WORCESTER, Mass. — It’s been more than a year since the teachers and 61 middle school boys at the Nativity School of Worcester decided to put up Black Lives Matter and a gay pride flag.
However, last month, the Catholic bishop of Worcester learned about the flags and gave the school the ultimatum of removing them or losing the right to brand itself as a Catholic school. Some parents agree.
“Let’s just put aside everything that divides us because somebody is going to say Black Lives Matter, somebody’s going to say all lives matter, somebody’s going to say blue lives matter,” said parent Benjamin Maina. “Everyone is correct. In the end, when it’s all said and done we are one nation under God.”
“It shouldn’t be introduced at that level,” said another parent named Sam. “Those things must be introduced at higher education when the kids are over 18 and they can think through.”
“Symbols can mean different things to different people,” said Rev. Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester. “While the Catholic Church joins with our nation in teaching that all lives are equal before God and the law and that all lives demand our respect regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, the flag with the emblem Black Lives Matter has at times been coopted by some factions which also instill broad-brush distrust of police and those entrusted with enforcing our laws. We do not teach that in our schools. And, while we teach that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, gay pride flags are often used to stand in contrast to consistent Catholic teaching that sacramental marriage is between a man and a woman. Is the school committing itself to ideologies which are contrary to Catholic teaching? If so, is it still a Catholic school? As the Bishop of this diocese, I must teach that it is imperative that a Catholic School use imagery and symbols which are reflective of that school’s values and principles so as to be clear with young people who are being spiritually and morally formed for the future. While our role in a school is not to convert those who are not Catholic, nor is it our role to deny our Catholic identity.”
His office told us no other statements or public comments will be made until discussions between the Nativity School and Bishop McManus have concluded.
The issue so divisive, however, there are even disagreements within a household.
“This is a Catholic school so there’s no problem with being strict in the Bible and what it says,” said Maina. “I know it doesn’t sound politically correct but it doesn’t have to. It’s OK to protect our children that’s what I feel personally and I respect anyone who disagrees.”
One person who disagrees, his son Ethan Mwati.
“It really shows how the school is excepting of everyone so I would say yeah it should stay up,” said Mwati.
“Nativity School of Worcester is an accredited, independent, Jesuit middle school that provides a quality, tuition-free education to a highly diverse group of underserved boys of many faiths, races and cultures,” said school President Tom McKenney. “The school is supported solely through the generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations. We proudly operate in the Diocese of Worcester but are not a Diocesan school as we are sponsored by the USA East Province of Jesuits. Drawing upon four pillars – strength, scholarship, character, and service – a Nativity education inspires self-discovery, responsibility, spiritual growth, and a lifelong dedication to learning. The school employs well-tested educational practices in a highly supportive and safe environment that sets the stage for success in high school, college and life. The Black Lives Matter and Pride flags fly below the American flag at our school to remind our young men, their families and Nativity Worcester staff that all are welcome here and that they are valued and safe in this place. It says to them that they, in fact, do matter and deserve to be respected as our Christian values teach us. That is the purpose of flying these flags.”
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