Jun 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

School banned from holding Catholic mass after flying BLM, LGBTQ Pride flags

Robert J. McManus, bishop of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., delivers the benediction during commencement exercises at Worcester's Assumption College in 2013. Photo: Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A Worcester bishop banned a school from identifying as Catholic and holding Mass or sacraments on campus after refusing to take down Pride and Black Lives Matter flags at his request.

Driving the news: Bishop Robert McManus issued the decree on Thursday, saying the decision to fly the flags at the Nativity School in Worcester, Massachusetts, was "inconsistent with Catholic teaching."

  • McManus said the Pride flag is inconsistent with Catholic teaching because it "represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle," while the BLM movement "contradicts Catholic social teaching on the importance and role of the nuclear family."
  • "It is my sacred duty and inherent responsibility to determine when a school claiming to be 'Catholic' is acting in such a way that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church," McManus said.
  • The school also cannot sponsor any Mass or sacraments at churches with the Diocese of Worcester and is prevented from holding any fundraiser connected with other institutions within the diocese, McManus' decree said.

Background: The Nativity School began flying the Pride and BLM flags in January 2021 after students called for the school to "express support for making our communities more just and inclusive," Nativity School president Thomas McKenney said in a statement.

  • "These flags simply state that all are welcome at Nativity and this value of inclusion is rooted in Catholic teaching," McKenney added.
  • McManus initially requested that the school remove the flags in March 2022.
  • Following the bishop's decision to revoke the school's Catholic status on Thursday, McKenney said Nativity will continue to display the flags "to give visible witness to the school’s solidarity with our students, families, and their communities."
  • He added: "Commitment to our mission, grounded and animated by Gospel values, Catholic Social Teaching, and our Jesuit heritage compels us to do so."
  • McKenney's statement also pointed to Pope Francis praising "the outreach and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people" in the Catholic faith.
  • Pope Francis is widely seen as a progressive, in no small part due to his support of same-sex civil unions. In June 2020, following the death of George Floyd, the Pope urged Catholics not to tolerate "the sin of racism" amid worldwide protests for the Black Lives Matter movement.

What's next: The Nativity School plans to appeal the decision, McKenney said.

Go deeper