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California Catholic Conference in ‘Sorrow and Disbelief’ as State Senate Honors Anti-Catholic Drag Group

The sunsets over Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles May 16, 2023. The Dodgers said in a May 15 statement it was canceling a planned tribute to the California-based Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group criticized by many as anti-Catholic. The team was going to honor the group for its community service among several organizations being recognized during the Dodgers annual Pride Night in June. (OSV News photo)

WASHINGTON — Catholics and other faith groups held a prayer vigil on the steps of California’s state Capitol in Sacramento June 5 while state senators honored a member of the anti-Catholic drag group the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. 

The LGBTQ+ activist group that dresses as nuns has been in the public eye amid controversy over the Los Angeles Dodgers’ plans to honor them during their Pride Night game June 16. 

“We are in sorrow and disbelief that California legislators paid tribute to a prominent member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group that openly commits acts of hate, misogyny, and discrimination against Catholics, our women’s religious orders, and against Christianity,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement. 

It added that “encouraging the ridicule of our faith — and, in a particular way, mocking religious sisters who sacrifice their lives as brides of Christ — is unacceptable.” 

The conference invited Catholics to join them at the state Capitol for an event it said would not be “political or confrontational but meant to be peaceful, hopeful, and honoring of the incredible work that religious sisters have done for so many years in California as a witness to the beauty of our faith. 

“Please bring rosaries, and leave protest signs at home,” said the statement from the public policy arm of the state’s bishops. 

It noted that “California is usually eager to condemn acts of hate, but today they chose to elevate them. Lawmakers praised a member of a group that actively disrupts our Masses, events and even steals our sacred Eucharist.” It also said the drag group “holds events that ridicule our sacraments with names so crass we will spare repeating them.” 

The conference said Catholic women religious who regularly do such good work, particularly for those in need, “should be recognized for their selflessness, not ridiculed and denigrated.”

It also pointed out that the Sisters of Mercy previously owned the land where the annexed portion of the Capitol building sits and a statue on the Capitol grounds recognizes their contribution.

“And today, the state chose to support the desecration of their selfless acts and those who follow in their legacy,” the California Catholic Conference said.

Republican lawmakers also opposed the Senate’s honor for the drag activist who goes by the name Sister Roma as part of the Senate’s annual Pride Month ceremony. 

“The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, through their public disparagement of the Catholic faith, have displayed a disregard for the principles of tolerance and understanding that should guide our society. Honoring them in the Senate chambers would be inappropriate and contrary to the values we hold dear,” GOP state senators wrote in a June 1 letter to Senate leader Toni Atkins, a Democrat.

They added that honoring the activist “sends a troubling message to Californians of all faiths.

“There are an estimated 10 million California residents who identify as Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center,” the letter said. “Were this group to denigrate any other faith, we are certain the Senate would not extend this invitation. Hate speech directed towards individuals practicing any faith should not be tolerated.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that Roma was welcomed with a standing ovation in both the Assembly and Senate, while some Republicans walked off in protest.

It also reported that during the ceremony, Democrat Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman applauded the “remarkable gains” the LGBTQ+ community has made over the decades, but also said efforts around the country attempt to make them “a political punching bag.

“I happen to be a very proud Catholic,” she added. “And while I love my Church, my Church doesn’t always love all parts of me. But that’s OK, because I don’t always love all parts of my Church either.”

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which describes itself as a “leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns” was invited, then uninvited, and then re-invited by the Dodgers to be honored at the team’s June 16 game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

The initial invite caused backlash from Catholic groups and politicians, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that led the Dodgers to cancel the group’s invitation on May 17, saying at the time that their inclusion of the group “has been the source of some controversy.” 

But after local politicians, civil rights organizations, and LGBTQ+ groups raised an uproar over that decision, the Dodgers apologized and re-invited the group less than a week later. 

In response to the team’s re-invitation of the group, CatholicVote President Brian Burch vowed to launch a “barrage” of advertising against the team across Los Angeles and during the game broadcasts. 

“This is a slap in the face of every Catholic,” said Burch. “We’re raising $1 million as fast as we can, and we will pummel this decision in advertising that the Dodgers can’t ignore.” 

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the decision to re-invite the group and honor them along with other organizations, “makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious.” 

It also said  the team’s decision to “honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith,” and women religious in particular, “has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community.”