The Case Of The Too Candid Catholic Teacher

"You can unzip it, Patricia, when you work somewhere else...."

“You can unzip it, Patricia, when you work somewhere else….”

Apparently I missed another “media firestorm,” so allow me to catch up, particularly since the analysis of this story has been muddled beyond comprehension.

Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Somerville’s Immaculata High School, posted this on her personal Facebook page:

jannuzzi-fb-post

This being the internet, after all, someone sent it far and wide, with resulting embarrassment to the school. Jannuzzi, a theology teacher with Immaculata for 33 years, was ordered to de-activate her Facebook page after an online petition   demanded that she be punished. Jannuzzi was placed on administrative leave,  and the school administration notified alumni, parents and students, in a letter that said in part,

“This episode has reflected not only on this teacher but, by extension, on Immaculata High SchoolWe regret deeply any hurt this has caused to any individuals and the negative light in which it has cast our school….Although these were posts to a personal social media page, Immaculata High School recognizes the need to ensure that our faculty, staff and students full understand the behaviors expected of them as members of our community and recognize our intolerance of discriminatory behaviors of any kind.”

Points:

1. I doubt that the school was shocked at the teacher’s attitude, or particularly disagreed with it. The Catholic Church’s official position, after all, is still that homosexuality is a sin. Jannuzzi made two errors: she made statements that undermined the school’s ability to attract tuition-paying non-Catholic students, and she fatally undermined her trust with any students that might be gay. She didn’t discriminate by posting her views, and obviously hasn’t discriminated (as far as the school knows) in thirty years.

2. The school’s letter was disingenuous, carefully crafted to mislead. It really says that teachers are not supposed to be open about the Church’s position on gays, not that her position is unacceptable or contrary to Catholic tenets.

3. I hate to pick on blogger and self-exiled commenter here Barry Deutsch, a.k.a Ampersand—okay, not really—but he botched this one big time, arguing that for the school to make the teacher take down her Facebook page was “censorship”:

“But, according to the school, the kind of thinking she posts on her Facebook page isn’t reflected in her teaching. So it’s really shouldn’t be any of the school’s business.“…the school said it took ‘immediate action’ and ‘mandated that the teacher involved permanently de-active her Facebook page.’” Now that’s censorship. “Mandated.” From the left or the right, this sort of intrusive attack on employee’s freedom by bosses should scare us all to death. Apparently the people who run Immaculata High School don’t understand that just because you give someone a paycheck doesn’t give you a moral right to control what your employees think or write outside of work.

Because you’re an employee doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make you a serf. And the fact that we depend on our jobs to pay our rent (or mortgage) and eat makes a boss “mandating” what we say inherently coercive. This is disgusting. In a country that really valued free speech, there’d be an enormous wave of revulsion every time a boss acts this way.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong:

  • It is the school’s business when a teacher publicly proclaims attitudes that reasonably would lead a gay student or  parents of a student to distrust her fairness, respect and good intentions toward that student. I discussed this exact issue in the case of Jerry Buell, a veteran high school teacher who had been named his district’s ‘Teacher of the Year,” who was suspended indefinitely in 2011 by Lake County, Florida’s Mount Dora High School for posting an anti-gay marriage rant on his Facebook page. I wrote:

“He is welcome to his opinion. He has an absolute right to it. However, he does not have a right to be allowed to teach students, several or many of whom may be gay, after voluntarily allowing it to become public knowledge that he is disgusted by gays and considers them sinful. The school is right to remove him from his teaching duties, and it will be right to tell him that he will not be permitted to teach in the school again. This isn’t a free speech question, for the Constitution’s free speech guarantee only means that speech can not be punished and restrained by government action, not that it is insulated from the consequences that result from it.”

