A Catholic middle school in Massachusetts is resisting one local bishop’s attempts to have the school take down Pride and Black Lives Matter flags or the school will risk losing its Catholic affiliation.
Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester gave the directive to The Nativity School of Worcester, a Jesuit-run middle schools serving low-income students who are predominantly students of color. In a statement demanding the removal of the flags, McManus insisted that the church teaches “all lives are equal.” He continued:
“[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. 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. Is the school committing itself to ideologies which are contrary to Catholic teaching? If so, is it still a Catholic school?”
In response, The Nativity School’s leadership issued its own statement reiterating that it is administered by the Jesuits without funding from the diocese. The statement reads, in part, per This Week in Worcester:
“The Black Lives Matter and Pride flags fly below the American flag at our school 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.”
Yvonne Abraham, a columnist for The Boston Globe, took up the dispute over the flags. She referred to McManus as “one throwback with a miter cap and staff,” commenting that he is “clearly a far more conservative Catholic than his boss in Rome” in a reference to Pope Francis’ more welcoming attitude towards LGBTQ people. Abraham continued:
“This bishop has been quite selective in his concern for young people, however. He is one of the most intransigent church leaders in the country when it comes to forthrightly addressing clergy sexual abuse of children and others. He has refused to release lists of credibly accused clergy as 80 percent of other dioceses have done, said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability. McManus has withheld records requested by victims and largely refused to settle cases in his diocese. Advocates for survivors say he has, by these high-handed acts, revictimized them.
“‘He is the epitome of heartlessness and cruelty when it comes to dealing with clergy sexual abuse victims,’ said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented many of them. ‘No one is taking a harder position.'”
Abraham noted that back in 2019 McManus previously threatened to strip the Jesuit-run College of the Holy Cross, also in Worcester, of its Catholic identity over the school’s support for transgender inclusion. In the columnist’s words, “the threat to Holy Cross went nowhere.” Abraham concluded:
“All of this, not because of anything that is being taught at the little school, but because of two flags that have been flying outside it for more than a year. Flags that one man of God has decreed inconsistent with a faith meant to be built on love.
“Shortly after McManus made his disapproval clear a few weeks ago, somebody took it upon themselves to take down the flags. Nativity hoisted them right back up again. There they still fly. As they should.”
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, April 13, 2022