Jesuit school in Worcester loses Catholic affiliation after flying BLM and Pride flags

WORCESTER, Mass. — After a nearly 4 month long standoff with the Diocese of Worcester, the Nativity School has been told they can no longer identify as Catholic due to its continuous flying of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Pride flags.

Since January of 2021, the Jesuit school has flown both flags unbeknownst to the Diocese. The president of the religious school, Thomas McKenney, claims the flags were flown “to express support for making our communities more just and inclusive.” He points to the majority of the student body being persons of color as a contributing factor for putting the flags up, saying, they “simply state that all are welcome at Nativity.”

The Nativity School serves grades 5 through 8 and is the only tuition-free Catholic school in the Diocese of Worcester. The students are all boys from low income households. The school does not receive any funding from the Diocese.

In March of 2022, the Catholic Bishop of Worcester learned about the flags and told Nativity to remove them or lose the right to brand itself as a Catholic School.

In an open letter written in May, Bishop Robert McManus said, “these symbols (flags) embody specific agendas or ideologies (that) contradict Catholic social and moral teaching. It is my contention that the ‘Gay Pride’ flag represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle.”

Both the school and the Diocese have gone back and forth over the divisive issue since then, ultimately leading to an announcement on June 10 that the school is barred from identifying as a Catholic one.

“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,” Bishop McManus said. “Despite my insistence that the school administration remove these flags because of the confusion and the properly theological scandal that they do and can promote, they refuse to do so. This leaves me no other option but to take canonical action.”

The Bishop also announced the school can no longer fundraise in any institutions involving the Diocese of Worcester.

The Nativity School says they will appeal the decision of the Diocese and will continue to fly both the Pride and BLM flags in the meantime.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming support we have received from long-time and many new partners, the Worcester community and beyond and the Jesuit community,” President McKenney wrote. “Nativity is stronger than ever because of the understanding and support of its amazing community members, benefactors and – most of all – students and their families.”

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