  • No, Barry, that’s NOT censorship. She has a choice: take down Facebook, or find another job, because the school quite reasonably doesn’t trust that she won’t use Facebook to embarrass the school again. Moreover, a Catholic school isn’t a government entity: First Amendment protection doesn’t apply.  Nevertheless, any school could tell a teacher that she can’t post anti-gay rants, or racist rants, or attacks on individual students, on blogs and Facebook. And should. The speech interferes with the job.
  • That paycheck gives employers a right to make certain that non-work related conduct doesn’t reduce the employee’s value or undermine his or her duties. I just wrote about the guy who was fired for abusing a fast food employee on a video. He deserved to be fired (did Barry  get upset when he was?), and  Jannuzzi’s conduct more directly affected her job than the executive’s video adversely affected his.
  • Nobody mandated what the teacher had to say; it made clear what she could not say while employed as a teacher. Her employer rightly decided that what she wrote damaged the school, hurt its students and diminished her. It demanded that she not do this it again, and the only way to ensure that was to tell her to get off Facebook, or else.

4. The school was obligated to fire Jannuzzi, not to take away her Facebook privileges. That it did not is a smoking gun indication that the school has no problem with what she believes, just that she expressed her beliefs in public. A responsible and caring school, which this is clearly not, would have to dismiss her:

  • She has made it clear to any gay students she may have that she believes them to be unhealthy and part of a plot to destroy civilization. How can they trust such a teacher ever again?
  • As a long-time faculty member, she had raised the rebuttable presumption that she reflects the predominant beliefs and biases of the school itself.
  • Finally, as a role model, her stated anti-gay animus legitimizes homophobia on the part of her non-gay students.

33 thoughts on “The Case Of The Too Candid Catholic Teacher

  1. Somehow I doubt Catholic schools get large numbers of students who are gay, at least not at the high school level. Even at the college level I wonder if they get many. At a secular private school this would be a slam-dunk firing, but. given that Catholics (of which I am one) are taught that homosexual acts are a sin, firing her for simply reiterating that position, albeit in a blunt and rude way, would justifiably raise some eyebrows and appear hypocritical.

    That said, there’s a reason I keep my FB very private. If I want to share an off-color or politically incorrect joke with my friends, I don’t want my employer to see it.

    • I agree, Steve, that FB has to be kept as private as possible. I don’t know why people are constantly getting into this kind of trouble considering all of the press these incidents get.

      If you are going to be on Facebook:

      * Set your preferences to Friends Only. Not Friends of Friends and definitely not Public.
      * Do not friend people you’ve never met; be careful about friending people you’ve not seen in years or those you’ve not known for long. It’s just a smart safety issue.
      * Do not friend your boss; be careful about friending co-workers. Too many people get thrown under the bus by coworkers who pass on info to the boss.
      * Do not post anything on Facebook that you do not want seen by your employer (or your minister, your mother, the police or someone’s lawyer). Remember that your friends can either share your posts on their own wall or show your wall to someone else…even if that person is not your friend.

      • Facebook is a stupid platform for proselytizing. It’s not a safe sandbox to play in for those purposes. It’s great for connecting with people — for helping to bring people together, not for finding ways to drive people apart. If someone uses it that way, they are ripe for consequences. I have several Facebook friends who post outrageous and politically inflammatory FB posts. I just make a joke out of the posts when I can. These people are my friends, and friends who can’t disagree have a problem. I wish that they wouldn’t post these things, because they seem to be (sometimes blatantly are) being deliberately provocative to those who disagree with them. Sigh. The stars and planets laugh.

        • I agree. I do not discuss politics on Facebook at all. People who want to flood my feed with obnoxious unfunny partisan memes get hidden from my timeline very quickly.

    • As a Catholic who went through 16 years of Catholic education, I am skeptical of your first statement. I had friends who were gay at pretty much every level. Large numbers? Hmm, maybe not, but I personally hate the thought of even one student feeling marginalized by such statements by a person in authority at an educational institution.

      I graduated from Georgetown University and had MANY friends there who were gay. Granted, there are those who would question the catholicity of GU (they ARE Jesuits, after all), but I consider my undergraduate degree to be from a Catholic institution.

      I think that the high school objected to the teacher’s statements because they were intolerant, which is not a preferred stance for anyone who professes to follow the exemplary life of Jesus, who ate with tax collectors (a profession that was disdained in biblical times) and spoke openly and caringly to prostitutes and other public “sinners.” The Church might continue to hold that homosexuality is wrong, but Pope Francis reminded us that this is not justification for judging them.

