U.S. Bishops Should Condemn Anti-LGBTQ+ Violence, Not Charitable Drag Queens

Ahead of today’s feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, leaders for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the faithful to make an LGBTQ-focused “act of reparation” by praying the Sacred Heart litany.

The bishops’ ire is directed at the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team for honoring some drag activists, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), at the team’s Pride Night game today. Right-wing groups have drummed up this controversy to advance their anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, churning out press releases and announcing a $1 million advertising campaign to boycott the baseball team. They frame the Dodgers honoring SPI as an attack on the Catholic Church and an example of contemporary anti-Catholic bigotry.

This outrage machine is on full speed, and many of its leaders are invoking the Sacred Heart of Jesus to “protect” the church. In recent years, anti-LGBTQ+ Catholics have commandeered this devotion to symbolize their opposition to Pride. They say they are trying to “reclaim” June from Pride. Even though the Sacred Heart devotion may be meaningful to LGBTQ-affirming Catholics, it is now a right-wing tool used to signal one’s opposition to LGBTQ+ equality. It is the latest sad example of an aspect of the Catholic faith being weaponized against marginalized people.

This weaponization intensified this week when USCCB leaders added their own Sacred Heart-led condemnation of the Dodgers. In a joint statement, the Military Service’s Archbishop Timothy Broglio, USCCB president, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Los Angeles’ Archbishop José Gomez, former USCCB president, all emphasized the Sacred Heart devotion as a response to the Dodgers’ decision to honor SPI. Their statement reads, in part:

“This year, on June 16—the day of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—a professional baseball team has shockingly chosen to honor a group whose lewdness and vulgarity in mocking our Lord, His Mother, and consecrated women cannot be overstated. This is not just offensive and painful to Christians everywhere; it is blasphemy. . .We call on Catholics to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on June 16, offering this prayer as an act of reparation for the blasphemies against our Lord we see in our culture today.”

The USCCB statement echoes the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ own statement calling for Catholics to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart specifically against the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which allegedly “desecrates the Cross, profanes the Eucharist, and disrupts Holy Mass.” Bishops elsewhere in the U.S. have condemned the Dodgers, like Winona-Rochester’s Robert Barron, who used his platform as a Catholic media personality to call for a boycott of the team.

But these bishops have it wrong. God is not blasphemed by drag. (If they find it distasteful, they should remember Sr. Jeannine Gramick’s words: “The choice of clothing, even if offensive to some, can never trump the works of mercy.”) God is not blasphemed by Pride. God is not blasphemed when queer people love each other or trans and nonbinary folks live authentically.

Real victims are LGBTQ+ church workers fired from their jobs. Real victims are LGBTQ+ people criminalized by governments around the world. Real victims are trans people who are beaten and often killed for trying to live their lives. Real victims are queer couples who are denied communion for themselves or baptism for their children. Real victims are LGBTQ+ youth who practice self-harm or die by suicide because of the the negative messages they hear from church leaders.

Last week, in the city of Glendale, California, far right extremists physically assaulted LGBTQ+ advocates outside a school board meeting. The horrifying videos show queer folks and allies being pummeled in the streets. Watching them is surreal: every hate crime is gravely evil, but to see it happening en masse in the U.S. in 2023 is sickening.

The violence in Glendale—and the hate crimes occurring with increasing regularity nationwide, accompanied by the increase of the “slow violence of discrimination” (as the U.S. bishops of the 1990s described prejudicial attitudes and policies)—are the real acts in need of reparation. And yet, where is the USCCB statement condemning such anti-LGBTQ+ violence?

This Pride, church leaders should be focusing not on faux controversies, but on supporting LGBTQ+ people, particularly those who are nonbinary or transgender, as we face mounting threats to our rights—and lives. The Catholic Church in the U.S. is not under attack and needs no protection. LGBTQ+ people do.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, June 16, 2023

9 replies
  1. Bob Nee
    Bob Nee says:

    Too bad the mitered men forget that Jesus is perfectly able to take in any insults and that he urges we not only love our enemies but pray FOR THEM. Indeed to embrace them.

