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Could Pope Francis Teach Here?

Fascinating news out of New Jersey:

A Catholic high school teacher was forced to remove her Facebook page Wednesday after a petition surfaced online calling attention to her “homophobic” posts.

The petition was posted on change.org Tuesday and has 441 signatures as of Wednesday evening. It points directly to posts allegedly made by Patricia Jannuzzi, a theology teacher at Immaculata High School in Somerville, and has caught the eye of actress Susan Sarandon and former “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast member Greg Bennett.

“Mrs Jannuzzi’s facebook is a religious curtain covering hateful message,” the petition reads. “The homophobic and short-sighted posts are disturbing and degrading.”

In a statement provided to NJ Advance Media, the school said it took “immediate action” and “mandated that the teacher involved permanently de-active her Facebook page.”

If you follow the link, you can read what the theology teacher said on Facebook that prompted this. It is crude — she says gays are trying to bring down Western civilization — and if I were her principal, I would have told her to defend Catholic teaching using civil and respectful language. The school’s official statement said:

In response to recent postings on social media by an individual who teaches at Immaculata High School, it is important to understand that the opinions reflected in these posts do not in any way represent the philosophy, mission or student experience of this high school. We are dedicated to creating a school environment that promotes mutual respect and provides a challenging academic program, rooted in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

The school’s statement said that the material in Jannuzzi’s Facebook post is not reflected in her classroom curriculum. It did not elaborate, but one can’t help wondering if the problem with the post is the uncivil language the teacher used, or if it is also her belief — also implied in the post — that homosexual desire is disordered.

It’s impossible to say based on the information we have at this point. But in 2013, Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx postponed (I don’t know if they ever held it) a talk  defending the Church’s teaching on marriage, after protest. From the NYT:

On Monday, several students at the school said that they knew about the priest’s plans to visit only from social media, or friends, but not from teachers or school leaders. They said that Spellman students in general saw sexual orientation as a nonissue, and that no antigay teachings were part of the curriculum.

As she arrived for school, Aneesa Alli, 17, a senior, explained that in her religion class, “Theology of the Body,” her teachers noted that being gay was a type of sexuality and nothing more.

“They don’t make it a big deal because some of the kids in the class were gay,” she said. “They don’t try to make you uncomfortable.”

I don’t blame Immaculata for disciplining the teacher for the quality of her rhetoric. But I am wondering if it would be possible now for her to present Catholic teaching on homosexuality and marriage to her students, in their religion classes. It apparently doesn’t happen at Cardinal Spellman; what about at Immaculata? What if Mrs. Jannuzzi had criticized same-sex marriage as “an “ideological colonization that we have to be careful about that is trying to destroy the family”? The quote is Pope Francis’s, from a homily he gave in January. Can a Catholic teacher in Immaculata quote the Pope criticizing homosexuality? We know she can’t say those pushing to normalize homosexuality are trying to bring down Western civilization. Can she say they’re trying to bring down the family?

If not, why not? It’s what the Pope believes. Is the student body and alumni of Immaculata more Catholic than the Pope?

Could Jannuzzi hand out a copy of this 1986 pastoral letter by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, writing in the name of and with the approval of Pope John Paul II, giving direction on the pastoral care of homosexual Catholics? If not, why not? It reflects official Catholic teaching.

For the record, I believe that Immaculata has every legal right to discipline its teachers as it sees fit. If Jannuzzi’s publicly stated opinions are at odds with the school’s mission, and it wants to send her packing, it’s important to defend the school’s right to do so. But having the right to do something doesn’t make doing it morally right.

This is a cultural revolution in the Catholic Church. Attention must be paid.

UPDATE: So, it turns out that Patricia Jannuzzi is active in the parish too. She’s got several staff responsibilities, including:

St. Thomas More Apostolate
Contact:  Patricia Jannuzzi, Director of New Evangelization/Adult Faith Formation/Stewardship 

As Catholics and Christians, the Church calls us to act directly and indirectly, to help to ensure that our laws are infused with Christian morals and values. The St. Thomas More Apostolate’s mission is to inform and educate the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Church and the public about the Catholic Church’s positions on critical issues including: life, religious freedom, family life and moral/ethical issues. The group will also work to make parishioners more aware of governmental and legislative issues that pertain to the above-mentioned areas. With expectant faith, the Apostolate believes that a deeper understanding of Church positions and their relationship to God’s law will stir our minds, hearts and spirits to work and pray for God’s will to triumph in our world.

Active, engaged, and, apparently, orthodox. She’s got a law degree from Seton Hall, so she’s well educated.

The online petition an alumnus started denounces what Jannuzzi wrote as “hate speech.” When the word “hate” is deployed, all thinking stops, and it’s all about emoting. From the comments under the petition:


As a Immaculata alumni, class of ’04, I’m deeply disturbed by Mrs. Jannuzzi’s hateful, homophobic remarks. I was extremely involved in the school’s campus ministry programs and close with Mrs. Jannuzzi, looking to her as a mentor and for advice often. I am so thankful that I never confieded in her about my sexuality, I can’t even begin to imagine the hurtful and hateful things she would have said to me. I am a successful and proud gay woman and am thankful for all of the life lessons that I learned in my four years at Immaculata. I worry about the students that are there now and how she is filling their minds with hate. She is preaching to students to not love themselves for who they are because to be gay is wrong and that it is something that they can “chose”. This is a crucial time for adolescents and Mrs. Jannuzzi’s messages of hate can and will end up scaring snd hurting many students in ways that she will never know. Please stop Mrs. Jannuzzi’s public hate speech and all students deserve to be treated with respect and hear messages of love and acceptance, not hate.

The word “hate” (or a variation) is used six times in one paragraph. It’s a tic. Notice that Quinn looked up to Jannuzzi as a mentor, and “often” sought her advice. She must have trusted Jannuzzi. But now that Jannuzzi is outed as believing what the Catholic Church teaches on homosexuality, she is a witch trying to possess the minds of The Precious Children. Such moral panic.

Another comment from someone who signed the petition. This is not a joke:

Mike Hubbard CHICAGO, IL

Clearly someone who doesn’t understand the Catholic Church should not be allowed to teach in a Catholic School. Furthermore, children should not be subjected to an “educator” spewing hate.


I cannot believe the principal and the pastor of the parish are succumbing to the mob. I wonder how much longer Jannuzzi can keep her job.

UPDATE.2: Here is the tweet from the Immaculata alumnus that started it all. Interesting to contemplate that this guy called his former teacher a “nightmare dumpster human” to protest against — try to say it without laughing — hate. Friends, the Millennials have found their very own Corky St. Clair:


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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