      • Dealing with folks who don’t like you is a fact of life. My high school actually had it in the handbook that changing teachers because the student and the teacher didn’t get along was not allowed. As a student you had to adapt to whatever challenges life threw your way. I have no problem with people feeling marginalized. Deal with it, the world’s not a pastel pink and baby blue, padded nursery.

        • ” I have no problem with people feeling marginalized. Deal with it, the world’s not a pastel pink and baby blue, padded nursery.”

          I am right now working on imagining Jesus saying those words.

          • >>Revelation 13 King James Version (KJV)

            >>13 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

            >>6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.

            >>7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

            >>8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

            >>9 If any man have an ear, let him hear.

            >>10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. —

            >>– *Here is the patience and the faith of the saints*.

            (In other words: “Deal with it, the world’s not a pastel pink and baby blue, padded nursery.”)

  2. I am calling foul:

    Jack: “It really says that teachers are not supposed to be open about the Church’s position on gays, not that her position is unacceptable or contrary to Catholic tenets.”

    No. Her rant was not about Church doctrine. It was a political rant about the manipulation of the 14th Amendment and the “gay agenda.” The Catholic Catechism (to my knowledge) addresses neither of those things.

    It also makes her look like a conspiracy theorist and a nut.

    Jack: “Moreover, a Catholic school isn’t a government entity: First Amendment protection doesn’t apply.”

    First of all, that seems perfectly consistent with Barry’s statement: “This isn’t a free speech question, for the Constitution’s free speech guarantee only means that speech can not be punished and restrained by government action.”

    Secondly, have you not argued repeatedly that First Amendment or not, private “censorship” is still un-American and violates the culture reflected by the Constitution. You can still disagree with him about the propriety of taking action against the teacher, but this does not seem to be a fair treatment of his point.

    -Jut

    • >>No. Her rant was not about Church doctrine..

      I concur with the point, and will elaborate in a separate post.

      >>Secondly, have you not argued repeatedly that First Amendment or not, private “censorship

      I do not concur with this line of reasoning. As a professional, her behavior is subject to increased scrutiny. She can hold any position she wants, but if her position conflicts with her professional duties, their are consequences.

    • To the second point: I have argued that it violates the cultural values of the First Amendment to try to suppress any speech on the basis of content. That is irrelevant here. An employee cannot speak in a manner or content that does damage to her ability to do her job or that harms the employer—it is conduct that matters. This has nothing to do with speech censorship, and everything to do with irresponsible conduct with an effect on the workplace. It isn’t censorship in any way. Also, the employer can no more force the employee to take down Facebook than it can make an employee wear a duck on its head.

      The thrust of her posy was objecting to the attack on Dr. Carson’s stupid assertion that being gay is a choice. The Catholic Church believes being gay is a choice. She has worked there all this time, is a “good Catholic,” and it defies reason that she is not echoing the culture she has lived and worked in.

      You know, I sent my kid to a Catholic school and they swore that Catholic doctrine would not be taught, that it would be theologically neutral. Then he got as assignment to dress like his favorite Saint and report on his miracles. I wouldn’t trust the Catholic Church if it said my name was Jack (especially since my Catholic teachers in grade school refused to accept that Jack was my name.)

      • Barry’s dire warning using this case is absurd. Any boss, in any business, has always been able to fire a prominent employee who by his words or conduct calls down public ridicule, criticism or distrust of his employers to the detriment of the business It is none of the employer’s business as long as an employee’s private conduct and personal beliefs don’t become a matter of public attention.

        • “It is none of the employer’s business as long as an employee’s private conduct and personal beliefs don’t become a matter of public attention.”

          But the ultimate objective of the virulent Left is that ANY speech antithetical to Leftist views will be vilified as hate speech and therefore ANY communication of non-Leftist views will ultimately create backlash by the virulent Left on the marketplace leading to any such non-conformist speech being a firing offense.

