Massachusetts diocese under fire for controversial policy on LGBTQ students

In a controversial move, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts have been instructed to revise their student handbooks with updated policies regarding LGBTQ students.

The new regulations effectively bar students from engaging in same-sex relationships and activities inconsistent with their assigned birth sex.

Bishop Robert McManus (pictured) of Worcester issued a notification to local diocesan Catholic school leaders in late June. In it he unveiled the policy updates that seek to create a “consistent application” of the church’s stance on LGBTQ+ matters across all schools within the diocese.

The policy framework reflects McManus’ conviction that the Catholic Church does not have to conform to what he termed “confused notions of secular gender ideology.”

The preamble to the new policies asserted that struggles with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria do not alter the fundamental biological fact of an individual’s creation by God.

McManus said the new policies align with ideas expressed by Pope Francis who has spoken out against “gender ideology” but has also been seen as more lenient toward the LGBTQ students and community compared to previous Catholic church leaders.

 What does it say about our church

However David Palmieri, a longtime Catholic educator and contributing writer at Outreach, criticised the guidelines as distorting the words and ministry of Pope Francis.

“It is misleading and disingenuous to use [the pope’s] words in an effort that is so evidently inconsistent with the tenderness of his ‘field hospital’ ministry,” Palmieri wrote in an email. “What does it say about our church when people are actively hurt by our leaders who quote canon law but not Jesus Christ?”

The new section on sexual orientation deems students “may not advocate, celebrate or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities or events.”

Other updates to the manual include a section requiring students to practise chastity. Conversely, a new section on bullying and harassment says that no student may be ostracised for “perceived sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Schools reject new guidelines

Guillermo Creamer, a member of the Worcester Human Rights Commission and a 2023 mayoral candidate, said the new policies will hurt young gay people who look for support from adults, including religious schools, as he did.

“I was raised Catholic and many of my morals are rooted in true Catholic teachings,” Creamer said on Tuesday. “I self-identify as a proud gay man whose foundation comes from my Catholic faith. Bishop McManus has proved yet again that he is disconnected from the teachings of Catholicism and instead has embraced an outdated, hate-filled rhetoric.”

However, two single-sex diocesan schools, both run by religious orders, rejected the new guidelines on LGBTQ students. They informed the bishop last week that they would continue to follow earlier rules.

Brother Daniel Skala, general superior of the Xaverian Brothers, and Patricia Chappell who is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, wrote a joint letter to the bishop. In it they stated that the Worcester schools were acting “in a manner that respects the dignity of all persons.”

Bishop McManus ignited controversy last summer when he ruled that the Nativity School, an all-boys secondary school in the diocese, could no longer call itself Catholic after flying Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on campus. The school declined to remove the flags and filed an appeal with the Vatican.




CathNews New Zealand

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