by Pete Mazzaccaro
Chestnut Hill College released a statement last night in which it called coverage of its dismissal of openly gay priest and religion professor Father Jim St. George sensational and distorted. The statement also expresses regret that the school did not communicate clearly the reasons for St. George’s dismissal and reiterated the school’s commitment to remaining an inclusive campus that “welcomes women and men from all religious faiths, cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles.”
The school’s statement arrived only hours before several news stories about St. George’s past appeared in the Inquirer and Daily News that revealed St. George’s prior conviction for fraud nearly 20 years ago. The conviction, for which St. George served 10 months in federal prison, stemmed from the misuse of funds at a funeral home he owned in Erie Pennsylvania. See Philly.com story.
Chestnut Hill College’s statement:
“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.”