PHILADELPHIA, December 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A small Catholic college in Philadelphia has revised its policies to end employment discrimination based on “sexual orientation [or] gender identity” after its firing of an openly gay dissident priest set off a controversy, reports the Cardinal Newman Society. While the cleric said he felt “vindicated” by the change, the school says the change simply reflects recent changes in city non-discrimination rules.

Chestnut Hill College leaders earlier this year explained that the college terminated an adjunct teaching contract with Jim St. George, who presented himself as “Fr. George,” when the college discovered that he was engaged in a long-term relationship with another man. St. George is a member of the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of the Americas, a group that broke away from the Catholic Church in the 19th century.

“At the time St. George joined our faculty, he presented himself as Father St. George and openly wore a traditional Catholic priest’s collar,” wrote college President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ. “While St. George appears to be an ordained pastor ... his church allows priests the option to engage in same-sex partnerships. This is contrary to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.”

“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.”

After much negative media attention, the school changed its diversity policy to state that “no person will be discriminated against in employment, including recruitment, hiring, promotion, termination or forms of compensation or on any other terms of employment,” reports New York Daily News last week. The statement went on to say, “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.”

St. George told the paper that he “can’t help but feel somewhat vindicated” at the policy change. A spokeswoman for the school, however, said the change was intended to reflect change in city ordinances.

“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,” wrote communications director Kathleen Spigelmyer in an email.