If you’re a right-wing Catholic in the United States who professes to follow the way of Christ, what should you do in these troubled days?
Should you go down to the U.S.-Mexico border to help asylum seekers waiting to come in — the latest in the waves of Catholic immigrants that have replenished church pews in this country since the days of Lord Baltimore?
Should you visit homeless people and offer them food, clothing and shelter to fulfill the passage in the Gospel of Matthew that heaven will come to those who provide such care to the stranger?
Should you give solace to the meek, alms to the poor, comfort the shunned people Jesus surrounded himself with and advocated for again and again?
Or should you just hate?
As a progressive-minded Catholic who reads and hears the other side to challenge my own views, I’ve shaken my head in sadness as those on the right have largely chosen the latter.
Always a spiteful bunch against my kind and anything that deviates from what they consider “traditional,” conservative Catholics have thrown fit after fit since Pope Francis became head of the Church a decade ago. They’ve derided him as an apostate, helped put Donald Trump in the White House and created a shadow faith complete with their own schools, conferences, media and leaders far from the reaches of the Vatican. Modernity and tolerance, not poverty and prejudice, are the enemies in this nostalgia-loving world.
They don’t care that church attendance continues to decline or that there’s a Catholic in the White House in Joe Biden. They believe that to survive in a godless America, Catholicism must be a grim, humorless orthodoxy, exemplified by the five conservative Catholics who make up the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.
That explains the furor in those circles when word leaked that the Los Angeles Dodgers planned to honor the local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a Community Hero award on Pride Night, scheduled for June 16.
The Sisters, who are mostly men, dress as nuns, give themselves bawdy names and are dedicated to “the promulgation of universal joy and the expiation of stigmatic guilt,” according to their website, while spreading a message of acceptance and charity.
Catholic killjoys immediately demanded that the Blue Crew rescind their plans.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida hasn’t bothered to denounce his state’s new anti-immigrant bill. But he did take the time to write to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, accusing the sisters of performing “diabolical parodies of our faith” — just because they do drag shows.
CatholicVote President Brian Burch — who has previously blamed the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attacks on the “pent-up frustrations of citizens” caused by pandemic shutdowns, antifa and “election irregularities” — said that for the Dodgers to bring the Sisters “into the mainstream and honor them is reprehensible.”
Then there was Catholic League President William Donohue, who has made a career of writing whiny press releases assailing liberalism, and earning a cool $1 million for it in 2020, the last year for which there are publicly available tax filings. He wrote that the Dodgers “have broken bread with the most despicable elements in American society today” — a rant shared on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Twitter feed.
Despite the fact that the average Catholic fan cares more about the astronomical cost of beer at games than who’s honored by the team, the Dodgers succumbed to the complaints of the professional Catholics. A press release stated that they did not want “to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night,” and thus wouldn’t honor the Sisters after all.
But after a backlash to that backlash — the American Civil Liberties Union and L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said they wouldn’t participate in the event unless the Sisters were a part of it, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center urged the Dodgers to cancel Pride Night altogether — my colleague Steve Henson reported that the Dodgers “were discussing a compromise” in order to save face.
Here’s an idea, Dodgers president Stan Kasten: invite the people who actually follow the tenets of Catholicism.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence originated in San Francisco in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Their dress was intended to mock the religious zealots who condemned them to hell, even as they tended to AIDS patients when few others would and raised money for refugees and the city’s poor. That legacy of giving is something the L.A. Sisters chapter continues. In the past year alone, they’ve done fundraisers for animal rescue barns, clothing drives, children’s story times and Long Beach’s St. Mary’s Medical Center and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
What would Jesus do? What the Sisters do.
Sure, their performances can be out there — but that’s what drag is, and they play to the crowd in front of them, whether it’s adults or kids. Besides, laughing at how nuns dress or satirizing Catholic rituals is a time-honored tradition in American humor — just ask anyone who has attended a parochial school. Gosh, the Bill Donohues of the world better not see reruns of Sally Field in “The Flying Nun” or Molly Shannon’s old Catholic schoolgirl skits on “Saturday Night Live”!
That right-wing Catholic activists would target an organization like the Sisters shows how un-Catholic they ultimately are. If these self-described warriors for Holy Mother Church want to defend the faith, they should start by attacking the American bishops and cardinals who covered up for pedophile priests for decades and are still fighting sex abuse survivors who want justice — but that would take an actual backbone.
Instead, they’ve become some of the shrillest Pharisees in the right’s culture war, especially against anything that resembles embracing LGBTQ+ folks. Donohue’s press release criticizing the Dodgers, for instance, dismissed the Sisters as “homosexual bigots,” while CatholicVote tweeted that Pride Night should end at every major league ballpark.
In this sense, the Dodgers’ decision to side with them continues the team’s own sordid anti-LGBTQ+ legacy, which includes trading away Glenn Burke, the first major league player to come out as gay, because of his sexual orientation, and the longtime denials by Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda that his son was gay and had died from AIDS complications.
To the Dodgers and homophobic Catholic loudmouths, I’ll paraphrase another passage in the Gospel of Matthew that y’all should meditate on: Why worry about the supposed speck in the eyes of the Sisters when you have a stick the size of a baseball bat in yours?
This story originally appeared on LA Times