The firing of the Rev. James St. George by Chestnut Hill College is really no big deal, insists the Roman Catholic school outside Philadelphia. You’re all just blowing out of proportion! Making things “sensationalized and distorted,” they say. And while Chestnut Hill isn’t reversing its decision to terminate its teaching contract with St. George — who was set to begin teaching two courses this past week — it does admit it has a communications problem.
While St. George maintains he was fired for being gay (and belonging to a church that split from the Roman Catholic Church that supports gay priests and priest marriage) only after a local lawyer raised a stink about it to the school and Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chestnut Hill insists he was fired simply for supporting gays. But they feel bad about how this all played out.
The school said it was reviewing its policies so that “this situation never happens again.” The college appeared to be stung by public criticism, online and in letters to the editor, that its treatment of St. George ran counter to its own values. “We value diversity and strive to treat every person with the respect, dignity, love, and compassion due a child of God. Are we perfect in living this aspect of our mission? No. Do we strive constantly to improve? Yes,” the college said.
Speaking of striving to constantly improve, it looks like someone wants us to know St. George isn’t the innocent man he claims to be. Nearly 20 years ago St. George, “who was running a fifth-generation family funeral home in Erie – pleaded no contest to three federal felony counts of mail fraud on charges he had misused money from prepaid funeral accounts. St. George reportedly served a 10-month sentence in the federal prison in Morgantown, W. Va., and said that he also fulfilled a court order to pay more than $90,000 in restitution fees.”