The Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester issued a formal decree removing the Nativity School’s Catholic designation after the school refused to take down the flags, which he said contradict Catholic teaching.
A middle school in Worcester, Massachusetts was informed by the bishop of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts that it has lost its Catholic designation after the school refused to stop flying Black Lives Matter and gay pride flags.
Bishop Robert McManus issued a formal decree to the Nativity School, informing them that the diocese would no longer support the school and that it could no longer call itself Catholic. The official decree comes months after the bishop requested in an open letter that the flags be taken down because they conflict with Catholic teaching.
The bishop wrote:
“I publicly stated in an open letter dated, May 4, 2022, that “these symbols (flags) embody specific agendas or ideologies (that) contradict Catholic social and moral teaching.” It is my contention that the “Gay Pride” flag represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle.”
The Catholic Church “unequivocally stands behind the phrase ‘black lives matter,’ McManus wrote, but the Black Lives Matter movement, he said, 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 the May 4 letter, Bishop McManus wrote that the Black Lives Matter movement “has co-opted the phrase and promotes a 13-principle agenda for schools … those principles include, in their own words, to be ‘queer affirming’ and ‘trans affirming.’”
“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,” he wrote.
“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 and disregards my legitimate authority as the guardian and overseer of Catholic education in the Diocese of Worcester,” the statement continued.
“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,” he wrote.
Under the bishop’s decree, effective immediately, the Nativity School is prohibited from using the word “Catholic” to describe itself, and Mass and other sacraments will no longer be permitted to be take place.
Response from the Nativity School
Nativity President McKenney responded, according to Catholic Free Press: “In collaboration with the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus, Nativity will seek to appeal the decision of the Diocese to remove our Catholic identity through the appropriate channels provided by the Church in circumstances like this.”
The Nativity School, a non-diocesan, Catholic-affiliated school, was founded in 2003 with the cooperation of the College of the Holy Cross, to serve underprivileged boys in grades five through eight. On its website, the school is described itself as “an accredited, independent, Jesuit middle school that provides a quality, all-scholarship education to underserved boys of all faiths.”
In response to Bishop McManus’ complaint, 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.”
Students from The College of the Holy Cross circulated an online petition calling for Bishop McManus to be disinvited to the college’s commencement ceremonies after the bishop’s initial statements regarding the Nativity School and its flags. The bishop later announced that he would not attend the May 27 graduation.