Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers Pulled LGBTQ Organization From Pride Night Day After Catholic Group's Request

In an interview Friday with NBC4, Bill Donohue, president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the sisters offend thousands in the Catholic Church

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The day before the Los Angeles Dodgers removed a group of self-described queer and trans nuns from their Pride Night event, the leader of a Catholic advocacy organization had emailed the league’s commissioner to urge the team to yank the group.

The Dodgers’ decision to remove the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from their list of honorees for the upcoming Pride Night has drawn widespread condemnation, with some prominent LGBTQ groups withdrawing from the event. The move has also raised questions about why the team acquiesced to what critics are calling right-wing bullying.

In an interview Friday with NBC4, Bill Donohue, president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the sisters offend thousands in the Catholic Church.

“When they trashed the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and the blessed mother, our Virgin Mary, you’re asking for war with Catholics – quite frankly, a culture war – and we’re going to engage you on that,” Donohue said.

So on Tuesday, he sent a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred urging the Dodgers to exclude the sisters from Pride Night. He also wrote an email to his organization, telling tens of thousands of Catholics to also email MLB’s commissioner. Among the prominent people who sent emails was Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Catholic League is a private nonprofit organization based in New York. On its website, it says it “defends the right of Catholics – lay and clergy alike – to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination.”

Donohue has helmed the organization since 1993.

His letter to Manfred, dated May 16, called the sisters “an obscene anti-Catholic group.” Less than a day later, the Dodgers removed the sisters from Pride Night.

In a statement, the Dodgers said they became aware that the inclusion of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence “has been the source of some controversy.”

“Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees,” the team said.

The move has sparked backlash among supporters of the sisters, which were one of several organizations being honored at this year’s upcoming Pride Night at Dodger Stadium on June 16th. The sisters said they were to be honored for their 27 years of service in the LGBTQIA community.

The sisters say they’re devoted to community service, ministry and outreach for marginalized communities. One member, who wished to be identified only as Sister Unity because she fears for her safety, said that the group uses humor to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt.

The LA Dodgers removed a self-described group of queer and trans nuns from its list of Pride Night honorees. Amid criticism, the group say they're not mocking Catholic nuns. Christian Cazares reports May 19, 2023.

But Donohue insists the sisters are a symptom of a “sickening” tolerance for “Catholic bashing,” including by people who are otherwise “very careful about what they say about African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, and everybody else.”

“What do you say to the people that say they are doing a lot of good in this community? As I gave the example to Manfred, if you had white boys in blackface out there, and in modern day ensemble, and let’s say they raise money for AIDS or something, is that going to cut it with gays? I don’t think so,” Donohue told NBC4.

Other Catholic groups agree. Brian Burch, president of Catholic Vote, said the group is pleased with the Dodgers’ decision to exclude the sisters, whom he labelled “an anti-Catholic hate group known for their gross mockery of Catholic nuns.”

Fans and Angelenos, meanwhile, have expressed both support and condemnation of the Dodgers’ decision.

Los Angeles resident Roman Wilson said he has no problem with homosexuality, but he said he doesn’t think “people are going to like” others dressed in “nun costumes” at a sports competition.

However, one woman who wished to be identified only as Nicole, told NBC4 that she’s Catholic but opposes the Dodgers’ move.

“With the legislation that’s happening across the nation now against trans and drag, I think here in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, we need to be champions for all people,” Nicole said.

Sister Unity insists that her group does not mock Catholics. Several members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are themselves Catholic.

“We do not intentionally mock Catholicism. We’re actually quite fond of Pope Francis. He has made wonderful strides in being welcoming towards our community. To mock Catholicism would be to mock people, and we are here to uplift people,” Sister Unity said.

NBC4 reached out to the Dodgers and Manfred to ask for more clarification about the decision to exclude the sisters from the Pride Night event, but neither responded by the time of publication.

NBC4 asked Donohue if, given that the Dodgers decided to exclude the sisters, he supports Pride Night.

“I don’t understand why you have Pride Night. What are they proud about?” he asked. NBC4 suggested LGBTQ people could be proud of their community and proud of who they are. “That’s fine,” he replied.

NBCLA's Jonathan Lloyd and Rudy Chinchilla contributed to this report.

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