          This is slippery slope territory.

          • Not sure slippery slope adequately covers it. High, vertical, sheer cliff may be more accurate. What’s good for the goose, etc. Democrats will not always be in power. I recall my thoughts on the Patriot Act. Specifically, “Well and good if the enforcing regime is benign. What if a not-so-benign regime gets into power…we might see an intelligence agency monitoring all of our phone calls.”

      • I’ll be picky here and state that the Church does not believe being gay is a choice. Acting on gay tendencies is a choice. As a consequence, being gay is a pretty strong divine signal that your vocation is not marriage. We can discuss that all day, but let’s make sure we don’t over- simplify an already misunderstood position.

        • It’s misunderstood because it makes little sense in practical terms. Acting how? Is loving a same sex individual acting on it? Surely it is not just sex that constitutes “acting on it.” Or is a gay marriage acceptable to the Church if no sex is involved? Sounds like parsing to me.

          • If you are Catholic it *is* the difference between Heaven and Hell. (half a joke, but it illustrates the point) For non-believers it’s a distinction without difference, but for gay Catholics this is huge. It is like sending a kleptomaniac to jail because he has a tendency to shoplift before he commits a crime.
            I’m not comfortable with the Church’s position on homosexual relationships, but the only way to change that is by challenging centuries of tradition. It is doable, but I doubt I’ll see it in my lifetime. I raise the question on discussions, I’ve let my pastor know of my thoughts, but unless one becomes a renowned theologian – I’m saving that for retirement – there is not much one can do to change the doctrine.
            As an individual you either agree and don’t see a problem, disagree and take the good with the bad, or leave for a better suited religion (in a broad sense, atheism included). No religion is perfect, but going it alone is not necessarily better. Unfortunately a consequence of moderates leaving is giving rise to zealotry. Critics that question the moderates decision to stay are inadvertently hardening the institutional position.

        • It may not teach it explicitly, but it is the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from what it does teach.
          From the Catechism:

          Chastity and homosexuality

          2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

          2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

          2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

          If a gay person can approach “Christian perfection,” which obviously cannot include “homosexual inclinations,” then a gat person can choose not to be gay, meaning that one who does not do so has chosen TO be gay.

          By the way, the text about homosexuality above is intentional doubletalk.

      • Jack: “I have argued that it violates the cultural values of the First Amendment to try to suppress any speech on the basis of content. That is irrelevant here. An employee cannot speak in a manner or content that does damage to her ability to do her job or that harms the employer—it is conduct that matters. This has nothing to do with speech censorship, and everything to do with irresponsible conduct with an effect on the workplace. It isn’t censorship in any way. ”

        You have a string of non sequiturs here.

        You have argued the cultural value. That is relevant in this context, because the employer was trying to suppress speech. And, contrary to your assertion: an employee CAN speak in a manner or content that does damage to her ability to do her job or that harms her employer. It is just that the employee runs the risk of termination for doing so. The employer’s option is to terminate and disavow any sort of endorsement of the language. But, to attempt to suppress the language is “censorship,” in the cultural value sense of the word.

        -Jut

        • Huh? That’s exactly what I said. She could choose to keep speaking–as in to keep her Facebook Page, but she would get fired. It isn’t censorship. It’s a requirement of responsible conduct. Publication can change speech into conduct, and it did in this case. The school can punish the conduct that harms the school.

  3. In this climate of search and destroy everyone-has-an-agenda you have to be pretty bold to go on the internet and express your unpopular opinion. (or even your currently OK opinion but that could change) if you want to go on living in this company town.
    Some tips:
    1. Don’t do it.
    2. Don’t ever do it.
    3. Don’t even think about it.
    4. If you think it might be free speech refer to #1.
    5. At the moment it seems to be safe to comment on someone else’s blog, but don’t count on it.

