A controversy in the Diocese of Worcester over a Catholic school’s decision to fly Pride and Black Lives Matter flags continues to escalate, as it appears protests have led to the bishop stepping back from obtaining the degree at the local Catholic college.
Collages 2.0 previously reported on the order of Bishop Robert McManus that the School of the Nativity remove the flags or risk losing its Catholic affiliation. The school, run by the Jesuits, has so far refused to do so. And he found new support in the local community.
First, students, faculty and alumni at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester protested McManus’ potential participation in the school’s commencement drills in May. The bishop’s detractors launched a petition asking that he be disinvited from the start due to his attack on the School of the Nativity. The signers wrote that the Bishop’s actions “demonstrate ignorant and bigoted sentiments that do not align with the long-standing values that guide our community.
MassLive later reported that Holy Cross President Vincent Rougeau had confirmed that McManus would not be at the graduation, although no reason was given. The bishop has not attended any Holy Cross graduations in the past four years.
Elsewhere, Massachusetts lawyers and politicians, including a gay Nativity School alum, condemned McManus for his claims. This elder, Guillermo Creamer, Jr., who now sits on the Worcester Human Rights Commission, spoke with the National Catholic Journalist:
“[Creamer said:] ‘It just begs the question, ‘Why now?’ Why would such a threat be placed on an institution that does no harm and has only been beneficial to the community as a whole? » . . .
“‘I think Nativity does a really good job of making sure that all of their students, regardless of where they come from or what their family makeup is, feel represented,'” he said. , we are taught to be men who will serve all individuals, and that includes members of the LGBTQ community and the black community.”
Worcester City Councilman Sean Rose highlighted the city’s real concerns that pale over the flag issue:
“’The city currently has a significant homelessness problem that we are trying to tackle. . .We have food insecurity issues that we are addressing. We have seen people lose their homes due to the lifting of the moratorium on foreclosures. We have addiction issues. We have all of these things happening around us in real time so going after a school of mostly brown and black students saying they can’t raise a flag that supports the Black Lives Matter movement or support gay pride, it’s really really sad.'”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said NCR that McManus’ actions “should force us to consider that there is a group of culture warrior bishops within the ranks of the American hierarchy.” She added, “In my mind, they are really amplifying a white Christian nationalist agenda.”
Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, said during her visit to the city that she was “really troubled” by McManus’ comments. She commented MassLive:
“We must do all we can as a state to uphold people’s civil rights and recognize, value and respect the dignity of all human beings, including our young people from the LGBTQ community who are really going through a difficult time in this moment. . And I’m speaking as a Catholic and I’m saying this, and you know I’m speaking as a member of the LGBTQ community and someone, I think important, who has done a lot of work to advance and defend protections and rights here in the state.
Finally, a Progressive Pride flag now flies outside Worcester City Hall at the request of the city’s Human Rights Commission. And, while not directly referencing McManus, Worcester State University has announced that it will also begin displaying a Pride flag on its campus, reported MassLive.
Bishop McManus’ request to remove symbols that encourage and affirm LGBTQ students and students of color was misguided and harmful. But from his mistake emerges the hope that comes when so many in the Worcester community, Catholics and non-Catholics, stood up for the cause of equality and justice for all.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, April 23, 2022