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Did Catholic Traditionalists Save Patricia Jannuzzi’s Job?

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Mark Stricherz - published on 04/14/15

Teacher who stood up for Church teaching returns to work at Catholic school

Did Catholic traditionalists save the job of an embattled theology teacher?

The question comes after Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey announced Friday it reinstated Patricia Jannuzzi, who had been suspended for making controversial comments on her Facebook page about gays and traditional marriage.

According to mycentralJersey.com, the head of an orthodox Catholic organization implied that he had doubted Jannuzzi would return to work:

Michael Hichborn, president of Lepanto Institute, the conservative Catholic group that paid for the radio ads, said Friday he was surprised by the news.

"That’s excellent. It was a great injustice and thank God that the right outcome came about," he said. "If they changed their mind I hope it is for a matter of justice and not for a matter of looking to see which way the wind is blowing."

Orthodox Christian blogger Rod Dreher too doubted that Jannuzzi would win reinstatement. “(T)his is a surprising outcome. One is not used to the orthodox side in these disputes winning,” Dreher wrote.

Last month, Dreher brought attention to Jannuzzi’s plight after he wrote a blog post in which he said that if Jannuzzi were to be fired, the dismissal would mark a turning point in the history of the Catholic Church in America. Hichborn’s organization ran radio ads during commercial breaks of conservative talk show hosts in the New York City media market that urged listeners to tell the school that Jannuzzi should be allowed to return to work.

Dreher’s and Hirchborn’s doubts stemmed from the school’s suspension of Jannuzzi and the local bishop’s comment that her Facebook post was “disturbing.” Cultural progressives said Jannuzzi’s Facebook post showed intolerance toward gays and was a form of hate speech.  They launched a campaign on Change.org against Jannuzzi.

Whatever the role of Catholic traditionalists and cultural progressives, Jannuzzi’s employer said her suspension was an administrative rather than philosophical matter. Jannuzzi returned to Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey Friday, according to NewJersey.com. The school’s pastor sent a note to parents Friday:

Immaculata High School has reached an understanding with Mrs. Patricia Jannuzzi. It is the School’s position that a Catholic school teacher 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.

Given Mrs. Jannuzzi’s otherwise good reputation as an educator over her 30 years at Immaculata, Principal Jean Kline and I have made the decision to reinstate her as a teacher as of today.

From the beginning this was a personnel and not a theological issue. We are now and always have been united in our understanding and commitment to the teachings of the Catholic Church. By agreement with all parties involved, there will be no further comment on the issue.

At issue in the dispute over Jannuzzi was whether she would return to work at a Catholic high school. Although gay-rights advocates have extended their reach over the country’s institutions, their reach in Catholic secondary schools proved more limited.

Tags:
EducationHomosexualityReligious Freedom
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