Worcester Nativity School waving BLM, LGBTQ flags cannot be called Catholic, Bishop says

Worcester Nativity School waving BLM, LGBTQ flags cannot be called Catholic, Bishop says
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The harsh, two-color letters of the Black Lives Matter flag and the bright rainbow stripes of the Pride flag had flown over the Massachusetts Catholic school for more than a year before the local bishop registered his opposition.

The Black Lives Matter Flag, Bishop Robert McManus said in april, has been “co-opted by some factions that also instil widespread distrust of the police.” And the LGBTQ flag could be used to contrast the church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, he added.

When Nativity School of Worcester did not budge, McManus issued a harsh ruling. The free high school, which serves children facing economic hardship, can no longer identify itself as Catholic because the flags are “inconsistent with Catholic teaching,” he said. declared on thursday.

“Waving these flags in front of a Catholic school sends a mixed, confusing and shocking message to the public about where the Church stands on these important moral and social issues,” McManus wrote. “Despite my insistence that the school administration remove these flags due to the confusion and the very theological scandal that they promote and can promote, they refuse to do so.”

That defiance, McManus said, left him no choice but to strip the Jesuit-run school of its Catholic affiliation. The school can no longer celebrate Mass or the sacraments or use diocesan institutions for fundraising. He was not included Thursday in the diocese’s list. list of catholic schools in your region.

The decision, which comes during Pride Month, appears to be a rare case of a Catholic organization’s affiliation with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” becoming a flashpoint with their diocese. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken a nuanced approach to the phrase, endorsing the concept of racial justice but not necessarily organizations that espouse that message. The Black Lives Matter movement describes itself as aiming to eradicate white supremacy and disrupt violence against Black communities.

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Nativity School said the use of the Black Lives Matter and Pride flags was in response to a call from its students, the majority of whom are people of color, to make their community more inclusive. The flags symbolize that everyone is welcome at Nativity, the president of the college said Thursday.

“Both flags are now widely understood to celebrate the human dignity of our family, friends and neighbors who have faced and continue to face hate and discrimination,” wrote Thomas McKenney. “Although 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 are flown in support of marginalized people.”

The bishop disagrees. The Pride flag represents support for same-sex marriage and “an LGBTQ+ lifestyle,” he said. And while the church teaches that all lives are sacred, McManus said the Black Lives Matter movement has used that phrase to contradict Catholic teaching on the importance of the nuclear family. (Black lives matter said earlier on your website which aims to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families.” The page subsequently went offline.)

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Nativity said he will appeal the bishop’s decision, but has no plans to remove the flags, which he said shows his commitment to stand in solidarity with his students and families. McKenney said the administrators’ decision was based on the Gospel, Catholic social teaching and the school’s Jesuit heritage.

The result follows months of dialogue between the school and the Diocese of Worcester. Around the same time McManus took issue with the flags in March, one person tore down both flags, the school said. Two months later, the bishop warned the school that it would lose its Catholic label if it did not remove the screens.

Nativity School is not the only educational institution that has been stripped of its “Catholic” label. In 2019, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis told Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School that it could no longer identify as Catholic. after he refused to fire a teacher who was in a same-sex marriage. The Jesuit Midwest Province said it would appeal the decision through a church process.

For Guillermo Creamer Jr., an openly gay student at Nativity School, the flags symbolize that Nativity includes Black lives, a message he says is crucial in a school with primarily Black and Latino students.

“For these young people who are witnessing what is happening across the country and seeing the Black Lives Matter flag wave, it is something very important,” he said.

Creamer, 27, said he hopes the bishop’s decision will prompt other Catholic schools that align with Black Lives Matter or pro-LGBTQ messages in some way to question whether that’s acceptable. But she said that may not be all bad if it encourages Catholics to speak honestly about whether and how these causes fit their faith.

In his letter to the community, McKenney reminded parents that Nativity School is funded by individuals and groups, not the diocese, and will continue business as usual.

Outside the school building, he noted, flags are still waving.

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