  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    The USCCB has taken the view that all should be treated with dignity, yet they can simultaneously speak from the other side of their collective mouth. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is just another form of theater. It is satire. The very reason Pride week / month exists is to make the point that individuals who are gay are just like your family, they are employed in every profession, they also have a spiritual life, and most of all, refuse to be pushed out of sight and bullied. Maybe the church is so stung from its own abuse scandals that it has to make some other group look worse. I have heard a couple of priests compare homosexual individuals to being ‘devil worshippers’. It is difficult to reconcile that sort of hatred. On the other end of the spectrum are priests who are equally horrified by such speech. Fr. James Martin comes to mind. I place my hope in clergy like him.

  3. Leslye
    Leslye says:

    I look forward every morning to reading the posting from New Ways during my prayer time. It is a missive of hope and love and justice. Today’s second reading includes 18 mentions of the word love, and that is how we should meet our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, with love. Thank you for the work you are doing.

  4. Mary Cullen
    Mary Cullen says:

    Thank you for this column. Before attacking this group, perhaps the bishops should sit down with them and have a conversation. And I totally agree the Church needs to stop firing LGBTQ folks. Every time I read a gay married teacher has been fired, my heart hurts.

  5. Brian McNeill
    Brian McNeill says:

    Well said, Robert. I never go to the Twins games here in Minneapolis, I’m not really a baseball fan, but I will make an exception and buy a ticket if / when the Dodgers come to town.

  6. Cheryl A Rogers
    Cheryl A Rogers says:

    OMG WWJS??????? especially with such profanity and anti-Christian behaviors by the ‘princes of the Church’ On this the feast day of the Sacred Heart I pray Jesus open these men’s entire being to show them the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life” that they appear to have lost along the way and are trying to manipulate God/Jesus by their smallness of mind and become blind to the harm, hate, lack of Christian values in their own selves and waterboard people over the years to believe that the LBGTQ+ individual is the evil and all bad and need to be converted to the Good? Well, this Lesbian Catholic who believes more and more each day that God did make us this way for a reason and made us very Good by the Good and in the Good and NOT in the evil the Church leadership/power sources have for years been force feeding the public to believe in the lies. Wake up bishops, your actions not mine are the reasons people are leaving the Catholic Church or other main line religions in this day and age. YOU are instrumental is pushing people away and the sad part is you can’t see that you are. Frankly I am tired of your pushing us, our families, our kids, our parents, and allies away from the Church we love and lack the welcoming of hospitality that Jesus asks of us all so ‘all can be One’. It is time for us to push back more than we have, it is time for a true conversion of the Soul of the Church before the Church through this small-minded hateful behavior of church leadership finally give the devil what has been hoped for: the end of the Church and more through leadership actions like we see by the American Bishops especially. The feast of the Sacred Heart? how could they, the blood and water from the side of the pieced Jesus on the Cross wash us all of these evils. And SPI you are wonderful, keep being who you are, and Dodgers thank you for celebrating them and Pride month. I wonder if the Knights of Columbus, the Hibernians, the Master Mason Clowns, the different lodges who have ‘costumes’ get the same reaction by the church that the men of the SPI are getting. The million dollars being wasted by this right-wing church group to protest the Dodgers could be used so much more in a Christian manner than against this but rather ‘for’ the homeless, or elderly with limited food or for those who cannot pay rent for example. Something is definitely wrong with this picture of Church.

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn says:

      Cheryl, thank you for your post. As a mother of a beautiful transgender daughter, my husband and I have gone through all the stages of grief with the Catholic Church and these USCCB hateful Bishops and all the other clergy who are condemning our family members. What the church has become is sad & demeaning to our LGBTQ+ loved ones. While our journey has been difficult for us, we have found solace in a loving church; the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal church is living and teaching as Jesus himself lived and taught. Each and every Episcopal church in the U.S. openly welcomes all LGBTQ+ persons and their families, ordains women priests, has married priests and openly loves ‘everyone’. It has been a loving, welcoming church for us. Thank you again for your post and God bless you on your journey.

  7. marian durkin
    marian durkin says:

    Thanks, Robert, for your words. I totally agree!!
    I am a bit disheartened, however, by some of the behaviours of the SPI. Do you know if these accusations are true.(descrating the cross; profaning the Eucharist; mocking the Blessed Mother etc.)
    As a woman religious I take no offense from the SPI. I met two of them in Cleveland a number of years ago and we enjoyed talking among ourselves.
    Thank you, Robert, for your support for the GLBTQ community. I share your blog far and wide and am very grateful.


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