Friday, October 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Chestnut Hill: Is the third statement the charm?

On Feb. 25th, Chestnut Hill College communications director Kathi Speigelmyer e-mailed me the school's official statement that Father Jim St. George was fired for being gay.

Chestnut Hill: Is the third statement the charm?

On Feb. 25th, Chestnut Hill College communications director Kathi Speigelmyer e-mailed me the school's official statement that Father Jim St. George was fired for being gay. 

In that e-mail, Spigelmyer stressed that,  "This will be our only participation with you and the Daily News regarding this subject."

Nonetheless, the next day, she sent another e-mail, to further clarify the school's statement. This time she noted that  "This will be our final participation with you and the Daily News regarding this subject."

So imagine how confusing it was, last night, to receive yet a third statement from Spigelmyer, this one pertaining to the fiasco that has embroiled the school since President Sister Jean Vale booted Father Jim out the door.

At least this time, Spigelmyer didn't note whether this third communique was the "only" or "final" communication with the Daily News, perhaps because the first two were neither "only" or "final."

Before I go further, can I just say, again, how badly this school needs a new PR strategy?

Anyway, Spigelmyer's latest press statement is filled with remorse. 

"Our decision has been sensationalized and distorted becoming a source of deep pain and anguish for the members of our College Community," it reads, "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."

Wierdly, Spigelmyer doesn't mention whether school leaders also ache for Father Jim, since he was the initial gay person to feel "deep pain and anguish" as a result of the school's decision to fire him.

Anyway, do school administrators ache for the negtive impact the firing itself has had on the Chestnut Hill community? Or do they ache for the negative impact the Chestnut Hill community has felt as a result of the firing becoming public knowledge?

I can't figure it out. But I am sure the school will release a fourth statement soon, clarifying this third one.

Herewith is Chestnut Hill's latest pronouncement.

"With regard to the recent coverage of Chestnut Hill College and Jim St. George, we express our sorrow for not communicating our decision, rife with complex and complicating factors, clearly.  

"Our decision has been 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.

"We are an inclusive Catholic community that welcomes women and men from all religious faiths, cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles.  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.  We regret any instance in which we fail to exemplify the values and beliefs intrinsic to our College.

"It is our deepest hope that, ultimately, this divisive, painful experience will unify the Chestnut Hill College Community, and all those close to us, in a new and stronger bond so that we may strengthen our commitment to diversity and demonstrate our determination to work for justice, equality, and peace for each and every person.

"Chestnut Hill College is reviewing its policies and procedures to ensure that this situation never happens again."

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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