Sydney Archdiocese Complains About Police Social Media Post Featuring Drag Performers

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

2 replies
  1. Richard Rosendall
    Richard Rosendall says:

    Several years ago, I started encountering members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence here in Washington, DC. In every case, I have found them to be serious about what they do. I address them as “Sister,” and we get along fine.

    Life in a diverse society requires learning to accept many things that one does not understand. Fewer things are more obnoxious than reflexively condemning or criticizing things, or even denying their reality, based on one’s personal lack of understanding. One can recognize that a thing is true without understanding why it is true. We tacitly recognizes this when we use cars and computers without being automobile mechanics and computer technicians.

    Aside from that, one of the most obnoxious things in public life is when Catholic Church officials pose as victims. Considering the Church’s own long history of crimes and sins (including the Crusades, the Inquisition, opposing condoms, opposing civil marriage equality, opposing repeal of sodomy laws, facilitating and covering up priestly sexual abuse of children, and firing gay school employees, to name several that come to mind), simple decency should cause Church officials to suppress any urge to claim they are persecuted.

    Emma Goldman wrote in her 1931 autobiography, “I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it.”

    I do not agree with anarchism any more than I like cloisters (other than the museum in upper Manhattan), but I take Goldman’s point.

    More generally, those who want their own vocations and choices to be respected should respect those of others. This is hard for many men in the Church because of its authoritarian leanings and history. More specifically, if they care so much about nuns, they should check their own bossiness and intolerance toward them. Sexism in the Church is nowhere more evident than in its leaders’ persecution of women’s religious. One of the sad ironies of contemporary life is that women who have ministered so well and so devotedly to others should be so put upon by the Church hierarchy. The mistreatment is often in response to expressions of conscience that do not echo the Vatican’s line. The men of the Church are all too eager to tell you what your true conscience dictates. Well I’m sorry, but God in Her wisdom gave each of us a human brain, and the churchmen’s control issues do not change that. If one wants respect, one must give it. Let them try practicing the humility of Christ.

    Reply

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