Two archbishops and a cardinal are calling on Catholics in the U.S. to pray and make reparations to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as a professional sports team plans to honor a group parodying women religious.
"We call on Catholics to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on June 16 (Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), offering this prayer as an act of reparation for the blasphemies against our Lord we see in our culture today," said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty; and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles in a joint statement issued June 12.
The three noted that this year's solemnity coincides with a Los Angeles Dodgers' "Pride Night" game at which that city's branch of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will be feted.
According to the group's website, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence use "humor and irreverent wit," often sexual in nature, "to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt." Members don drag-style makeup, religious habits and names such as "Sister Jezabelle" and "Pope Dementia the Last." The decentralized organization, founded in 1979 in San Francisco, counts an estimated 1,000 members globally, members of the Los Angeles chapter told OSV News.
The Dodgers' invitation had been briefly withdrawn after protests, but was reinstated with a public apology to the group from the team. The team's follow-up decision to host a July 30 Christian Faith and Family Day drew criticism from several Catholic leaders, including Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota -- previously an auxiliary bishop for the Los Angeles Archdiocese -- who said in a May 26 tweet the move was "not enough."
In their statement, Archbishops Broglio and Gomez and Cardinal Dolan said the Dodgers had "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," they said.
However, the LA Sisters maintain they have been unfairly characterized. In an email to OSV News, Sister Dominia -- who heads the Los Angeles branch of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as "a gay Catholic who went to Catholic school" and "loves and respects Catholic nuns" -- said that community is "not mocking nuns or Catholics," and that "most events detailed in the media that have shown offense were done by other, independent Sister houses, and we cannot speak for them."
"We are devoted to charity work and we raise much needed funds for local nonprofit charities," said Sister Dominia.
In an email to OSV News, a member who goes by the name Sister Unity claimed "a number" of the LA Sisters "are practicing Catholics."
The bishops and cardinal said in their June 12 statement that "it has been heartening to see so many faithful Catholics and others of good will stand up to say that what this group does is wrong, and it is wrong to honor them."
June is traditionally recognized by Catholics as "the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus," a time during which "we call to mind Christ's love for us, which is visible in a special way in the image of His pierced heart," they said. "We pray that our own hearts might be conformed to His, calling us to love and respect all His people."
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which traces its origins to the writings of medieval mystics, became popular after St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th-century French Visitandine nun, disclosed to her confessor a series of private revelations she had received from Jesus Christ.
In the visions, Christ told her he wished his heart to be revered with reparation for sin, frequent reception of holy Communion and Eucharistic adoration. In 1856, Pope Pius IX added the solemnity, celebrated on the third Friday after Pentecost, to the church's liturgical calendar.