Worcester Bishop Yanks Catholic Affiliation of Jesuit-Run Middle School

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2022/06/16/worcester-bishop-yanks-catholic-affiliation-of-jesuit-run-middle-school/

The Roman Catholic bishop of Worcester has ordered a Jesuit-run middle school in the city to stop calling itself Catholic because school officials are flying a rainbow flag and a Black Lives Matter flag.

Bishop Robert McManus said Nativity School, which serves mostly black and Latino boys in grades 5 through 8, is endorsing movements that contradict Catholic teaching and defying his authority as the head of the diocese.

“It is my contention that the ‘Gay Pride’ flag represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle,” Bishop McManus said, referring to the rainbow flag, in a decree dated Friday, June 10 but published Thursday, June 16.

As for Black Lives Matter, the bishop said the organization “has co-opted the phrase and promotes a platform that directly contradicts Catholic social teaching on the importance and role of the nuclear family and seeks to disrupt the family structure in clear opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

As a result of his decree, the school isn’t allowed by the Church to call itself Catholic or to have Mass or dispense sacraments at the school. The school also can’t sponsor Masses or sacramental liturgies at churches and chapels in the Diocese of Worcester.

School officials are appealing to Rome.

“Nativity will seek to appeal the decision of the Diocese to remove our Catholic identity through the appropriate channels provided by the Church in circumstances like this,” said school president Thomas McKenney in a written statement. “At the same time, after meaningful deliberation and discernment by its Board, leadership team, faculty, and partners, Nativity will continue to display the flags in question to give visible witness to the school’s solidarity with our students, families, and their communities. Commitment to our mission, grounded and animated by Gospel values, Catholic Social Teaching, and our Jesuit heritage compels us to do so.”

A document published by a Vatican office in March appears to give bishops the upper hand in disputes over Catholic identity.

The document, called The Identity of the Catholic School For a Culture of Dialogue, reaffirms the principle that institutions need the approval of a local bishop to call themselves Catholic.

“It is the right and duty of the diocesan … Bishop to watch over all Catholic schools in his diocese … including those” not founded or run by the diocese, the document says. (Italics are in the original.)

The document also says the bishop “can intervene whenever he considers it appropriate, and he must do so whenever the Catholic identity of a school situated in his diocese … is seriously affected.”

The document also says that “the educational action pursued by the Church through schools cannot be reduced to mere philanthropic work aimed at responding to a social need, but represents an essential part of her identity and mission.”

The dispute may be resolved when the Vatican rules on a pending case in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the archbishop announced in June 2019 that a Jesuit-run high school could no longer call itself Catholic because it refuses to fire a teacher who is in a same-sex civil marriage. The school appealed. In September 2019, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education suspended the bishop’s decree; the congregation has not ruled on the case yet.

Bishop McManus has drawn heavy criticism over the flag flap in Worcester, including from Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham, who broke the news of the flag dispute on April 2. Abraham has called McManus a “throwback with a miter cap and staff.”

In a column published Wednesday, June 15, Abraham wrote:  “McManus deems the flags scandalous, but the real scandal here is the fact that this single man — out of touch, and clinging to an archaic version of a church from which legions have fallen away — has targeted a school that lives out the very essence of the values on which he claims to be the authority.”

The bishop drew praise from the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, which called his decision to withdraw the Catholic affiliation of the school “an act of courage, integrity and fidelity, in defense of Christian morality against an attempt by culturally conforming Catholics to impose secular ideology on a nominally Catholic institution.”

“The bad faith of Nativity School is now manifest for all to see,” said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, in a written statement Thursday, June 16. “The school’s response to a lawful and reasonable instruction by their bishop was to seek out an ex-Catholic at a newspaper with a forty-year history of Catholic bashing to have McManus demeaned, insulted and castigated in print.”