Story at a glance
- A Massachusetts bishop this week has declared that a Worcester middle school may no longer identify as Catholic after it refused to take down Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ Pride flags that have flown in front of the building for over a year.
- Bishop Robert J. McManus had said previously that he disapproved of the school’s decision to fly the flags, which he alleged sent messages inconsistent with Catholic beliefs.
- Nativity School President Thomas McKenney this week said the school would appeal the decision and will continue to fly the flags.
A Massachusetts middle school may no longer describe itself as Catholic after refusing to lower a Black Lives Matter flag and an LGBTQ+ Pride flag, a local bishop has declared.
Bishop Robert J. McManus on Thursday said the Nativity School of Worcester, a tuition-free middle school for boys from low-income families, is prohibited from identifying as a Catholic School over its decision to fly the flags, which he said in April represented ideologies that are inconsistent with Catholic beliefs.
“The flying of these flags in front of a Catholic school sends a mixed, confusing and scandalous message to the public about the Church’s stance on these important moral and social issues,” McManus wrote Thursday in an official decree.
Catholic mass, sacraments and sacramentals are no longer permitted to be celebrated on Nativity School grounds and the school is longer allowed to participate in fundraising involving other institutions in the Diocese of Worcester, McManus wrote in his decree, which is effective immediately.
The name of Bishop Emeritus Daniel P. Reilly must also be removed from a list of the school’s board of trustees.
“As Diocesan Bishop, it is my sacred duty and inherent responsibility to determine when a school claiming to be ‘Catholic’ is acting in such a way that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” McManus wrote. “Despite my insistence that the school administration remove these flags because of the confusion and the properly theological scandal that they do and can promote, they refuse to do so. This leaves me no other option but to take canonical action.”
In an open letter published by the Diocese of Worcester in May, McManus wrote that the flags flown at the Nativity School “embody specific agendas” that “contradict Catholic social and moral teaching,” warning that the school would be stripped of its Catholic identity if it continued to display the flags.
“Gay pride flags not only represent support for gay marriage, but also promote actively living an LGBTQ+ lifestyle,” he wrote. “Others in society may say that is fine. Such people may be doing wonderful humanitarian work. But an institution that calls itself Catholic cannot condone that behavior.”
McManus added in the May letter that the Black Lives Matter movement also contradicts traditional Catholic beliefs, in part because it promotes a “queer affirming” and “trans affirming” learning environment for students. It also seeks to undermine the importance of the nuclear family and disrupt the traditional family structure, McManus wrote Thursday, adding that the Catholic church “strongly affirms that all lives matter.”
In a statement to the Nativity School community, Nativity School President Thomas McKenney said the school will seek to appeal McManus’ decision to remove its Catholic identity through “appropriate channels.”
In the meantime, McKenney said Nativity will continue to fly both the Black Lives Matter and Pride flags to “to give visible witness to the school’s solidarity with our students, families, and their communities.”
“Commitment to our mission, grounded and animated by Gospel values, Catholic Social Teaching, and our Jesuit heritage compels us to do so.”