Catholics Involved in Controversy Over L.A. Dodgers Honoring Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

A Major League Baseball team and an LGBTQ+ group have been at the center of a dispute prompted by right-wing Catholics. The dispute has led to a wider conversation about Catholic sisters and real inclusion.

The Los Angeles Dodgers initially were set to honor the local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s with a “Community Hero Award” during the team’s Pride Night game in June. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a charitable group known for drag depictions of Catholic sisters. The award prompted backlash from the right-wing Catholic League, then joined by Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who is Catholic, who framed it as an anti-Catholic action.

This backlash led to the Dodgers disinviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from Pride Night, saying in a statement reported by OutSports that withdrawing the invitation was due to “strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening.” That decision, in turn, led to significant pushback from LGBTQ+ groups and California politicians, among others, who said they would boycott the game and issued calls for Pride Night to be cancelled altogether.

A week later, the Dodgers reversed that decision and issued an apology to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, announcing the group would indeed participate in Pride Night. That apology came, according to the team, after “thoughtful feedback from our diverse communities, honest conversations within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and generous discussions with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.” According to the Los Angeles Blade, the discussions involved leaders of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and LA Pride, as well as city officials and state senators.

However, the controversy over the presence of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the Dodgers’ Pride Night continues. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles issued a statement condemning “the decision to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious,” referencing the need “to stand against bigotry and hate in any form.” The Diocese of Orange in its own statement referred to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as “anti-Catholic and anti-Christian” and engaging in “demeaning behavior.”

Alternatively, the controversy has prompted praise for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s charitable activity and political advocacy. Peter Hartlaub, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, detailed the group’s efforts in that city going back to 1980. He concludes:

“For 44 years, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have promulgated universal joy in our city, in good times and bad. They kept that joy going when they were denounced, and they held no grudges when the San Francisco mainstream was finally ready to embrace their message.

“That’s the lesson of the Sisters. Colorfully defy those who want to spread hate. Know that history is on your side. Confront your enemies with a smile. (Fabulous makeup optional.)”

Letters to the editor in the Los Angeles Times featured mixed reactions from Catholics. Sr. Jo’Ann De Quattro, a Sister of the Holy Names and Dodgers fan, said she was pleased the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence “are performing what we have traditionally called the corporal works of mercy.” Raul De Cardenas, a gay Catholic, however, called the group “very offensive,” writing, “Though I find their actions gross, in the interest of free speech I believe they have a right to exist — and I have the right to repudiate them.”

A most thoughtful reflection comes from Gail DeGeorge, editor of Global Sisters Report, writing in the National Catholic Reporter. She describes “outrage” at “another group that denigrates Catholic sisters,” though notes the homophobic rhetoric of the Catholic League, concluding, “There sadly seems to be plenty of bigotry on all sides.” Highlighting the tremendous good women religious do, DeGeorge writes:

“Catholic sisters are not clergy and so they are scarcely ‘representatives’ of the Catholic Church. Moreover, Catholic women religious do more to assist those in marginalized communities than many realize. They do so quietly, and without denigrating others in the process.

“I’ll assume that those who grossly parody real sisters have not read about the Sisters of Our Lady of Fatima of Pune who minister to the transgender community in India. Or of the dedication of Sr. Luisa Derouen, who began ministering among the transgender community in 1999 and, according to her author bio in Global Sisters Report, ‘has been a spiritual companion formally and informally to about 250 transgender people across the country.’

“They probably haven’t heard of the hundreds, no, thousands, of Catholic women religious who minister to those with HIV/AIDS in countries around the world. And they surely haven’t bothered to read the poignant, heartfelt columns written by sisters and the stories we’ve featured in our ‘Hope Amid Turmoil’ series about the courageous Catholic women religious who serve in war-torn countries and strive to create peace in a world obsessed with violence.”

DeGeorge invites the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to donate some of their fundraising to Catholic sisters doing LGBTQ+ ministry. And to the Dodgers, she states:

“Moreover, there are plenty of ministries that Catholic sisters have in the greater Los Angeles and southern California region that both the Dodgers and the members of the drag queen community could support. I eagerly await the day when real Catholic sisters will be honored by the Dodgers or other major league baseball teams for the good work they do.”

