A Massachusetts middle school can no longer be called Catholic after flying Gay Pride and Black Lives Matter flags at the school, the bishop of the Diocese of Worcester of the Catholic Church says.
The Nativity School of Worcester, which says the governance and control of school operations are fully independent of the diocese and receive no funding from them, vowed to appeal the bishop’s decision.
Bishop Robert J. McManus Thursday cited an open letter to the school in early May as part of reason for his decision.
“I publicly stated in an open letter…that ‘these symbols (flags) embody specific agendas or ideologies (that) contradict Catholic social and moral teaching,’” McManus said. “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,’” McManus said. “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, the school can’t identify and describe itself as Catholic, McManus says. Catholic mass is prohibited on school grounds along with any school-sponsored mass at any church or chapel within the Diocese of Worcester, among other repercussions, McManus says.
The school cited a call from students, the majority of whom are people of color, as one reason for flying the flags starting in January 2021.
“As a multicultural school, the flags represent the inclusion and respect of all people,” the school president, Thomas McKenney, said in a statement responding to the bishop’s decision. “These flags simply state that all are welcome at Nativity and this value of inclusion is rooted in Catholic teaching.”
“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,” McKenney said. “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. They fly in support of marginalized people.”
The school said it will continue to fly the flags “to give visible witness to the school’s solidarity with our students, families and their communities,” McKenney said. “Commitment to our mission, grounded and animated by Gospel values, Catholic Social Teaching, and our Jesuit heritage compels us to do so.”