    I just broke my own rules,

  4. The question here is not whether this woman should be fired, but whether those who run this school should be. I’d opt for the latter! This is a Catholic school and thereby understood to operate on Catholic Christian ideals and morals. Furthermore, the teacher in question is a theologian. Politics aside, how could she say anything else and still be true to her position and to her faith? Politics included- she’s absolutely right. Anyone who thinks that organized perverts hate Christianity, Western Civilization and America in general have been hiding under a bed for the last quarter century. Today’s reaction to the Indiana Religious Freedom Act is a case in point. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution. The “right” to be a public nuisance, crime hazard and disease vector is not.

    • “Anyone who thinks that organized perverts hate Christianity, Western Civilization and America in general have been hiding under a bed for the last quarter century.”

      I think you left out the word “don’t” before “hate.”

      “The “right” to be a public nuisance, crime hazard and disease vector is not.”

      Ooooh, not nice!

  5. A theologian’s duty is to clarify what the church teaches, and expand upon church teaching to address current events. Her Facebook post fails on both parts.

    Firstly, the Catholic Church has no dogmatic teaching as to the origin of homosexual attraction, considering it a matter of science (an area where is claims no divine infallibility). Church opinion does hold it to be an authentic phenomenon, however; and merely being attracted to the same sex is not considered sinful. The individual bears no personal culpability for having such an attraction. Jannuzzi’s post recklessly obscure this official, if not dogmatic, position.

    See Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357-59
    (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a6.htm)

    In CCC 2358, the church explicitly states that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their [person’s experiencing homosexual attraction] regard should be avoided.”

    In her muddled post, Jannuzzi claims that the intractability of homosexuality is a ruse to win false equal protection rights under the 14 Amendment. Despite the church’s condemnation of homosexual behavior (actually, a condemnation of all sexual behavior outside of a potentially fecund marriage context), it would not necessarily disagree with extending these protections. The church defers to the scientific consensus that homosexuality is authentic, and desires that these individual experience no discrimination in contexts where sexuality is not a factor. (I will explicitly concede that the church would not consider denying homosexual marriage to be an “unjust” discrimination.)

    Jannuzzi’s appeal to junk science that contract the official position of the church should alone disqualify her as a theologian. However, her post is also an assault on the English language. While good grammar and expression are not mandatory all times, when one is a professional in a field (and a professional educator to boot), one is obliged both when purporting to discuss one field of expertise.

    If an engineer posted muddled language like that to Facebook about how to perform some professional task, and another was injured by not understanding what was wrote, that engineer would be in deep trouble. Likewise, Catholic theology states that it would be better for a theologian to have a millstone place around her neck and be cast into the sea, than to confuse the faithful with poorly expressed theology.

    Catholic teaching is full of nuance, and “professional” Catholics are called to clarify and expound at all times. Jannuzzi did not.

  6. I attended Catholic grade school, Catholic high school and Catholic law school. Took a welcome breather for undergrad and law school was just a function of my wife’s employment taking us to South Bend, IN. There were gay kids in my grade school and high school in the same proportion as the rest of the population, although I had hardly any idea what they were about. Same thing at Notre Dame although I had a little better idea about homosexuality by that time.

    But I gave up on Catholicism in high school. I just checked out. Unfortunate, but just too much baloney. Did not send my kids to Catholic schools, private non-sectarian instead. But my daughter got two degrees from Georgetown and I was very impressed by Georgetown as a place that took good care of its students. I even taught in a Diocesan high school for two years and a parochial grade school for two years. I even had to teach religion for a year in the HS because they couldn’t get priests in the 70s to teach religion. Hah. So I taught the Old Testament as literature, basically. So, I admire the great tradition of Catholic education and the people engaged in it, but the rest of it is baloney. Unfortunately. And there are lots of unscrupulous actors among the ranks of Catholic educators.

    My take is that if you know your kid is gay, don’t send them to Catholic schools. Ironic this woman got in trouble for spouting Catholic beliefs.

  7. A teacher at a Catholic school espouses Catholic doctrine. What a shock… what a surprise… how horrible…

    NOT!!!!

    If there is a Catholic school, one should expect that it will adhere to the doctrines of the Catholic church.

    Ultimately, Jack, this case is just another example: If LGBT rights win, religious freedom has to ultimately die.

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