METUCHEN, N.J. — A New Jersey Catholic school has reinstated a teacher who was the focus of media controversy over her social-media posts critical of homosexual-rights advocacy. The school stressed the need for a positive presentation of the Catholic faith while also regretting “hurtful” media coverage about the teacher.
Immaculata High School in Somerville, N.J., said that all issues related to theology teacher Patricia Jannuzzi’s employment are “resolved.”
Msgr. Seamus Brennan, the school’s director, said he and Principal Jean Kline had decided to reinstate Jannuzzi. He said the school’s position is that a Catholic schoolteacher “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,” he said in an April 10 statement.
Msgr. Brennan cited Jannuzzi’s “otherwise good reputation as an educator” over her three decades at the school. He said the matter had been “a personnel and not a theological issue,” saying that the school has always been united in its understanding of and commitment to Catholic teaching.
David Oakley, the 57-year-old teacher’s attorney, said that he and his client were “grateful to the school for engaging in the process.” Her family, fearing she would lose her job, had started an online crowdfunding effort. Oakley said the money raised would be returned, MyCentralJersey.com reported.
An April 10 letter to parents from Kline, the school’s principal, said much of the media coverage was “erroneous and hurtful” towards Jannuzzi.
In early March, Jannuzzi (pictured below) had posted on Facebook a link to a webpage critical of homosexual-rights activist and sex columnist Dan Savage’s response to political commentator Ben Carson’s statement that homosexuality was chosen. Savage responded to Carson in a vulgar manner and in the presence of a camera crew.
A screenshot of Jannuzzi’s post was taken by one of her critics. The post criticizes Savage’s comments as being part of an “agenda” in which homosexual-rights activists will claim they are “born this way.” When they win constitutional protections, she suggested, these activists will argue “everyone should be able to choose being gay or [the] lesbian lifestyle.”
“In other words, they want to re-engineer Western [civilization] into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity!” she said.
Several now-prominent former students of Jannuzzi criticized this post on social media.
Greg Bennett, a former cast member of the reality TV show Real Housewives of New Jersey, tweeted a screenshot of her comments to more than 160,000 followers on Twitter March 8 and to more than 70,000 followers on Instagram on March 9.
Another former student, Scott Lyons, wrote an open letter to Jannuzzi that his aunt, movie star Susan Sarandon, shared with 600,000 of her Facebook followers.
Some media reports characterized the teacher’s posts as “anti-gay.” Some of the teacher’s other social-media posts criticized “gay marriage.”
Jannuzzi was put on administrative leave with pay and benefits, according to the diocese’s bishop. Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen published a March 20 statement saying Jannuzzi’s comments were “disturbing” and “do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance.”
He also said that there were some “misstatements” about Jannuzzi and denied she had been terminated.
Jannuzzi’s attorney on March 23 had told reporters that the diocesan lawyers had indicated his client would never return to the school.
A lay Catholic group bought radio ads defending the teacher.
The Diocese of Metuchen has adopted anti-bullying policies that mirror those of New Jersey public schools, MyCentralJersey.com reported in July 2014. The state laws, which were expanded in 2011, include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.