Bishop Robert McManus had demanded that a Worcester, Mass. school run by the Society of Jesus stop flying flags that he said contradict Catholic teaching.
The bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts, will not be attending the College of the Holy Cross’s commencement exercises, in the wake of a dispute over the flying of “gay pride” and Black Lives Matter flags.
Bishop Robert J. McManus informed the president of Holy Cross, Vincent D. Rougeau, that he will not be attending the May 27 graduation ceremony, even as a petition circulated at the college demanding that the bishop be disinvited.
Earlier this year, Bishop McManus demanded that a local school run by the Society of Jesus stop flying flags that he said contradict Catholic teaching.
“While the Catholic Church joins with our nation in teaching that all lives are equal before God and the law and that all lives demand our respect regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, the flag with the emblem Black Lives Matter has at times been coopted by some factions which also instill broad-brush distrust of police and those entrusted with enforcing our laws,” the bishop said in an April 3 statement. “We do not teach that in our schools. And, while we teach that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, gay pride flags are often used to stand in contrast to consistent Catholic teaching that sacramental marriage is between a man and a woman.”
McManus asked in the statement whether Nativity School in Worcester, which was flying both flags, is “committing itself to ideologies which are contrary to Catholic teaching.
“If so, is it still a Catholic school? As the Bishop of this diocese, I must teach that it is imperative that a Catholic School use imagery and symbols which are reflective of that school’s values and principles so as to be clear with young people who are being spiritually and morally formed for the future,” he said.
The Nativity School, run by the Jesuits, the same religious order that operates Holy Cross, is not a school of the Diocese of Worcester. According to its website, the school serves students from families facing economic hardship, largely from racial minorities. It charges no tuition. It is one of 64 Nativity Miguel Schools serving over 5,000 middle-school-aged boys and girls in 27 states. The one in Worcester began in 2003 under the direction of senior administration officials from the College of the Holy Cross.
The online petition at the college argued that it would be inappropriate for McManus to attend the commencement ceremony.
“Unfortunately, the Bishop’s statements demonstrate ignorant and bigoted sentiments which fail to align with these long-held values that guide our community,” the petition reads. “As a community that welcomes members of every gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, we find it inappropriate to have Bishop McManus present at this year’s graduation ceremony for the Class of 2022, and thus request that he be disinvited from attendance.”
Nativity School President Tom McKenney said in a statement that the school began flying the rainbow and BLM flags early in 2021 “to remind our young men, their families and Nativity Worcester staff that all are welcome here and that they are valued and safe in this place. It says to them that they, in fact, do matter and deserve to be respected as our Christian values teach us.”