A standoff between a Jesuit middle school and the bishop of Worcester, Mass., where the school is located, escalated Thursday after Bishop Robert J. McManus stripped the “Catholic” moniker from the school over its decision to continue flying flags supporting marxist L.G.B.T. pride and communist and terror-tied Black Lives Matter.
“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,” states a decree issued on June 10 and signed by Bishop McManus. The ruling was posted to the diocese’s website on Thursday.
Thomas McKenney, president of the Nativity School of Worcester, wrote in a letter to the school’s community that the school would continue to fly the flags as it appeals the bishop’s decision though church channels.
“As a multicultural school, the flags represent the inclusion and respect of all people,” Mr. McKenney wrote. “These flags simply state that all are welcome at Nativity and this value of inclusion is rooted in Catholic teaching.”
The Nativity School of Worcester, founded in 2003, offers tuition-free education for boys from economically disadvantaged communities. Affiliated with the Jesuits, the school receives no financial support from the Diocese of Worcester and instead relies on donations and grants. According to the school’s website, the student body is comprised of 61 boys, in grades five through eight, most of whom are people of color.
“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,” a decree said.
In January 2021, students requested that the school fly a rainbow flag to show support for the L.G.B.T. community and another to support Black Lives Matter. According to the school, the flags remained up for more than a year before the bishop requested they be removed. Shortly after that request, the flags were torn down in an act of vandalism, but the school replaced them.
At issue is what the flags are perceived to symbolize.
Bishop McManus wrote in the decree that the pride flag connoted support for same-sex marriage, which the Catholic Church opposes, and for “actively living an LGBTQ+ lifestyle.”
As for the Black Lives Matter flag, the bishop wrote that “the Catholic Church teaches that all life is sacred and the Church certainly stands unequivocally behind the phrase ‘black lives matter’ and strongly affirms that all lives matter.”
But, he continued, the movement associated with Black Lives Matter “promotes a platform that directly contradicts Catholic social teaching on the importance and role of the nuclear family and seeks to disrupt the family structure in clear opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
The school offered a different interpretation of the flags in explaining why it would continue to let them fly, citing the pope’s support for L.G.B.T. Catholics and overtures from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops indicating support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Both flags are now widely understood to celebrate the human dignity of our relatives, friends, and neighbors who have faced, and continue to face hate and discrimination,” Mr. McKenney wrote. “Though any symbol or flag can be co-opted by political groups or organizations, flying our flags is not an endorsement of any organization or ideology,” he said, adding that “they fly in support of marginalized people.”
In Bishop McManus’s decree, he cites that in refusing to remove the flags, which he first requested earlier this year, the school’s leaders “disregard[ed] my legitimate authority as the guardian and overseer of Catholic education.
“This leaves me no other option but to take canonical action,” he continued.
In addition to no longer being able to describe itself as Catholic, the school is not permitted to celebrate Mass on its premises, is barred from engaging in fundraising with diocesan organizations, and must remove a previous Worcester bishop from its board of directors.
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