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Who’s afraid of American Catholics?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 07, 2023

Why are the Los Angeles Dodgers honoring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group whose stock-in-trade is provoking the outrage of Catholics? Is it because these days nobody is worried about Catholic outrage?

The Dodgers (the team’s name seems appropriate) deserve special notice, because they had originally withdrawn their invitation to the SPI, after an initial burst of protest from Catholics, and then they renewed it. If they were not convinced that SPI is a hate group, why did they withdraw the invitation? If they were convinced, why did they renew it? The answer seems obvious: The Dodgers feared an ugly backlash from the SPI and their allies, far more than they feared the response of angry Catholics.

When the Dodgers first drew the line, and said that they would not include a group that specializes in blasphemy in its “Pride Night” festivities, the team immediately felt the pressure from homosexual activists —and quickly caved, offering a craven apology:

After much thoughtful feedback from our diverse communities, honest conversations within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and generous discussions with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their friends and families.

Was it really “thoughtful feedback” that prompted the Dodgers to make a U-turn, or was it the threat of becoming the target of public protests, staged by a group that excels in causing unpleasant scenes? Notice that the team’s statement mentions the “generous” discussions with the SPI—an indication that the Dodgers are grateful the group deigned to enter into rational discussions. Notice, too, that there is no mention of any further discussions—generous or otherwise—with the Catholic groups that were appalled by the inclusion of the SPI.

In a transparent and flimsy bid to calm Catholic protests, the Dodgers then scheduled a “Christian Faith and Family Day.” Isn’t that nice? In effect the team was announcing that it would honor Christianity—after having honored a group that promotes public contempt for Christianity. So the Dodgers are trying to remain neutral, giving equal honors to the haters and to the people they hate.

The Dodgers defended their flip-flop decisions by pointing to charitable works that the SPI has reported: providing food for needy children and support for AIDS patients. Yes, these are commendable projects. But involvement in good works should not give a group carte blanche to engage in hateful public demonstrations as well. Anthony Esolen made the point:

I’ll wager that many a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan provided monetary assistance to the poor, so long as they were white. No doubt the Roman legions took care of the widows and orphans of their fellow legionnaires. King Leopold of Belgium had a heart for the Congolese, and they paid for his care in blood.

Unfortunately but predictably, the mainstream media blithely accepted the portrait of the SPI provided by the group’s own members: a picture of an organization that engages in harmless satire. Even one wooly-headed Catholic journalist, defending the SPI’s routine appearance in drag-queen costume, said that the group’s critics “often fail to appreciate how the artform uses humor to poke fun at those who hold power, especially those who wield that power to hurt marginalized groups.” (So now dressing in drag is an “artform”?)

If the SPI did nothing more offensive than parading in extravagant attire and lampooning conventional pieties—in other words, if the public image of the group matched its actual performance—the Dodgers’ decision might be defensible. But the group does not merely “poke fun” at the Catholic faith. CatholicVote has catalogued the outrages of the SPI. These are not activities designed to satirize; they are intended to denigrate the Catholic faith, to encourage contempt for believers, to outrage and anger the faithful. If the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do not qualify as an anti-Catholic hate group, no one does.

And perhaps that is the point. When the California state senate reacted to the contretemps in Los Angeles by passing a resolution to honor the SPI, the legislators were apparently saying that in the state capitol— where a statue of St. Junipero Serra was torn down—anti-Catholic bigotry is not recognized as an offense.

California’s lawmakers are not worried about a Catholic backlash, because Catholics are taught by their faith to engage in civil discourse rather than to incite hatred and violence. Similarly, the Biden administration does not fear the consequences of flying the rainbow flag over the US embassy to the Vatican, because the Holy See will respond in calm diplomatic language.

If no one is afraid of Catholic outrage, then every enemy of the Church is free to attack the faith at will.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: td4207 - Jun. 09, 2023 5:54 PM ET USA

    Absolutely on target! Who should fear Catholic outrage when the USCCB remains mute to the scandal of our "Catholic" president promoting abortion.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jun. 09, 2023 1:48 PM ET USA

    Perhaps the Holy See may respond in "calm diplomatic language" by calling Catholics to accompany the SPI as they display their art form. Let us keep in mind that the SPI may feel that, while not the ideal, God may be asking them at this point to continue to use art to poke fun at those rigid, and retrograde nuns who still wear the habit.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 08, 2023 3:54 PM ET USA

    You mention "Catholic outrage". The few that seem to routinely express Catholic outrage are Pope Francis and those who agree with his rage. They rage against those in the peripheries, the excluded, i.e., those Catholics who choose to worship according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

  • Posted by: Gramps - Jun. 07, 2023 9:50 PM ET USA

    Bravo, Mr. Lawler! Words that need to be said. Where is the statement from the USCCB?

  • Posted by: ewaughok - Jun. 07, 2023 6:05 PM ET USA

    Actually… It’s the Vatican that’s afraid of American Catholics, at least traditional Catholics. And I should say, that’s not restricted to Americans, but to all traditional Catholics! But the Dodgers feel they can mock Catholics, because polls show that many Catholics don’t give a fig about Catholic teaching.