Students, staff, and alumni at the College of the Holy Cross are petitioning the administration to disinvite Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester from attending this year’s graduation ceremony because they say his request of a local Catholic school to cease flying gay pride and Black Lives Matter flags are “antithetical to the ideals, values, and mission” of the college; despite the Bishop has already announced he will not be attending it.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Worcester, Ray Delisle, told CNA that Bishop McManus had already communicated to the Jesuit College president, Vincent Rougeau, that he would not be attending commencement this year.
Bishop McManus turned down invitations to attend commencement at Holy Cross in both 2018 and 2019 according to the Telegram & Gazette. McManus didn’t attend in 2020 or 2021 either.
The petition, signed by a small number of protesters, including some not associated with the Jesuit college, claims that “In contrast to our values, the Bishop has insisted that Nativity School remove Black Lives Matter and Pride flags from their campus or face the consequence of losing the school’s Catholic identity;" and called the Bishop’s call to coherence with the Catholic faith "ignorant and bigoted."
The petition came after Bishop McManus requested Nativity School, a Jesuit middle school institutionally related to Holy Cross to stop flying a gay pride and a Black Lives Matter flags next to the US flag.
When asked if the college agrees with the student-led petition to disinvite McManus from graduation, Holy Cross issued a defiant statement saying that: “Bishop McManus has communicated to President Rougeau that he will not be attending commencement. More importantly, the president wants to emphasize that the Nativity School and its students remain central to this story.”
“Our two institutions’ histories are enduringly linked, and we are both proud to serve the people, city and diocese of Worcester. As Jesuit, Catholic institutions, we also share similar values – a founding commitment to the needs and dignity of the less fortunate; and a belief in the worth of each person made in the image and likeness of God."
The Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, C.J. Doyle, told CNA that the petition “opens a whole new dimension in the concept of chutzpah.”
“Persons holding leadership positions in a Catholic institution — while openly opposing Catholic beliefs — actually believe themselves entitled to publicly rebuke the local bishop for affirming what Catholics have always believed,” he said. “The audacity is astonishing."
"This petition makes clear that large numbers of those who work, teach or study at Holy Cross are post-Christian, bourgeois cultural conformists, subservient to elite secular opinion, who believe that Catholicism must be marginalized in a nominally Catholic institution," he added.
Nativity School of Worcester, a Jesuit-run middle school with 61 boys in attendance, has been flying gay pride and Black Lives Matter flags underneath the American flag for over a year.
When McManus, the local ordinary, learned about them in March, he asked the school to stop flying them, which they refused.
Delisle told CNA last week that Nativity could lose its Catholic designation if it ignores the bishop’s call to cease flying the flags.
In an April 3 statement, McManus expressed concerns that the flags could lead to confusion about the Catholic Church’s teaching on civil authority and gay marriage.
While noting that “symbols can mean different things to different people,” McManus said that “as the Bishop of this 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.”
“While our role in a school is not to convert those who are not Catholic, nor is it our role to deny our Catholic identity,” he added.
“While the Catholic Church joins with our nation in teaching that all lives are equal before God and the law and that all lives demand our respect regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, the flag with the emblem Black Lives Matter has at times been co-opted by some factions which also instill broad-brush distrust of police and those entrusted with enforcing our laws.
“We do not teach that in our schools,” McManus said.
“And, while we teach that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, gay pride flags are often used to stand in contrast to consistent Catholic teaching that sacramental marriage is between a man and a woman,” the bishop continued.
“Is the school committing itself to ideologies which are contrary to Catholic teaching? If so, is it still a Catholic school?”