A priest who lives in Lansdale and serves as pastor at a Blue Bell church says he thinks it’s very sad that Chestnut Hill College fired him as a part-time instructor suddenly and without warning. The Reverend James Saint George says he received a note last month telling him his contract as an adjunct faculty member was not being renewed, but it gave no reason. The Catholic college in Northwest Philadelphia, just over the Montgomery County line, issued a statement on Friday saying he misrepresented himself as a priest. Father Saint George says he told school officials when they hired him that he was not a Roman Catholic, but an independent Catholic in a church not affiliated with the Vatican, and while it was not an issue when the college hired him, it has been an issue with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since Saint Miriam Catholic Apostolic Church in Blue Bell was founded.
“The Roman Catholic Church seems to think they’re the only ones that are Catholic. I’ve constantly battled that. I think that there are Orthodox Catholics, there are Roman Catholics, and there are those of us who would be grouped as Independent Catholics, being that we’re independent of the jurisdiction of Rome. I think that we’re all avowedly Catholic. We don’t claim to have a lock on the word ‘Catholic,’ but the Roman Church has taken great umbrage with us, and from the time of our founding nearly three years ago they have constantly tried to thwart our right to exist as a parish.”
The college statement also said his gay lifestyle was at odds with Catholic teachings. He says he has had a 15-year relationship with another man, but he never talked about it in class.
“My sexuality never came up in class because it had no business in class, so for them to say that my sexuality is incompatible with Roman Catholic teaching is silliness. What about the faculty members who are there besides me who are gay? There’s got to be somebody. What about the faculty members that use contraception? It’s all against Catholic teaching, but do you really want to go down that road and get rid of faculty members just because something that they’re doing or the way they live their life is not 100 percent compatible with Catholic teaching?”
Father Saint George says college officials only found out about his sexual orientation by reading media accounts and an e-mail from a Blue Bell lawyer who called his faculty position scandalous. He says it’s hard to say whether he would return to Chestnut Hill College if given a chance, but he does feel sad that his dismissal hurt his students, who gave him a very high approval rating.