Chestnut Hill Issues New Statement on Gay Priest It Ousted

March 4, 2011

Chestnut Hill College on Thursday issued a new statement on its removal of two courses from Rev. James St. George, a gay priest who worked as an adjunct at the Roman Catholic college and was popular with many students. The statement said that "we express our sorrow for not communicating our decision, rife with complex and complicating factors, clearly" and that the college's decision was "sensationalized and distorted," becoming "a source of deep pain and anguish for the members of our college community, especially for those who are gay, as well as for our gay alumni, friends, benefactors, and neighbors. We ache for the negative impact this story is having on them. Likewise, we are sincerely sorry for the confusion and misinterpretation of facts that led people to draw conclusions about Chestnut Hill College that are inconsistent with our history." The statement did not detail any of the distortions that the college believes have been expressed elsewhere, but stated (emphasis in original) that Chestnut Hill is "an inclusive Catholic community that welcomes women and men from all religious faiths, cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles." The statement also said that the college "is reviewing its policies and procedures to ensure that this situation never happens again."

The college did not respond to requests to talk about the statement and to elaborate on its points -- just as the college did not respond to requests for elaboration on its earlier statement about its former adjunct.

Father St. George is not a Roman Catholic, but is part of the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of the Americas, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1870s and which today permits priests to be married or gay. The college's initial statements denied that Father St. George was fired (even though he produced contracts he had been given for two courses) and suggested that he deceived the college by wearing "a traditional Catholic priest's collar" (when Father St. George noted that he is openly gay and openly not a Roman Catholic, and has talked publicly about both of those facts for years).

Students at the college have created a Facebook group and are organizing a rally to defend Father St. George. On the Facebook page, the students say that "Father James St. George is an amazing teacher who has the ability to really get his students to think outside the box while looking at a situation from all points of view," that they believe that "EVERYTHING that Chestnut Hill has released has been a LIE and cannot be reached for comment. They will not even answer to their students, like me," and that students should "show your support for EQUALITY, RELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING, and JUSTICE."

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