Lauren McKenna, a Catholic who once considered religious life, sets this controversy in a helpful, wider context:

“This whole situation feels petty when we consider the real dangers of our world: the climate crisis, systemic racism, white Christian nationalism, corporate greed and more.”

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, May 25, 2023

10 replies
  1. Ginny King
    Ginny King says:

    Being a Catholic sister, I support all groups who reach out to the poor, the elderly, the sick and suffering, victims of violence and war. My concern lies with people who oppress others who are different. And those who are acting out of personal greed and destroying our earth without looking at the consequences for future generations. People who are different than white European descendents have many gifts to share and are the future of our country. And the immigrants are the future of our work force. Because you don’t understand someone’s lifestyle, doesn’t give you the right to treat them as criminals or outsiders. Let’s cut the discriminatory behavior and give others the chance to live as God created them, human beings we are called to love as God loves. Many Blessings! Sr. Ginny King,OP

  2. Karen Doherty
    Karen Doherty says:

    I have mixed feelings about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. On one hand, if you look at them like “sacred clowns” they provide entertainment and a moral lesson. On the other, at parties and gatherings, I have often seen men dress up as nuns for fun. I thought that was very disrespectful. One time, at a Dignity gathering, I went over to a priest who was laughing at a guy dressed up as a nun and asked to borrow his stole. I told him I would use it to go around the room and hear confessions. He didn’t think it was fun or funny. So, what this said to me was female religious could be objects of mockery and taken less seriously than male priests.

  3. Thomas William Bower
    Thomas William Bower says:

    One of the hallmark characteristics of virtually every female Catholic religious I have known is that they have a great sense of humor just as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do, To borrow a phrase – Can you take a joke?.

    The drag presentations are humor focused charity events and never say anything mean. Think of the evil comments in the Ratzinger letter which denies the very human nature of LGBT individuals. Who creates the offense; the bishops who castigate and harm transgender youth or the middle aged men who poke fun as old stereotypes of mid-century nuns? Indeed what would Jesus do?

  4. Peter
    Peter says:

    Still they do mock and demean the symbols of our faith including the crucifix. I think out of self respect we should not support this group.

  5. Rick R
    Rick R says:

    Interesting how nobody is commenting on this. Personally, I feel caught in the middle. I am a gay man who consciously chose to become Catholic. My faith is extremely important to me. Spent most of my life in San Francisco, and now I live in Los Angeles. Love Jesus and the Church; and I love the Dodgers. It seems extremely offensive on one hand for these “sisters” to dress up as nuns and make fun of the Church. But on the other hand, Jesus has always been mocked. On the other hand, the “conservative media” is always blasting LGBT, etc. people as being the root of all evil. What I don’t understand is the need to politicize everything. When I go to Dodger Stadium, I want to relax. Why celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Why celebrate Asian American Heritage? Why celebrate St Patricks Day? Why celebrate Pride? Why celebrate Star Wars night? Why celebrate Halloween? – Lets just enjoy the Dodgers and celebrate a wonderful day at the ball park! Why don’t drag folks dress up as Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews or Wiccans? Why is it ok to satirize Catholic nuns?

    • Rick R
      Rick R says:

      Adding a thought. Could the SOPI sisters maybe be seen as modern “fools for Christ” as in the Byzantine/Eastern Churches?

      • SeanT
        SeanT says:

        I would argue in the affirmative that they are “fools” for faithfulness. Most SoPI, like a majority of Americans derive from Christian backgrounds, but not exclusively. Each individual develops a drag representation/ persona based upon their individual & lived faith community/practice.

        I’ve met a Jewish sister, a Buddhist sister, as well as some female members of the LA chapter.

        While some are understandably uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance, what the SoPI share with Catholic orders is a process of discernment and a committed focus upon works of charity for neglected members of society.

  6. Eloi
    Eloi says:

    I am sorry but after all the sexual abuse of children and wars that church has fostered throughout the world, they have no authority to cast any moral judgment on anyone but themselves.


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