New e-mails cast doubt on diocese’s story about firing Patricia Jannuzzi over Facebook flap

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SOMERVILLE, NJ, March 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – New e-mails released by Patricia Jannuzzi's lawyer have raised questions about whether a Catholic bishop has been entirely truthful about the potential firing of a schoolteacher over a pro-traditional marriage Facebook post.

Patricia Jannuzzi, 57, is a theology teacher at Immaculata High School whose post condemning same-sex “marriage” became viral, inspiring a national campaign directed at her New Jersey school.

When her family stated that Jannuzzi had been placed on unpaid leave and told her contract would not be renewed in September, the diocese denied the statements. But family attorney David Oakley has released e-mails that cast a shadow over the diocese's public statements.

On Friday, Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski said Jannuzzi “has been put on administrative leave. There has been no interruption in her pay and benefits.”

But on March 12, Immaculata High School principal Jean Kline wrote, “Upon further reflection and upon receiving the advice of the Advisory Council, I have decided to place you on administrative leave without pay effective immediately.”

She concluded, “P.S.: As stated in my phone message, Msgr. [Seamus Brennan] is looking at ways that will not leave you financially vulnerable.”

The family created its crowdfunding page, hoping to raise $100,000 to replace the breast cancer survivor's salary and benefits and to help pay their children's tuition, on YouCaring.com shortly after receiving this e-mail.

Bishop Bootkoski's statement also said that Jannuzzi “has never been terminated, as some media outlets have reported.”

Oakley released a second e-mail, which he sent on March 20, "to confirm my understanding of your client's decision with respect to the termination of Patti Jannuzzi."

The e-mail implies that Jannuzzi received an offer of continued pay and benefits for the remainder of the school year, with the understanding it would be her last. “My client's acceptance of salary and benefits does not, and is not meant to, imply any acceptance of or acquiescence in Immaculata's decision to terminate her,” he wrote.

Oakley noted that he was "deeply sorry that we were unable to reach on agreement on terms for Patti's reinstatement” and that he and Jannuzzi “remain ready and eager to meet with the Bishop and his advisors to explain our position more fully.”

A national radio campaign, launched by Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute, has asked Bishop Bootkoski to explain his position fully. Reviewing the charge and counter-charges, Frank Walker, the assistant news editor of PewSitter.com, wrote that Bishop Bootkoski “seems to have lied.”

But the Diocese of Metuchen told LifeSiteNews.com that its employment decisions had not yet been finalized.

"In keeping with diocesan school policy, decisions for all teaching positions for the 2015-2016 academic year are made later in the spring," Erin Friedlander the Diocese of Metuchen said in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews. "We are baffled and disappointed that there has been a website soliciting funds that is filled with misinformation."

"Something is baffling here, clearly, but not why the Jannuzzi family believed Patricia Jannuzzi had been fired," Oakley told MyCentralJersey.com.

"At every point in our discussions the diocesan lawyers told us repeatedly there was no way that Patricia Jannuzzi would ever come back to the Immaculata classroom under any possible scenario. On Thursday by phone, the diocesan lawyers told me clearly and finally that Patricia Jannuzzi would be terminated as of the end of August, end of discussion," he said.

To avoid the appearance of evil, the family has suspended its collections pending further information about their mother's employment prospects. “The latest announcement from the diocese suggests that we may have been misinformed about their decision to terminate her in August,” the family wrote.

“Therefore, we are taking down this appeal as we ask for a prompt public answer from the diocese to the question: will our mother, a tenured teacher of 30+ years be allowed to continue to teach at Immaculata High School in September?”

So, has Jannuzzi's fate been sealed? "We don't have any comments on that," Friedlander told local media. "It's really an internal matter."

In the meantime, former students have come to her defense. Greg Bennett, who was featured on the TV show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and joined the Hollywood stars calling for her ouster, described Jannuzzi as “a very warm person.”

A current Immaculata senior called her "by far the most loving teacher I have ever had." Matt Nergen added, "Mrs. Jannuzzi is not a hateful person."

Contact: 

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect
Congregation for Bishops
Palazzo della Congregazioni, 00193 Roma, Piazza Pio XII, 10
Telephone: 06.69.88.42.17
Fax: 06.69.88.53.03

Most Reverend Paul G. Bootkoski, DD
Diocese of Metuchen
146 Metlars Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854
(732) 562-1990 ext. 1711
bishop@diometuchen.org

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Ben Johnson is U.S. Bureau Chief of LifeSiteNews.com, the guest host of Nothing But Truth with Crane Durhamon AFR Talk Radio, and the author of three books. His personal website is TheRightsWriter.com. Connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

(Published on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, on LifeSiteNews.com.)