WORCESTER — Is Pope Francis going to overturn Bishop Robert McManus’ decision to remove the Nativity School’s Catholic affiliation?
After all, Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope in history and Jesuits are a notably liberal order of the church. That, and Pope Francis has called for greater inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the Catholic faith.
However, last Thursday, Bishop McManus decided to remove the Catholic affiliation from the Nativity School because the school has been flying Pride and Black Lives Matter flags since January 2021.
“The flying of these flags in front of a Catholic school sends a mixed, confusing and scandalous message to the public about the Church’s stance on these important moral and social issues,” wrote Bishop McManus in a June 16 decree announcing his decision.
McManus added that the ideology of the LGBTQ+ community goes against the “moral teachings of the Catholic church.”
“I publicly stated in an open letter dated, May 4, 2022, that ‘these symbols (flags) embody specific agendas or ideologies (that) contradict Catholic social and moral teaching,’” wrote Bishop McManus in his decree. “It is my contention that the ‘Gay Pride’ flag represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle.”
In addition, Bishop McManus’ opposition to flying the Black Lives Matter flag outside the primarily Black middle school, is rooted in the organization’s endorsement of the LGBTQ+ community.
McManus wrote in his decree that the Black Lives Matter movement “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.”
Though the Nativity School’s governance and operations are fully independent of the Diocese and the school receives no funding from it as well, Bishop McManus cited canonical law to strip the Catholic affiliation from the school, using canon 803, §§ 1-3, which states that even if a Catholic School is operated by a “lay group,” the school cannot be deemed “Catholic” within the Diocese if their mission goes against the Church’s mission.
“According to canon 803, §§ 1-3, of the Code of Canon Law, the Diocesan Bishop must maintain vigilance over Catholic Schools within his Diocese, even those operated by lay groups who seek the use of the title ‘Catholic’ for their schools. Such usage requires ecclesiastical approbation (canon 803, §3),” wrote Bishop McManus in his decree.
Adding, “An ‘Instruction’ recently published by the Holy See through the Dicastery for Catholic Education, entitled ‘The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue,’ stated that ‘Catholic schools are a part of the Church’s mission (par. 21) and have the great responsibility to bear witness through an education project clearly inspired by the Gospel (par. 28). Catholic schools are ecclesial entities. As such they participate in the evangelizing mission of the Church and represent the privileged environment in which the Church’s education is carried out (par. 30).”
The questions that remain are: (1) Does Pope Francis see the Diocese of Worcester’s mission as a Catholic mission? And (2) Is Worcester consequential enough for Pope Francis to directly address the issue?