- Catholic News Agency - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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 gay-rights advocacy.

The school stressed the need for a positive presentation of the Catholic faith while also lamenting “hurtful” media coverage about the teacher.

Immaculata High School in Somerville, N.J., said all issues related to theology teacher Patricia Jannuzzi’s employment are now “resolved.”

Monsignor Seamus Brennan, the school’s director, said he and principal Jean Kline had decided to reinstate Mrs. Jannuzzi. He said the school’s position is 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,” he said in an April 10 statement.

Msgr. Brennan cited Mrs. 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 attorney for the 57-year-old teacher, said 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. Mr. Oakley said the money raised would be returned, MyCentralJersey.com reports.

In an April 10 letter to school parents, Mrs. Kline, the school’s principal, said much of the media coverage was “erroneous and hurtful” towards Mrs. Jannuzzi.

In early March, Mrs. Jannuzzi had posted on Facebook a link to a web page critical of gay activist and sex columnist Dan Savage. Retired neurosurgeon and political commentator Ben Carson had claimed that homosexuality was not inborn but a choice, and Mr. Savage had responded by suggesting that Mr. Carson perform a homosexual act on him in the presence of a camera crew.

A critic of Mrs. Jannuzzi took a screenshot of her post criticizing Mr. Savage’s comments as being part of an “agenda” in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists will claim they are “born this way.” When they win constitutional protections, she suggested in the now-deleted post, these activists will argue “everyone should be able to choose” a gay or lesbian lifestyle.

“In other words they want to reengineer 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 wrote.

Some former students of Mrs. Jannuzzi publicly criticized her post.

Greg Bennett, former cast member of the reality TV show “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” tweeted a screenshot of her comments to over 160,000 followers on Twitter March 8 and to over 70,000 followers on Instagram on March 9.

Another former student, Scott Lyons, wrote an open letter to Mrs. Jannuzzi that his aunt, actress Susan Sarandon, shared with her 600,000 Facebook followers.

Some media reports characterized the teacher’s posts as “anti-gay,” since some of the teacher’s other social media posts criticized “gay marriage.”

Mrs. Jannuzzi was put on administrative leave with pay and benefits, according to the diocese’s bishop. Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of Metuchen published a March 20 statement saying Mrs. Jannuzzi’s comments were “disturbing” and “do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance.”

He also said that there were some “misstatements” about Mrs. Jannuzzi and denied she had been terminated.

Mrs. 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 had bought radio ads defending the teacher.

On the Institute on Religious and Public Faith’s “First Thoughts” blog, Matthew Franck decried the “outrageous assault against a person whose worst offense was to speak with what some (but by no means all) would call an intemperate passion, in favor of the Church’s teaching.”

Mr. Franck titled his blog entry, “Could either of the living Popes get a job in a New Jersey Catholic school?” MyCentralJersey.com said.

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.

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