Gay teacher and college reach settlement

James St. George said: "I'm gladit's over."
James St. George said: "I'm gladit's over."
Posted: March 22, 2011

The Rev. James St. George will not be returning to teach religion as an adjunct professor at Chestnut Hill College, according to a settlement between the gay priest and the school announced Monday.

"I'm glad it's over," said St. George, 45, pastor of St. Miriam Catholic Apostolic Church of Blue Bell. "I'm going back to my ministry and to take care of my parish."

A popular teacher at the traditional Catholic college since the fall of 2009, St. George was not retained this spring to teach two courses after officials learned of public statements he had made about being involved in a 15-year partnership with a man.

School officials said such statements defied the Catholic Church's teachings. He countered that the action was biased against gays.

The two parties also disagreed about whether St. George had made clear to the college his affiliation with the Old Catholic Apostolic Church, which is not recognized by the Vatican.

But during negotiations last week that extended into the weekend, the two sides settled their differences. Terms were not made public.

"I've always said it was my desire to resolve this amicably," St. George said Monday.

"We reached a settlement today, but were still in the process of finalizing the details when it came to the point we needed to part, so we could do so amicably.

"There are no hard feelings on my part," St. George said. "We all own our own stuff and can move forward and not hate each other."

Asked if he received a monetary settlement, St. George said: "I can't comment on anything with Chestnut Hill College. I've never in my life sued anybody, or went to court, or wanted to get money from them."

The college's director of communications was away from her office; Lisa Mixon, manager of media relations, said Monday: "The college has no further comment at this time."

Jessica Murray, 23, a continuing education division student who had supported St. George throughout the controversy, said the whole episode had been a learning experience.

"I do truly believe that Chestnut Hill College will never treat anyone as unjustly as they did Father Jim," she said in a text message. "The school learned that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Also, their students have voices and will be heard."

A news conference that had been set for Monday morning, at which St. George and school officials were to have jointly appeared, was abruptly canceled via an e-mail sent to reporters at 8:32 a.m. No explanation was given.

The school's action in not rehiring St. George this spring infuriated some students, such as Murray, who felt the school was giving him a raw deal. They were prepared to rally on his behalf Saturday when they learned that a settlement was imminent.

Murray said she felt the college should be proud to have "driven and morally competent students attending their school."

"Now the school has to work on rebuilding the trust with their students," Murray said.


Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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