A bishop in Massachusetts has issued a formal decree that a local middle school “may no longer identify itself as Catholic” because it refuses to remove Pride and Black Lives Matter (BLM) flags from its campus.
The declaration from Bishop Robert McManus of the Diocese of Worcester came down on Thursday and argues that the two flags “embody specific agendas and ideologies (that) contradict Catholic social and moral teaching.”
McManus learned about the flags in March and wrote an open letter to the school in early May, threatening the Nativity School of Worcester that it “has to decide if it wants to continue to be a Catholic institution or not.”
The school has been flying the Pride and BLM flags since January 2021 and refused to take them down.
The Nativity School of Worcester is a tuition-free private middle school that serves under-resourced communities. It receives no funding from the church and its governance is fully independent from the diocese.
Currently, around 60 boys, the majority of whom are racialized, attend the school. According to a statement from the school’s president Thomas McKenney, the flags were displayed at the request of its students.
“As a multicultural school, the flags represent the inclusion and respect of all people. These flags simply state that all are welcome at Nativity and this value of inclusion is rooted in Catholic teaching,” McKenney said in response to the bishop’s decision.
To McManus though, “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.”
“It is my contention that the ‘Gay Pride’ flag represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle.
“This is also true of ‘Black Lives Matter. 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.”
After the current school year, McManus said the school cannot identify or describe itself as Catholic. Additionally, the school will not be allowed to celebrate mass or perform sacraments on its grounds, be listed in the Diocesan Directory, or fundraise with diocesan institutions.
A bishop serving on the board of trustees for the Nativity School of Worcester will also be removed.
McKenney pushed back on McManus’s characterization of the Pride and BLM flags, saying “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… They fly in support of marginalized people.”
The school will continue to fly its flags “to give visible witness to the school’s solidarity with our students, families and their communities,” and is looking to appeal the bishop’s decision.