published personal opinion—not just shared with close friends over a drink. It is opinion published too quickly, with insufficient reflection and care, seemingly unaware of the perils of social media.

The Real Problem

The problem, rather, is simply this: There is very little interest, even in wide swaths of the Catholic Church, in protecting Catholics who speak or act imprudently, in a way that ruffles our contemporary sexual feathers, from the monstrously disproportionate backlash which will otherwise tear them apart. In her column, Hendershott identifies other examples. I too commented on a similar case in a North Carolina Catholic school last year.

Committed Catholics hold serious principles on marriage and family life which are both rejected by the majority of their fellow-citizens and actively shredded by our cultural elites. The resulting frustration means committed Catholics are going to speak unguardedly with some frequency. When they do, they will be pilloried. Moreover, sometimes even the most perfect expression of the truth will be insufficient to avoid the backlash.

This means that Catholic leaders—and especially those fathers we call bishops—need to be aware of the dreadful tightrope upon which their most faithful children must continually walk. Instead of disavowing their lack of balance—for it is hard to maintain balance while being constantly pushed—Church leaders ought to catch us when we fall, teach us more about keeping our balance, and set us even more firmly on our feet again.

Or let me put it another way: We do need teachers and commentators who can speak on challenging questions with balance, sensitivity and poise. But if they are to be even remotely credible, they must first be Catholics who are utterly unafraid to speak out frankly when they have much to lose. Recruitment and grooming must begin with those willing to speak clearly, not on popular issues like capital punishment, but on the issues where the larger and more powerful culture is seriously wrong.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: JonathanC - Apr. 04, 2015 7:29 PM ET USA

    I too read Jannuzzi's rant and agree it was made in very poor taste and w/o reflection. But to strip her of her job? Seems pretty harsh to me. I agree with DrJazz: counsel and advice. We are told to exercise forbearance when some Cardinal goes way off the mark, like Marx, but I doubt we would ever see the Church exercise such a hasty and rash judgment on Card. Marx as Jannuzzi finds herself experienceing already. Why can't her Bishop have a talk w/ her and leave it at that?

  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Mar. 28, 2015 10:04 AM ET USA

    christhavemercy821235: I recommend that you read the commentary carefully. There is a big difference between saying that somebody "wants" to destroy Western civilization and arguing that this will be the result of their misguided efforts. Everyone—but especially Christians—must be very careful about judging motives. I tried to make this distinction clear in the article.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Mar. 28, 2015 7:37 AM ET USA

    Not all of those "activists" believe they are working toward reform. Some have stated that they desire the destruction of the traditional family. This teacher may not have reflected sufficiently before posting her opinion, and she won't win any awards for grammar, eloquence or prudence. However, her school and bishop should not have hung her out to dry for what you call her "generally accurate" description of such activists' strategy. They should have defended her while advising some refinement.

  • Posted by: christhavemercy821235 - Mar. 27, 2015 8:45 PM ET USA

    not sure I got the logic here. So is it the opinion of the author of this article that gay activists NOT working for Satan objectively?

  • Posted by: meegan2136289 - Mar. 27, 2015 5:43 PM ET USA

    I don't defend Patricia Jannuzzi's rant because I think it was ill-advised and reflects really poorly on those of us who support traditional marriage. People like her turn others away from us and make our position harder to defend. That said, though, the school's response should have been to clarify what the Church teaches and point out where Jannuzzi goes off the rails, not throw her to the lions.

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Mar. 27, 2015 4:48 PM ET USA

    The bishop called her remarks "disturbing", and I fear that he did so not because he is as worried as she is with what is happening but for the heretical nature of her remarks (as to the New Orthodoxy, I mean).

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Mar. 27, 2015 2:30 PM ET USA

    Thank you for this. So often Catholics trying to live faithfully are isolated - - even among others in their parishes. I teach RCIA - and have found it prudent to avoid certain topics that would expose our Catechumens to discord among catechists!

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 27, 2015 1:26 PM ET USA

    I believe that for most of his life, Martin Luther also thought that he was reforming the Church, a mainstay of western civilization. He simply started the rent that let in the infection of secularism. Luther was wrong. So are gay activists, however they rate their own motivations. It is most important to continue speaking the truth in whatever love we have, and pray for the grace to hold fast to it in the face of ostracism.