Friday, December 26, 2014

Gay priest vindicated

Chestnut Hill College quietly changed its "no gays allowed" policy last week, 10 months after firing Father Jim St. George.

Gay priest vindicated

Father Jim St. George, pastor of St. Miriam parish.
Father Jim St. George, pastor of St. Miriam parish.

File this in the "How do you like that?" category:

Ten months ago, there was an uproar when Father Jim St. George, an adjunct professor at Chestnut Hill College, was fired by the school for being gay. (Read my February blog post about it here). 

At the time, college President Carol Jean Vale SSJ stated that, "While we welcome diversity, it is expected that all members of our College community, regardless of their personal beliefs, respect and uphold our Roman Catholic mission, character and values both in the classroom and in public statements that identify them with our school. For this reason, we chose not to offer an aditional teaching contract to St. George."

Much heated discussion ensued. Finally, Father Jim and the college agreed to respect each other's differences and went their separate ways. (Father Jim, pastor of St. Miriam parish, is a Catholic priest in the Antioch rite, which allows its priests to be male or female, straight or gay, married or single.)

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Well last week, the college quietly changed it's "no gays allowed" policy at the small liberal arts college on the western edge of the city.

Here's the school's new take on diversity:

"Chestnut Hill College, founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, is committed to an active inclusive love of all people without distinction.  Therefore, it is the policy of Chestnut Hill College that no person will be discriminated against by Chestnut Hill College in admission to or participation in any educational program and, moreover, no person will be discriminated against in employment, including recruitment, hiring, promotion, termination or forms of compensation or on any other terms of employment.  Discrimination on any of the following basis is prohibited:  race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, marital status, familial status, disability, or status as a veteran.  Chestnut Hill College follows the June, 2011, Fair Practices Ordinance of the City of Philadelphia (9-1100) as well as other local, state, and federal laws."

I called Father Jim for a reaction. Here's what he wrote me in an e-mailed statement:

"I am very grateful to hear of this new policy at Chestnut Hill. I can’t help but feel somewhat vindicated, but harbor no ill will. I wish them continued success as they continue to welcome all persons in the spirit of our Catholic heritage. I miss teaching and miss my students, but I am grateful to hear of this policy implementation."

Amen to that.

Update on 12/9/11:

The above was posted at the end of the day yesterday, so I was unable to get a comment from Chestnut Hill College as to why the school amended its policy. I'd wanted to know if Father JIm's situation last winter had anything to do with the change.

Today, I received an emailed response from communications director Kathleen Spigelmyer, who wrote:

"It is a common practice of the College to update its policies so that they are current.  Therefore, last week, the College updated its Non-Discrimination Policy to reflect June 2011 changes to the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance.  The College remains committed to a policy that embraces diversity and prohibits discrimination in any form with respect to employment or its educational mission.  The situation with Father Jim St. George was amicably resolved months ago and we have no further comment about it."

So there ya go.

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…”.

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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.


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Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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