WORCESTER, Mass. - The Diocese of Worcester has a new policy titled “Catholic Education and the Human Person” which will affect more than 20 Catholic schools in the diocese and an estimated 9,000 students.

Members of Love Your Labels, a local nonprofit which supports LGBTQ+ youth, say they are in discussions with other advocacy groups to devise a community response to the policy regarding sexuality and gender identity in diocesan schools.

In a statement, the diocese said, "...We must always respect the sacred dignity of each individual person... But that does not mean the church must accept the confused notions of secular gender ideology.”

What You Need To Know

  • The Diocese of Worcester has a new policy  for schools regarding sexuality and gender identity

  • Bishop Robert McManus approved the policy in June and sent it to all Catholic schools to incorporate into school handbooks beginning this fall

  • The Diocese of Worcester summarized the policy in a press release Tuesday

  • Members of Love Your Labels, a local nonprofit which supports LGBTQ+ youth, discussed thenew policy and its impact on Thursday

Board member Charles O’Donnell graduated from Holy Name Central Catholic High School, now Saint Paul’s Diocesan.

“As a former Catholic school student and a proud gay man, married now to a husband of five years, we've been together for 10," Charles O’Donnell said, "It's very disheartening to see what the Worcester Diocese continues to do to our youth, which schools should be a safe space.”

The new policy states students cannot advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction, something O’Donnell said he didn’t deal with in high school.

“You're deterring them from going to the Catholic Church," O’Donnell said, "You know, I implore all of my fellow Catholics, I still am a Catholic. I was a eucharistic minister in school. I was part of the faith leading group. And it's really not something that, you know, we stood for when I was there. And now to see that, you know, we're discriminating against these students and pushing them away from the Catholic Church, an already dying institution in our local area. It’s hard to see that.”

Under the policy, student genders must also be consistent with biological sex. This applies to official school documents like school records and diplomas.

If a student’s expression of gender, sexual orientation, or sexuality causes disruption, it could ultimately result in the student being dismissed from the school, after the parents are given the opportunity to withdraw.

“It's an ultimatum," O’Donnell said. "You either walk as your dead name, a person who you no longer are, or you have to leave. And unfortunately, there are some people that have already left the school before this policy even came out.”

“So unfortunately, this is something that we've been facing for many years, both in my advocacy as a queer person and through the work of love labels, but also in other capacities," Joshua Croke said. "With facing some of Bishop McManus’ harmful policy positions that are really harming our students.”

Joshua Croke is the president of Love Your Labels. It says policies like the one Bishop Robert McManus signed in June for Worcester are discriminatory. The policy states the bishop and schools reserve all their legal rights, defenses and remedies.

“We know that LGBTQ+ youth have a higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidality," Croke said. "Research has found that one affirming adult someone, one person saying, I love you, you matter in the life of an LGBTQ+ young person reduces their likelihood of suicide by 40%. So, what I'm saying to parishioners of Catholic institutions, what I'm saying to priests, what I'm saying to Bishop McManus is that we need to affirm and love our kids.

Love Your Labels encourages people who may be upset about the policy to talk to their local priest.