While the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is encouraging Catholics to pray in reparation as the Los Angeles Dodgers honor an anti-Catholic group, the archdiocese has clarified that it is not involved with an LA prayer rally set to be headlined by Texas’ Bishop Joseph Strickland, and organized by a coalition of conservative Catholic organizations.
Archbishop Jose Gomez joined in a June 12 call from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for Catholics to make prayers of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 16, which is both the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the day that the Los Angeles Dodgers will honor the so-called Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, an LGBT activist group specializing in Catholic-themed drag acts.
The Dodgers’ decision to invite, then uninvite, then re-invite the “sisters” triggered a furious backlash from Catholic groups, and sparked protests from MLB players, who objected to lewd and often sacrilegious performances from the anti-Catholic Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
On June 13, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles followed up the bishops’ conference call for prayers of reparation, announcing that Archbishop Jose Gomez will offer a Mass in the archdiocesan cathedral and a recitation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for “healing due to the harm caused by the Dodger’s decision to honor a group that intentionally denigrates and profanes the Christian faith.”
But as the archdiocese and USCCB call for prayer in response to the Dodgers controversy, the archdiocese has also told Catholics that it has not given “backing or approval” to a prayer rally organized by conservative groups, some of which have a controversial place in the American Catholic landscape.
The USCCB issued on Monday its call for a national prayer of reparation “with the intention of repairing the spiritual damage inflicted by sin.”
“This year, on June 16—the day of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—a professional baseball team has 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,” the conference said.
The USCCB said its call was made by conference president Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who chairs the USCCB’s religious liberty committee and by LA’s own Archbishop Jose Gomez, himself a former conference president.
The USCCB’s decision to address the Dodgers controversy would appear to mark a more robust engagement with cultural issues for the conference, apparently with the support of Gomez.
The short statement was unusual in its strong language for a conference release— charging the baseball team with outright blasphemy for its decision to honor the anti-Catholic group.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, communication has also been sharp — a noted break from Gomez’ often reserved style on public issues.
An announcement on the archdiocesan website lamented that “[t]he forthcoming Dodgers event honoring a group that mocks women religious, and worse, desecrates the Cross, profanes the Eucharist, and disrupts Holy Mass has caused disappointment, dismay, and pain in our Catholic community, as well as among our fellow Christians and people of good will.”
“The Archdiocese calls on Catholics to stand together in prayer,” a recent statement explained.
But despite its calls for prayer and solidarity, the archdiocese clarified June 9 that it was not connected to a prayer procession planned for June 16 — which was originally billed to begin at the archdiocesan cathedral.
A June 9 memo from LA auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson to clergy of the San Fernando Pastoral Region said that while “some groups are planning various kinds of protests regarding the Dodgers Pride Night, none of these has the backing or the approval of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.”
The memo said that archdiocesan leaders planned to “take a step back and hope for dialogue with all relevant parties.”
While the memo did not explicitly discourage attendance at rallies or protests, it did emphasize that “leadership of the archdiocese has instead asked all to enter into prayer,” and provided the address for Catholics “who wish to write to the Los Angeles Dodgers.”
The June 9 memo came in response to an announcement from “Catholics for Catholics,” an Arizona group which said in early June that along with several other organizations of conservative Catholics, it would organize a June 16 Eucharistic procession, in reparation for the Dodgers’ honoring of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The event was announced to be led by Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, and according to LifeSiteNews, was originally scheduled to begin outside Los Angeles’ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels — but has since been moved to a parking lot near Dodgers’ Stadium.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told The Pillar June 13 that the archdiocese was not contacted by organizers before the procession from the cathedral was announced.
The archdiocese emphasized that the event was “planned independently,” and said it was also not involved in changing its location from the cathedral to the Dodgers’ parking lot.
“We became aware of the change in plans from social media posts,” an archdiocesan spokesperson told The Pillar.
It is not clear whether the archdiocesan June 9 memo was meant to distance the archdiocese from the groups sponsoring the planned June 16 prayer rally at the Dodgers’ stadium, or from recent controversy surrounding Bishop Strickland.
