Gay teacher surprised Catholic school fired him

Fired teacher Michael Griffin (right) of Mount Laurel and his partner, Vincent Giannetto.
Fired teacher Michael Griffin (right) of Mount Laurel and his partner, Vincent Giannetto.
Posted: December 10, 2013

BENSALEM It was widely known at Holy Ghost Preparatory School, a private Catholic high school in Bensalem, that French and Spanish teacher Michael Griffin was gay.

Griffin said Sunday he and his partner, Vincent Giannetto, had attended parties together in the priests' residence, sat with the principal, Jeff Danilak, during an April fund-raiser, and even had a school administrator as a guest at the reception for their civil union in 2008.

But Griffin was not fired until he and Giannetto applied Friday for a marriage license in New Jersey, where they live.

The key, Griffin said, was an e-mail he sent to Danilak on Tuesday saying he might be slightly late for a teachers' in-service day Friday because he was applying for a marriage license at 8 a.m.

The Rev. James McCloskey, school president, told Griffin in a meeting Friday afternoon the e-mail to Danilak made Griffin's relationship public, which was why he was being fired, Griffin said.

Speaking of the April fund-raiser, Griffin said: "Clearly, we were a couple. We both wear rings, and we were together. The alums and donors, they could all see that.

"To me, that was much more public than me e-mailing the principal, so I don't understand, if [they] were going to fire me, why not in April, why not for the civil union, why not at the first time I brought my partner to the school? That's why it's sort of a shock to me," he said.

McCloskey issued a statement Sunday on Griffin's decision to obtain a marriage license:

"Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision in his contract, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately."

Griffin, 35, of Mount Laurel, an alumnus of the school, taught at Holy Ghost Prep for 12 years, he said.

The boys-only school has 476 students in grades nine to 12 and has tuition this year of $17,500, according to its website.

Members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, known as the Spiritans, founded the school in 1897.

"The mission of the school, it talks about dedication to the poor and the oppressed, the value of an education, and the value of diversity of thought and tolerance," Griffin said. "I'm not perfect, but I try to embody them in my life."


hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651 @InqBrubaker

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