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WORCESTER, Masschusetts (LifeSiteNews) — Students, faculty, and alumni of the Jesuit College of the Holy Cross petitioned the administration to disinvite Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester from this year’s graduation ceremony due to his request that a local Jesuit middle school remove its gay pride and Black Lives Matter flags.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that a “small number” of student-led protesters, some not associated with Holy Cross, signed a petition stating, “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.”

The petition called McManus’ request “ignorant and bigoted,” and “antithetical to the ideals, values, and mission” of the college.

Nativity School of Worcester was launched at the initiative of senior administration of the College of the Holy Cross, and claims a Roman Catholic-Jesuit affiliation.

McManus had planned on not attending the college’s graduation ceremony even before the petition was issued, according to Ray Delisle, a spokesman for the Diocese of Worcester. In fact, McManus had not attended commencement at Holy Cross at least from 2018 to 2021.

C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, sharply rebuked the petition, telling CNA, “The audacity is astonishing.”

“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.

According to Doyle, the petition “opens a whole new dimension in the concept of chutzpah.”

“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.

Asked if they agree with the student-led petition critical of McManus, the administration was evasive, stating, “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.”

McManus asked the all-boys middle school to stop flying gay pride and Black Lives Matter flags after he learned about them in March. The school’s president, Tom McKenney, has refused to remove the flags, instead issuing a statement defending the flags’ school presence, which he said served 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.”

Nativity is not a diocesan school but is sponsored by the USA East Province of Jesuits.

Delisle told CNA last week that Nativity could lose its Catholic designation if it continues to fly the “gay pride” and “Black Lives Matter” flags.

In an April 3 statement, McManus explained the importance of the school’s renunciation of the flags.

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.”

He added, “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.”

“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.”

“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?”