Recent articles about Bishop Robert McManus ordering Nativity School to take down its Black
Lives Matter (BLM) and gay pride flags have caused quite a stir in our community. Bishop
McManus suggests that flying these flags at a Catholic institution may promote an image of
inconsistency with Catholic teaching and Catholic identity. But it’s just as likely that these flags
remind people of core Catholic values which recognize each person as created in the image and
likeness of God with an inherent human dignity that is to be respected and protected.
When I see Nativity’s BLM flag, I’m reminded of Catholic leaders who have endorsed the BLM
movement and joined with it here in Worcester and across the nation. I think of leaders like
Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, TX, who knelt at a BLM vigil holding a “Black Lives Matter”
sign. I think of Sister Josita Colbert, SNDdeN, president of the National Black Sisters
Conference, who stated in a letter to an archbishop, “Black Lives is a racial justice movement…a
gospel movement…. It is a movement very much in the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.”
When I see the gay pride flag flying, I think of Catholic leaders who affirm members of the
LGBTQ+ community as made in the image and likeness of God. I think of the nine bishops who
issued a Jan. 2021 statement saying “We… say to our LGBT friends, especially young people,
that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you.
Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.” I think of Sr.
Jeanine Gramick, SL, who has worked tirelessly for 50 years to promote the acceptance of gay
and lesbian people as full and equal members of religious, civil, and social groups, and who
recently received a commendation from Pope Francis for her work.
These leaders remind that I am part of a national Catholic Church that includes many voices
raised in support of BLM and gay pride.
According to a 2020 Pew Research survey, 77 percent of Black Catholics believe that
opposing racism is essential to their faith. A 2019 Public Religion Research Institute survey
found that 72% of Hispanic Catholics, 71% of white Catholics and 68% of other non-white
Catholics support laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
I have a longstanding affiliation with Pax Christi USA (PCUSA), a 50-year old national Catholic
peace and justice organization of lay women and men, women religious, priests, deacons,
brothers, bishops and Catholics of all stripes whose president has always been a bishop. Rooted
in gospel nonviolence, PCUSA rejects every form of violence and domination, including
personal and systemic racism, and represents the voices of thousands of Catholics. Its website
includes these statements of principle:
“As a community of conscience, we assert that Black lives matter and that the violence inherent
in systemic racism is an affront to the God who creates, redeems, and sanctifies all, and calls us
together as one family.
As a community of conscience, we affirm the right of LGBTQ people to equality, which includes
.. a cultural and religious transformation to celebrate every person’s sexual orientation and
gender identity as being made imago Dei.”
These principles, written before the 2020 national elections, affirm the importance of Catholics
standing in solidarity with two disenfranchised groups seeking to have their human dignity and
civil rights respected.
Now is not the time for Catholic schools and institutions to take down their Black Lives Matter
and gay pride flags. Now is the time for all of us who identify as Catholic to hoist these flags
high with hope. Now is the time for Catholics throughout the Commonwealth to stand with our
Black, Brown and LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers to let them know their lives matter deeply to us
and so does their liberation. Now is the time to open wide the doors of our churches and our
hearts and warmly say, “Welcome home.”
Nancy Small, a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, lives in Worcester, MA.