Thursday, November 26, 2015

Act of Contrition...I mean, omission

Wherein Father Jim forgot to tell us something...

Act of Contrition...I mean, omission

People who live in glass churches shouldn't throw stones.
That's the moral I take from the Jim St. George story.  Father Jim, as he has been called affectionately by the local media and his flock, is either (a) the courageous critic of the Roman Catholic church, welcoming their castoffs into his spacious tent; (b) a fabulous teacher wrongly terminated by a close-minded, church affiliated university because of his sexual orientation; (c) an opportunist who attempted to exploit a tragedy in my church to advance the fortunes of his own; (d) an ex-offender; (e) a good man who made some really bad choices or (f) all of the above.
In the view of the local media, at least up until this morning when his conviction for mail fraud was revealed, he was (a) and (b).  In my view, at least up until this morning, he was (c)...and possibly (e).
(At this point, it is of course necessary to state the obvious:  a conviction for mail fraud...even after a nolo much less serious than allegations  of sexual abuse.  But it's also not a traffic ticket. So all of those who might scream that I'm comparing apples to oranges, I get the fact that the crime he was convicted of committing is not in the same league as the crimes others were accused...and in some cases convicted...of)
That being said, I think it's fairly clear that Father Jim is not what he appeared.  He might very well be a caring and thoughtful pastor of the flock that follows him.  He might very well have been a fabulous teacher.  But he was not 'wrongly terminated' by Chestnut Hill if he indeed failed to inform them of his criminal record.  And even if he was terminated because of his beliefs (married priests, women priests and non-celibate gay priests are fine and dandy in his church,) the school was absolutely within its rights to fire him if it determined that he was a living example of policies that contradict Roman Catholic teaching.
Of course, that will all get straightened out in a court of law since Father Jim has generously decided to put my profession to work by hiring a lawyer.
But since he's seeking justice, I'd remind him of a long-established principle of common law.  When someone comes into court seeking justice, he has to make sure his own hands are clean.  It's called, not surprisingly, the clean hands doctrine, and is used to prevent a guilty party from claiming that another has harmed him, even if that other party is also at fault.
So while Father Jim might think that Chestnut Hill has wronged him, he has to wipe those particles of dirt off of his own hands before holding them out for compensation.

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See Christine Flowers on Channel 6's "Inside Story" Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

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