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Fired Catholic Cleric Finds Home at University of Pennsylvania

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Apr 13, 2011
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A gay Catholic cleric who was abruptly terminated from his teaching post at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia has been hired on at the University of Pennsylvania, an April 12 Daily Pennsylvanian article reported.

The Rev. James St. George, who belongs to a faction of the Catholic Church that does not discriminate against sexual minorities, lost his position with Chestnut Hill College, which is a private Catholic college, after blogging about his long-term relationship with another man.

The Old Catholic Apostolic Church of America--to which St. George belongs--is not a Vatican-affiliated branch of the Roman Catholic Church. Chestnut Hill College requires that its instructors be ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition that is headed by the Vatican, reported the Advocate on April 2.

St. George was dismissed because of his "recent public statements regarding his long-term, same-sex partnership are at odds with the beliefs and mission of Chestnut Hill College and the Catholic Church," according to a media release from the college’s president, Carol Jean Vale, reported NBC Philadelphia on April 2.

"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," Vale’s statement said. "For this reason, we chose not to offer an additional teaching contract to St. George."

NBC Philadelphia called St. George a "local gay rights icon."

St. George found out that he’d been sacked on Feb. 18, the Associated Press reported in a Feb. 28 story.

The publicity surrounding St. George’s firing opened new avenues for him, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian article. University of Pennsylvania instructor Urban Studies Program, who is with the school’s Urban Studies Program, brought St. George in learning about the firing in the media.

"We are very pleased to have Rev. Jim St. George as a part of our class this term," Lamas told the newspaper. "His participation in class discussions has enriched us immeasurably."

St. George told the media that it "feels good" to be back in the classroom. He also opined that because his interest in social justice enhanced his teaching skills.

"Not only am I a parish priest--and I deal with a lot of brokenness in the world--but I’m also a trauma chaplain, so I deal with real brokenness," St. George said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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