McKenney added: “It says to them that they, in fact, do matter and deserve to be respected as our Christian values teach us. That is the purpose of flying these flags.” McKenney noted in the statement that Nativity is not a diocesan school and is sponsored by the USA East Province of Jesuits. The province did not respond to CNA’s request for comment Monday.
In response to a later email inquiry, McKenney told CNA that the flags were flying at half-staff Monday in honor of Marine Captain Ross A. Reynolds, formerly of Leominster, Massachusetts, who was killed during a NATO training exercise on March 18.
The conflict with Nativity School is not the first time McManus has made headlines for his engagement with Catholic education in his diocese.
In February 2012, McManus asked Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, to rescind its invitation to Victoria Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, to be its commencement speaker, citing her public support for legalized abortion and gay marriage. The college complied with the bishop’s request.
More recently, in 2019, McManus drew criticism from two senior administrators at the College of Holy Cross for comments he made regarding transgenderism at a health care conference sponsored by the school. In response, McManus said that “if certain members of the Holy Cross community find this to be hurtful and offensive, then perhaps the college should present clearly what Catholicism teaches regarding Christian anthropology and human sexuality.”
The most recent reported case of a U.S. prelate making the decision to remove a school’s Catholic status occurred in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In 2019, Archbishop Charles Thompson announced that a local Jesuit high school, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, would no longer be recognized as a Catholic school, due to a disagreement about the employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.
In a June 2019 statement, Father Brian Paulson, S.J., head of the Jesuits' Midwest Province, said the province would appeal the decision, first through the archbishop "and, if necessary, [pursuing] hierarchical recourse to the Vatican." The province’s subsequent appeal to the Congregation for Catholic Education has not yet been resolved.
Canon law states that "no school, even if it is in fact Catholic, may bear the title 'Catholic school' except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority."