With a name like Father James St. George, well, my first instinct is to assume the man is gay, because that name is fabulous. And I’m right! But that’s also what got the 45-year-old fired from Chestnut Hill College outside Philadelphia. Except didn’t Chestnut Hill know about Father St. George?
He tells Fox 59 Philadelphia the small private Roman Catholic school knew not only about his sexuality, but that he was part of the Old Catholic Church Of The Americas, a Catholic sect that left the Vatican in 1870 and supports both gay clergy and priest marriages.
A quick Google search when the college hired him would have revealed that, but the college said in a statement, “it was with great disappointment when we learned through St. George’s public statements of his involvement in a gay relationship with another man for the past 15 years.”
The college never spoke to Father St. George, he says, they sent a letter, and then refused to take his calls.
His firing coincides with an email sent to Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali and the college from James Pepper, a local lawyer who called the priest a “heretic.” “I serve as a trauma chaplain, I help broken people. I run a parish, a small parish in Blue Bell, take care of people who have no hope. I teach kids how to become better adults,” Father St. George said. “A school that is supposed to teach religious understanding is not even being tolerant.”
For his part, St. George says that while he never brought up his sexuality in class, it’s not like he worked to hide it. And it appears pretty clear that Chestnut Hill made its decision based not on its previous knowledge of someone in their employ, but with the local scandal James Pepper, the attorney, attempted to create. And these schools wonder why their enrollment is hurting? And the Catholic Church wonders why the number of followers, and the number of men looking to become priests, is dwindling? “What am I supposed to do?” says St. George. “Say, before we go any further, I’m gay? Who says that?”
Now let’s see if St. George, who was set to begin teaching classes on Tuesday, tries the legal route, claiming his firing was over sexual orientation — something the church will undoubtedly claim it was the religious exemption to do.