After Flag Dispute, U.S. Bishop Says Jesuit School No Longer Catholic

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WORCESTER, Mass. (CNS) – The Bishop of Worcester, Robert McManus, has informed Worcester Nativity School that it can no longer identify itself as a Catholic school after months of private and public discussions over the theft of Black Flags. Lives Matter and gay pride outside of school.

The bishop issued an official decree on June 16 removing support for the Jesuit-run school.

In a June 15 letter to the school community, Nativity School President Thomas McKenney said the school would appeal the decision “through the appropriate channels” and continue to display the flags. He said the school maintains that the flags are “not an endorsement of any organization or ideology”, but “fly in support of marginalized people”.

On June 10, Bishop McManus signed a decree declaring that he respected his pastoral responsibilities and, in accordance with canon law, said that the School of the Nativity was prohibited “from identifying itself as a ‘Catholic’ school. or to use “the title ‘Catholic’ to describe themselves,” effective immediately.

He also said: “Mass, sacraments and sacramentals are no longer permitted to be celebrated on the premises of the School of the Nativity or to be sponsored by the School of the Nativity in a church building or a Chapel of the Diocese of Worcester.”

The school will also not be permitted to “undertake any fundraising involving diocesan institutions in the Diocese of Worcester and is not permitted to be listed or advertised in the diocesan directory”.

Finally, the name of the retired Bishop of Worcester, Daniel Reilly, is to be removed from the list of the school’s board of trustees.

The School of the Nativity is a private, independent, tuition-free Jesuit college founded in 2003. It is not a diocesan school. The school has displayed a Black Lives Matter and gay pride rainbow flag on the grounds since early 2021.

In March, Bishop McManus was made aware of the presence of the flags and, according to school officials, he requested that the flags be removed.

The bishop issued a public statement and then a letter regarding the flags after media reports of private talks with the school.

In an April 3 statement, he said, “The Catholic Church joins our nation in teaching that all lives are equal before God and the law, and that all lives demand our respect, regardless of race, sex or ethnicity.

He said the Black Lives Matter flag “has at times been co-opted by certain factions which also instill a general distrust of the police and those charged with enforcing our laws”, and the gay pride flag is ” often used to oppose consistent Catholic teaching that sacramental marriage is between a man and a woman”.

He urged the School of the Nativity to reconsider the images and symbols used for the spiritual and moral formation of young people.

The school president’s letter on the matter read: “The Nativity has begun flying the Pride and Black Lives Matter flags following a call from our students (the majority of whom are people of color) to express their support to make our communities more just and inclusive.”

Letter N

On May 5, Bishop McManus released an open letter to the community about school flags, “Why Symbols Matter.” He once again affirmed the position of the Catholic Church to love one another regardless of “every differentiator that can be named.”

He added: “We believe that we are all loved by God and redeemed by (Christ). . . We are the stewards of our body, but not the owners to do with it as we please. Because every human life is sacred, the Church 100% supports the phrase “black lives matter.”

However, “a specific movement with a broader agenda has co-opted the phrase and is promoting a 13-principle curriculum for schools . . . these principles include, in their own words, being ‘queer affirming’ and ‘trans affirming’ “, he wrote.

The Black Lives Matter movement contradicts Catholic social teaching on the role of the family in society, he said.

Stating that an institution cannot be run on conflicting principles, Bishop McManus asked the School of the Nativity in the open letter, “Which identity do you choose?

Acknowledging that there are many non-Catholic institutions that perform important humanitarian service, the Bishop said “to be Catholic means to embrace, not deny, our Catholic identity ‘defined’ by 2,000 years of theological reflection and tradition.” .

“While we all want all of our students, especially our inner city black and brown students, to feel safe and welcome, we must uphold the moral axiom that ‘the ends do not justify the means,'” Bishop McManus said. .

Prior to the issuance of the decree, the Bishop wrote in the public letter, “It is my fervent prayer that the School of the Nativity decides to display only banners which will complement the cross of Christ which tells them why they are loved. Flags with the words “End Racism” and “We are all children of God” would be much more appropriate for a Catholic school.

According to the School of the Nativity statement, Bishop McManus warned the school in mid-May that if the flags were not removed, “The Nativity will be prohibited from identifying itself as a Catholic school.”

Despite communications between the Bishop and the School of the Nativity, Black Lives Matter flags and gay pride flags are still flying outside the school. The school’s response on June 15 was that “after significant deliberation and discernment by its board of trustees, leadership team, faculty, and partners, the Nativity will continue to display the flags in question to visibly show the solidarity of the school with our students, our families and their communities. ”.

In the decree, Bishop McManus noted that as the authority and overseer of Catholic schools, it is the “sacred duty” and “inherent responsibility” of a diocesan bishop to determine whether or not a school acts to a harmonious way with the teachings. of the Catholic Church, while participating in the evangelizing mission of the Church.

He said he issued the formal decree in accordance with canon law.

Nativity’s McKenney responded, “Together with the Eastern Province of the United States of the Society of Jesus, Nativity will seek to appeal the decision of the diocese to withdraw our Catholic identity through the appropriate channels provided by the Church in circumstances like this”.

Pictured: The gay pride rainbow flag and the Black Lives Matter flag fly below the American flag at the Nativity School in Worcester, Mass., June 14, 2022. (CNS Photo/Maria LeDoux, The Catholic Free Press )

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