LOS ANGELES (OSV News) -- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles called on "all Catholics and people of goodwill to stand against bigotry and hate in any form" after the Los Angeles Dodgers reinstated plans to honor a self-described "leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns."
The California-based "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" were set to receive the Dodgers' Community Hero Award for their community charity work at the team's annual "Pride Night" celebration June 16. Their motto, displayed on their website and in marketing materials, is "Go forth and sin some more!"
In a May 17 statement, the Dodgers announced that the group would no longer receive the award "given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters' inclusion in our evening." Catholic groups, including the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, and Catholic Vote, as well as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, had criticized the group for mocking the Catholic faith, and in particular, Catholic women religious.
But on May 22, following heavy criticism from some fans and the news media, the team apologized and reinvited the group to "receive the gratitude of our collective communities" for their charity work.
In a statement released the following day, the archdiocese said it "stands against any actions that would disparage and diminish our Christian faith and those who dedicate their lives to Christ."
"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 who are an integral part of our Church is what has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community," the statement read.
The archdiocese said that women religious should be "honored and celebrated through genuine acts of appreciation, reverence, and respect for their sacred vows" and pointed to the array of charitable works carried out by sisters for the sick and needy, as well as their spiritual care for souls through prayer.
The message also called on Catholics to "show our care and respect for our women religious" in a variety of ways, including by sending messages of support to sisters through phone calls, letters, or social media or donating to their orders and/or charitable causes they support.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the team had "officially endorsed anti-Catholic bigotry" by inviting back the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
"Only one side was listened to -- the side that sponsors hate speech," said Donohue of the "honest conversations" that the Dodgers said led to the reversal.
In a May 15 letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred after the initial invitation of the group, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had questioned Manfred's previously stated commitment to being "inclusive and welcoming to everyone" and singled out one of the group's recent Easter celebrations for featuring "children's programming followed by a drag show where adult performers dress in blasphemous imitation of Jesus and Mary."
Rubio and others also expressed outrage at events organized by the group that mix sexual references with observances sacred to Catholics, including the Holy Eucharist and the Stations of the Cross.
Some of the biggest names in Dodgers history during their time in Los Angeles have been Catholic, including the late player and manager Gil Hodges, Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, late manager Tommy Lasorda, and the legendary broadcast announcer Vin Scully, who died last year. The O'Malley family, which oversaw the team's move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1955, were also known for being active in Catholic causes and events during their ownership of the team from 1950 until 1998, when they sold the team.
One Catholic priest took to Twitter the night of May 22 to express his sadness as a baseball fan that the Dodgers decided to reverse course and again invite the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to be honored, and he referenced the Catholic connections the team has long had.
"As an @MLB fan, this is deeply saddening to me. Celebrate whomever you please, celebrate good works; but can we refrain from mocking religion? No religion should be mocked. This plainly mocks Catholicism. This is the team of Vin Scully, of Gil Hodges. They would be so ashamed," tweeted Father Joshua Whitfield (@frjoshTX).
Father Whitfield is pastoral administrator at St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas, which is a parish in the Houston-based Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
"I know @MLB has done a lot of good supporting and celebrating various religions and people of faith. But it's also long been a place where it's hard to be a Catholic. This again is deeply troubling, that to celebrate something, something else must be denigrated. This needn't be," he said in another tweet.
In a third tweet, Father Whitfield said he "just lost some love for what's been a great new season. Again, just terribly saddening. I just want to watch baseball. I want to feel baseball is a game for everybody, belittling nobody."