WORCESTER - Nativity School of Worcester is standing by its students despite a public statement by the Bishop of Worcester, Rev. Robert McManus, that appears to call into question the school’s standing as Catholic.
For over a year, Nativity School, at 67 Lincoln Street in Worcester, has flown a gay pride and Black Lives Matter flag at the request of its students. The Jesuit middle school has a capacity of 66, and provides tuition-free education to a highly diverse group of underserved boys of many faiths, races and cultures.
McManus has demanded the school remove the flags.
In a statement issued by the Worcester Diocese on Sunday, April 3, McManus, said, "gay pride flags are often used to stand in contrast to consistent Catholic teaching." He also said, "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."
McManus also appeared to question Nativity School's standing with the church. In his statement, he asked: "Is the school committing itself to ideologies which are contrary to Catholic teaching? If so, is it still a Catholic school?"
The Nativity School of Worcester released a statement to ThisWeekinWorcester.com that said the school proudly operates in the Diocese of Worcester, but is not a Diocesan school. The school's sponsorship comes from the USA East Province of Jesuits, and its funding solely from donors.
The school's statement also says:
"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."
Thomas McKenney, president of the Nativity School of Worcester, was appointed by its trustees in May 2021. He was previously executive director at Holy Cross Family Ministries Foundation in North Easton. he also co-founded the Rural Education Resource Development Initiative, which provides underserved children scholarships to Catholic schools in India. He graduated from Stonehill College and has a master's degree in education from Harvard University.
Sunday is not the first time McManus criticized Jesuit institutions inclusive of the LBGT community, or the first time he appeared to question the standing of an institution with the church.
In 2019, the 15th annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics and Spirituality Conference was held at the College of the Holy Cross. McManus spoke on the topic of “Transgenderism," saying that a person who "...in order to be more fully conformed to that inner identity, to have his hand surgically removed, so they could have a hook installed in its place, this would surely indicate a serious mental condition on his part."
He also said transgenderism is rooted in unsupported science.
There is a large body of scientific study on gender identity dysphoria and gender identity disorder. A Cornell University review found 55 studies published in English between 1991 and 2017 that consist of primary research on the effect of gender transition on transgender well-being. Of those, the review found "51 (93%) found that gender transition improves the overall well-being of transgender people, while 4 (7%) report mixed or null findings." The review found no studies concluding that gender transition causes overall harm.
While McManus never mentioned Holy Cross by name in his 2019 statement, the college received funding for the Digital Transgender Archive, launched by English Professor K.J. Rawson. Rawson is now a professor at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University.
McManus' statement on Sunday also contradicts the views of other Christians, both Catholic and Protestant
Pope Francis called Catholic Bishops photographed holding Black Lives Matter signs in June 2020, after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd. The Pope also hosted meetings on social justice at the Vatican. He has also widely departed from his predecessors in the church's perspective on individuals within LGBT communities, including support for same sex civil unions.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a series of essays reflecting on the Movement for Black Lives.
After McManus' comments at Holy Cross in 2019, the Rev. David H. Woessner of St. Michaels-on-the-Heights Episcopal Church in Worcester responded in a letter joined by 23 religious leaders across the Worcester area.
Pope Francis has shown confidence in McManus in the past. The Pope appointed McManus as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Springfield, in addition to his duties in Worcester, in August 2020. The Springfield had been without a bishop since June 2020 when Bishop Mitchell Rozanski was named archbishop of St. Louis. Bishop William Byrne was appointed as leader of the Springfield diocese in October 2020.