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Patricia Jannuzzi & the Catholic Future

Despite his words, bishop reportedly fires veteran Catholic teacher for her position on gay marriage

The plot has thickened, and soured. Where to begin? Let’s start with a fundraising page the Jannuzzi family started to raise money for themselves. From the page:

Our family is in danger of losing our health benefits.  Our mother has recently and successfully battled breast cancer without missing a single day of teaching, except for the day of her operation.  Health benefits are important to our family.

In addition, we have home, insurance, automobile and many other family expenses including educational expenses for two teenage sons.  (One in college, one in high school.)

Our mother is 57, and hoped to teach until retirement at 65.  Due to the overwhelming attacks in the media on her statement of Catholic faith, we do not believe she will be able to find another teaching position.  Her salary & benefits total: 75,500 a year. Given her age, we are hoping to raise 100,000 for now towards our family’s basic family support.

They are clearly right that she will not be able to find another position — but she has not yet been fired from this one. The Bishop of Metuchen issued a statement late Friday night strongly implying that the Jannuzzis are raising money under false pretenses, and that her supporters are lying to people. The statement says:

We are a compassionate Catholic community committed to treating our students, faculty and parishioners with respect. We have never wavered from our traditional Catholic teachings.

To that end we need to correct some misstatements with regard to the teacher in question.

The teacher’s comments were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance. However, she has never been terminated, as some media outlets have reported. She has been put on administrative leave. There has been no interruption in her pay and benefits.

Pope Francis reminds us that we are to accept all of our brethren. We must ensure that our educators steer away from harsh and judgmental statements that can alienate and divide us.

We regret that certain individuals and groups are using inaccurate media reports to push their own agendas.

But today, the Jannuzzi family says it has been informed by its lawyer that Patricia Jannuzzi will continue to receive pay and benefits through August, but will not be rehired this fall. According to a reader of mine in a position to know, multiple informed sources confirm this, but there has been nothing official from the diocese. If true, the bishop may have technically been telling the truth in his statement, but it will have been extremely misleading (and that’s putting in charitably).

If Jannuzzi really is fired, this will have been a very important moment for the Catholic Church in America. A veteran teacher in a diocesan school will have been dismissed from her job because of remarks she made in private that, however rashly stated on Facebook, essentially back the authoritative teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and align with statements made by recent popes, including St. John Paul II, on the irreplaceable value of the traditional family to civilization. See this if you don’t believe it.

Note well: this is not Brendan Eich, who was dismissed from a private corporation for having donated money to the Prop 8 campaign years earlier. This is not a public school, and this is not a privately run university that claims to teach “in the Catholic tradition,” but which is basically a secular school with a thin religious veneer.

This is — or rather, will be, if Jannuzzi is not rehired this fall — a Catholic school that answers to a Catholic bishop canning a Catholic teacher for holding Catholic opinions that run contrary to the spirit of the age. And it will have been carried out by a Catholic bishop who is more afraid of mouthy celebrities than he is loyal to his people or his principles.

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, in an important address the other day on religious liberty and its future in America (I’m going to try to blog on it separately next week), said:

The current White House may be the least friendly to religious concerns in our history. But we’ll see more of the same in the future – pressure in favor of things like gay rights, contraception and abortion services, and against public religious witness. We’ll see it in the courts and in so-called “anti-discrimination” laws. We’ll see it in “anti-bullying” policies that turn public schools into indoctrination centers on matters of human sexuality; centers that teach that there’s no permanent truth involved in words like “male” and “female.” And we’ll see it in restrictions on public funding, revocation of tax exemptions and expanding government regulations. We too easily forget that every good service the government provides comes with a growth in its regulatory power. And that power can be used in ways nobody imagined in the past.

We also forget Tocqueville’s warning that democracy can become tyrannical precisely because it’s so sensitive to public opinion. If anyone needs proof, consider what a phrase like “marriage equality” has done to our public discourse in less than a decade. It’s dishonest. But it works. That leads to the key point I want to make here. The biggest problem we face as a culture isn’t gay marriage or global warming. It’s not abortion funding or the federal debt. These are vital issues, clearly. But the deeper problem, the one that’s crippling us, is that we use words like justice, rights, freedom and dignity without any commonly shared meaning to their content.

This is not a culture war outside the Catholic Church. This culture war is taking place within it. And not all the bishops are on the same side. One hopes that Jannuzzi’s lawyer has been misinformed about Bishop Bootkoski’s intentions. One doubts that they have.




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