Tim Whyte | The Sisters and a Church Side Trip

Tim Whyte

I don’t consider myself especially religious — so, my objection to the honors being bestowed upon the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence by the L.A. Dodgers and the state Senate is not rooted in fervent Christianity. 

Nor is it based in anti-LGBTQ sentiment. I’m a firm believer in the rights of consenting adults to have a relationship with whoever they want, marry who they want, raise kids if they want to, and identify as whatever gender they feel is right for them. You be you. 

And, I have close friends and loved ones, who I cherish deeply, who are part of the LGBTQ community and may not even agree with what I’m saying here. 

However, I do have a problem with hypocrisy. And there’s the rub when it comes to the accolades being heaped upon the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. 

But first: A side story about how I came to be a non-church-going guy. This isn’t so much about the current issue as the fact that it reminded me of this story and I feel like telling it. So, pardon the expression, I’m asking for … indulgence

My experience with Catholicism: Let’s just say the memories are not fond. I grew skeptical between the ages of 10 and 12, when we were still going to church quite a bit. Catholic church. Complete with old guys in robes, ominous organ music and the sinking feeling that you could be sent Straight to Hell if you did something bad. 

Fire and brimstone. Scary. 

As a kid, I wasn’t loving it. 

Then there was the tedium of the services: Sit down. Stand up. Sing a hymn, reading from a well-worn book. Listen to a seemingly endless sermon that, if it wasn’t in Latin, sounded like it. Kneel for a prayer. Take communion, which leaves you feeling like you just swallowed waxy cardboard. At least the priest got to wash it down with low-end wine. Sing more hymns you don’t understand because you’re just a kid. 

What’s not to love? (An aside, I’ve been to a couple of events at local churches over the past few years, and wow, church has changed. Live bands playing modern music, pastors who are relatable and have a sense of humor. That’s more my speed, at least.) 

My skepticism as a kid, though, came from the naive, youthful belief that if I prayed for something good, it would happen. Right? 

When I was 10, I broke my leg in an ice hockey clinic. My femur. The largest bone in the body. 

Today, if you break your femur, they put you into surgery and bolt it back together. Recovery time, in 2023, is four to six months. It’s no walk in the park, but a helluva lot better than what it was in 1976.

My timeline:  

• Nine weeks in traction at the hospital. (Bedpans, can’t roll over, Nothing But Hospital Food, the whole 9 yards.)  

• Twelve weeks in a body cast from chest to toe. More bedpans.  

• A year and a half in leg casts. We had to get a new one every so often because they’d wear out and, being 11 or so, I did stupid stuff wearing the cast. I gave myself a hernia, adding injury to injury. 

The whole thing took two years. I’d pray for positive signs of healing at the next X-ray appointment, only to go to the orthopedist’s office and be disappointed. It was interminable. We’d show up for the X-ray only to have Doc tell us, “We’re not seeing anything yet…” 

“But wait,” 11-year-old Me would think, not understanding that religion and faith don’t necessarily trump biology. “I PRAYED for it. Isn’t God listening to me?” 

As an adult, I don’t blame the church, of course. Or God. I know better than 11-year-old Me did. I understand things I didn’t as a kid. 

But, even after my leg finally healed, I never did go back into the swing of being a church-going guy. Especially in football season. 

So. I’m not that Bible-thumping guy who goes to church every Sunday and is offended to his core about a group of LGBTQ activists who dress in drag as nuns. 

BUT … I understand why it would offend people. I’ve watched videos of some of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s performance art, including one clip in which a guy is tied to a mock crucifix and another one does a pole dance on the crucifix. 

I’m pretty sure that’s offensive to just about anyone who identifies as Christian. 

Hence, the outcry when the Dodgers decided to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Pride Night at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers responded by rescinding the invitation. Then there was an outcry from the LGBTQ community about the invitation being rescinded. The Dodgers yo-yo’d back and rescinded the rescission, so the Sisters are back on for pregame honors on Friday.  

People are ticked off. We’ve gotten a couple of letters to the editor from readers expressing that sentiment, even going as far as to say the city of Santa Clarita should pull out of Saturday’s Santa Clarita Dodger Night, the night after Pride Night. 

Similarly, conservatives — including the Senate Republican Caucus — were offended when Democratic leadership chose to honor the leader of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on the Senate floor. In protest, GOP senators exited the chamber when the ceremony began on Monday. 

On one hand, it should be acknowledged that the Sisters have done a lot of good: Dating back to the 1970s, and especially during the height of the AIDS epidemic, they have promoted awareness, raised money to fight AIDS, promoted safer sex, advocated against drug abuse, and benefited multiple nonprofits, some of which are not even directly related to LGBTQ causes. All good things. 

It’s the method that’s problematic: They satirize Christianity, and in particular Catholicism, in their garb and their performances. It’s designed to shock. But it also offends, and understandably so. Some characterize them as an anti-Catholic hate group, no matter what good deeds they have done.  

Here comes the hypocrisy: The Sisters say they oppose bigotry, while engaging in it. And would the Senate or the Dodgers honor the Sisters if they similarly satirized Islam? Judaism? What if they wore blackface instead of nuns’ habits and called it “satire”? 

In those scenarios, would their undeniable good deeds outweigh the offensiveness and get them a pass? Would they still be invited onto the field at Dodger Stadium and the floor of the Senate? 

Of course not. But they get a pass because Christianity/Catholicism is perceived as associated with conservative political thought (even though a lot of liberals are also Christians and Catholics). It’s considered OK to mock Christians and Catholics. To those on the left — and those pandering to liberal social movements for business purposes — the Christians and Catholics need to suck it up, Buttercup, and get over being offended because the Sisters fit the favored social narrative. 

That’s the hypocrisy. And it’s not OK — whether you’re religious or not. 

Tim Whyte is the editor of The Signal. 

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