In response to questions on that front, an archdiocesan spokesperson told The Pillar that “the archdiocese is not working with any particular group.”
Instead, the spokesperson said, “the archdiocese is calling on all the faithful to take prayerful action, which is what was said in the message sent to all parishes.”
Strickland drew attention last month when he tweeted that while he accepts the legitimacy of Pope Francis’ papacy, “I reject his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith” — a statement that did not draw support from other bishops.
Gomez, for his part, has taken pains to emphasize his support of Pope Francis, even while relations between the two men seemed sometimes strained during Gomez’ tenure as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.
While Catholics for Catholics is apparently the principal organizer of the June 16 rally, several other conservative organizations of Catholics are listed sponsors of the event, including LifeSiteNews, America Needs Fatima, and CatholicVote.
The June 16 event is expected to be livestreamed by ChurchMilitant, a website overseen by Catholic personality Michael Voris, which has routinely criticized Gomez, for what it seemingly regards as insufficient orthodoxy. The organization also hosted a large protest of the U.S. bishops’ conference during Gomez’ tenure as conference president.
Catholics for Catholics — not a well-known Catholic activist group — describes itself as a 501c4 organization which “provides educational resources about Catholic doctrine, including materials addressing Catholic leaders’ positions on public policy, legislation, and other social welfare matters.”
The group says its priority is “hold[ing] our elected leaders accountable to the Constitution and, in a special way, to those politicians who refer to themselves as Catholic.”
“The deafening silence of Church leaders, who are the first ones tasked with guarding the truths of our Faith, has made it all the more urgent that we stand up now and hold the line,” the Catholics for Catholics website says.
The group reportedly clashed last year with bishops in its home state of Arizona.
John Yep, the group’s executive director, told LifeSiteNews last year that Arizona’s bishops had “come after us” over the group’s use of the term “Catholic” — apparently directing Catholics for Catholics to refrain from calling itself a Catholic organization, in accord with canon 216 of the Code of Canon Law.
Yep said his group had obtained canonical representation to fight that directive.
LifeSiteNews pointed to a statement from the Arizona Catholic Conference which clarified that organizations must obtain ecclesiastical permission before identifying themselves as Catholic. Though the statement did not explicitly mention Catholics for Catholics, Yep told LifeSiteNews that the statement was intended to address his group.
Apart from Yep, it is not clear which Catholics serve as board members or staffers of Catholics for Catholics. While the website has an “about” section with a “meet the Catholic for Catholics team” heading, the page does not list any individuals as formally affiliated with or working for the organization.
Instead, the page lists endorsements from Michael Flynn, a former national security advisor to President Donald Trump who pled guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI, and from Steve Bannon, a political polemicist and former Trump advisor who was convicted for contempt of Congress.
Catholics for Catholics also boasts an endorsement from Fr. James Altman, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse Wisconsin removed from ministry after a series of public statements in which he that bishops who enforced pandemic restrictions would burn in the “lowest, hottest levels of hell,” that coronavirus vaccines are an experiment designed for social control, and that he was in danger of being “canceled” or sent to a “re-education camp” because of his controversial outspokenness.
Altman has also accused Pope Francis of having “betrayed [the Lord] like Judas.”
Although Catholics for Catholics does not list media contacts on its website, the group does list a number for donors who wish to request a refund. Calls by The Pillar to that number went unanswered.
A press release from Catholics for Catholics urging “transparency” in the Holy See’s 2022 decision to laicize Priests for Life leader Frank Pavone, listed Altman as “spiritual advisor to Catholics for Catholics,” and Michael Flynn as “senior advisor” to the group. Calls to the telephone number on that press release were not returned.
While the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has stressed Archbishop Gomez’ call for Catholics to pray that Christ “give us a heart like his, meek and humble and filled with compassion,” Catholics for Catholics says it is anticipating a confrontational event on June 16.
The group’s website states that the procession is not a “family friendly” event and that organizers “DO NOT recommend bringing children” as both a heavy police presence and “hostility” from counter protestors are expected.