A Catholic middle school in Worcester, Massachusetts, is standing by its advocacy after church leaders in the region criticized it for flying flags representing LGBTQ+ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Nativity School of Worcester is a tuition-free all-boys school in the Jesuit network and serves mostly children of color. School officials said they fly the flags to show that all are welcome.
"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," the school said in a statement.
Worcester Bishop Robert McManus sees the flags differently. He said they stand in contrast to consistent Catholic teaching on marriage. He also said the Black Lives Matter flag has been coopted by certain factions to instill a distrust of police.
"Is the school committing itself to ideologies which are contrary to Catholic teaching? If so, is it still a Catholic school?" McManus questioned.
"As the Bishop of the 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," McManus said in a statement.
The executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts said he understands where the bishop is coming form and he thinks removing the flags is a reasonable request.
"We talk about tolerance and respect for diversity. Well, the Catholic community has the right to authentically Catholic schools, and Catholic parents have a right to an authentically Catholic education for their children," C.J. Doyle said.
The Catholic Action League identifies itself an organization with a mission of "defending the Catholic faith and the civil rights of Catholics." In the years leading up to LGBTQ+ groups finally being allowed to march in Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade, Doyle and the group routinely fought against their inclusion.
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Several parents outside the school Monday said they disagree and they hope the flags continue to fly.
"We all have different backgrounds. Let's just be kind to each other and let people be," Jamie Gbale said.
"I think the bishop is wrong. I think the flags stand for all of the kids in the school," Andrea Lusk said.
As of Monday night, the flags were still flying. The diocese said it is not commenting any further until discussions between the bishop and the school have concluded.