Worcester Diocese Seeks to Bar LGBTQ-Inclusive Sex Education from Church Property

Bishop Robert McManus

A Massachusetts diocese is once again in an LGBTQ+ controversy, this time over the use of church property for a public school’s sex education program.

In the Diocese of Worcester, La Familia Dual Language School, which is a public school in that city, rents space at the former school of St. Stephen’s parish. At the beginning of this school year, Msgr. Robert Johnson, pastor of St. Stephen’s, contacted La Familia leaders to inform them that the public school’s sex education classes must be taught outside of the church-owned building leased by the school, according to Patch.

The Worcester public school district’s sex ed curriculum, approved in 2021 and now in its second year of instruction, is known as “The 3 Rs” – Rights, Respect, and Responsibility, and was strongly opposed Worcester’s Bishop Rober McManus when the curriculum was being debated.

Initially, La Familia’s principal, Suzanna Resendes, complied with Johnson’s request, planning to send her students off-site to the nearby Worcester East Middle School to complete the curriculum later this school year. The Telegram and Gazette reported that Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Rachel Monárrez announced the cancellation of this plan following local events in the school district that drew attention to the language of the district’s lease.

A local organization, Free Worcester, had raised concerns about the contract between the diocese and a proposed charter school, Worcester Cultural Academy (WCA). Like La Familia, WCA would be housed in a building leased from the diocese. The current lease draft states that the school could not provide instruction “which would be inconsistent with the doctrines or teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, as determined by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Worcester in his ecclesiastical capacity of Ordinary of the Diocese of Worcester in his sole discretion.”

Monárrez denies that the agreement between the district and diocese states any such expectation for La Familia. Amy Peterson, a spokesperson for the City of Worcester, confirmed that “there is nothing in the lease about sex ed curriculum or any provision for it.”

But Ray Delisle, the diocese’s spokesperson, defended Johnson’s demand in a statement: “From the perspective of the diocese, Monsignor Johnson as the pastor of the parish whose staff works with the school on any issues, and as the local contact, was simply reminding the principal of an understanding which had been in place the previous school year between the diocese and WPS.” According to La Familia, students did not leave campus for instruction last year under the previous principal.

Previously, Bishop Robert McManus publicly urged parents to opt out of the public school sex education curriculum, writing, It is age-inappropriate, explicit and reflects a shallow, trivial, amoral view of sex. It is a radical program of indoctrination of children with views contrary to the Catholic understanding of sex, gender and the human person.” Last year, in a separate controversy, McManus stripped the Nativity School of Worcester of its Catholic affiliation after school officials refused to stop flying Pride and Black Lives Matter flags.

Amy Peterson, spokesperson for the City of Worcester, commented on the situation:

“‘What’s really important is that students don’t feel like anything that they’re learning, that there’s something wrong with it. Whatever we teach, we want our students to not to feel like something is a secret. When you require them to go somewhere else, it sends a message to young children that there’s something wrong.’”

Students deserve adequate, comprehensive sex education, which includes LGBTQ+ issues. Especially when dealing with public schools, Bishop McManus and his administrators should not disrupt student learning for an ideological agenda.

Ariell Watson Simon, February 9, 2023

1 reply
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Public School Sex Education and Rented Church Property

    Examples such as these are exactly why in the United States there should be a strict separation of church and state as required by the constitution. As long as the church owns surplus school property, it has every right to control curriculum content according to church teaching. If the church wants to be a good steward of formerly active parish school property, then it should sell the property outright to the public school entity and relinquish all control of the property.

    By the same thinking, public school entities should not involve themselves in leases of formerly religious school properties with religious entanglements.


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