Chestnut Hill College Fires Gay Priest

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Father James St. George says he was fired from Chestnut Hill College. The college says his contract wasn't renewed. Either way, he's out of a job and he says it's because he is gay. (Published Monday, Feb 28, 2011)

    A Catholic college in Philadelphia says it has fired a part-time professor after learning from a post on his blog that he has been in a same-sex relationship for a decade and a half, which officials called contrary to church teaching.

    Chestnut Hill College, a private Catholic school, said the Rev. James St. George was terminated after he made "public statements of his involvement in a gay relationship with another man for the past 15 years."

    St. George, 45, of Lansdale, was hired by the private Catholic school in 2009 to teach Bible studies and other subjects. He was to teach courses in theology and justice as well as world religions beginning Tuesday.

    St. George confirmed to The Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday that he is gay and recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his relationship with his partner. He said he was shocked by the termination, which he learned about Feb. 18.

    College officials appeared surprised that St. George belonged to a branch of Catholicism not associated with the Vatican that has different views on gay issues. St. George leads St. Miriam Church in Blue Bell, which is affiliated with the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of America, which vows no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and performs commitment ceremonies for gays and lesbians.

    Carol Jean Vale, president of Chestnut Hill College, said in a statement Friday night to several news organizations, including the Philadelphia Daily News, that when St. George joined the faculty "he presented himself as Father St. George and openly wore a traditional Catholic priest's collar."

    Vale said that while St. George "appears to be an ordained pastor ... his church allows priests the option to engage in same-sex partnerships."

    St. George denied that he had withheld anything from the college.

    "What am I supposed to do?" he asked. "Say, 'Before we go any further, I'm gay?' Who says that?"

    The college said officials only learned about the matter "after St. George chose to make his private life public information on his blog."

    "While we welcome diversity, it is expected that all members of our college community, regardless of their personal beliefs, respect and uphold our Roman Catholic mission, character and values both in the classroom and in public statements that identify them with our school," Vale's statement said. "For this reason, we chose not to offer an additional teaching contract to St. George."

    Jessica Murray, 23, who was one of St. George's students, told the Inquirer that she was appalled by the firing.

    "All you have to do is Google him, you can see that he's openly gay," she said. "They can't claim they didn't know."


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