The drag artists known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who parody nun attire, recently sparked Catholic officials’ outrage in Sydney, Australia.
The drag performers were spotted at the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Fair Day. According to Daily Mail Australia, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence “have been a fixture of Mardi Gras events for 41 years.”
The group describes itself as “an order of gay male nuns dedicated to the promulgation of universal joy and the expiation of stigmatic guilt.”
Joy, however, was not the reaction of the Archdiocese of Sydney when church officials spotted a photo on social media of police officers posing alongside the Sisters. An archdiocesan spokesperson commented:
“‘It’s sad to see an event created more than forty years ago to promote equality and end discrimination now evolve into something that celebrates and promotes the mockery of others.'”
The spokesperson said that there was a discrepancy between the respect that LGBTQ people should be afforded, according to Catholic teaching, and the disrespect that the Archdiocese felt was shown by the police department’s Instagram post.
“Our Church, as articulated by Pope Francis, believes that gay and lesbian people should never be marginalised, but respected and welcomed at all times,” the statement said. “It is upsetting that as Catholics we are not afforded the same respect.”
The police department later deleted the post.
The police have long supported the annual Mardi Gras Pride parade. A representative of the police force told the Australian news outlet Star Observer that the officers have made an “ongoing commitment” to support the LGBTQ community.
The Order of Perpetual Indulgence, for their part, responded to the clash a week later. A representative of the group told the Star Observer that the Mardi Gras event is a time “to be accepting of the many differences on display,” commenting that “just like everyone else, we have a right to be there.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence said that they were disappointed that the police removed the images from social media in response to the Archdiocese’s complaint.
“This is disappointing, as it seems prior to the complaint being lodged no one found it particularly offensive until they were told that it was by the Archdiocese,” the representative commented, adding, “Just like the Catholic Church we take our vocation very seriously.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence responded to the archdiocesan statement by critiquing the comment that gay and lesbian people are welcomed in Catholicism:
“‘We too have a message that is all about equality and the ending of discrimination – but for all, not just for some of the community, and that is in our ‘universal joy and no more stigmatic guilt’ tenets. . .While primarily targeted at the LGBTQI+ community who have suffered so much under the weight of a lack of joy, lack of acceptance and overwhelming dollops of (mostly religiously based) stigmatic guilt, our messaging is designed to include all should they wish to embrace it.'”
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, March 5, 2022