Major League baseball player Trevor Williams made headlines this week after saying he was “deeply troubled” by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ decision to reissue an invitation to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to participate in the team’s “Pride Night.”
Williams, a Catholic and a pitcher for the Washington Nationals, tweeted his statement during the Nats’ three game visit to LA, taking issue with the Dodgers’ invitation to the group, which describes itself as “a leading-edge Order of queer and trans nuns”, and raises money for LGBT community projects.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence group is also known for its public appearances, in which men dress in sexualized drag costumes resembling Catholic religious sisters, in a bid to, as the group puts it, “expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.”
The group has been frequently criticized for mocking the Catholic Church and faith; it hosts annual “hunky Jesus” and “foxy Mary” competitions around Easter, and its website displays the motto: “Go forth and sin some more!”
The Dodgers announced earlier this month that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence would be among groups honored at the team’s June 16 Pride Night.
The team rescinded the invitation on May 17, after Catholic groups objected to the group’s inclusion because of its use of Catholic imagery and religious symbolism.
The Dodgers said at the time that the invitation had “been the source of some controversy.”
But after that decision was opposed by LGBT activist groups, the Dodgers announced May 22 that they had re-invited the “sisters” to attend Pride Night, where they would “receive the gratitude of our collective communities” for their charity work.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles issued subsequently a call for “all Catholics and people of goodwill to stand against bigotry and hate in any form.”
In his tweet statement Tuesday, Williams said that “a Major League Baseball game is a place where people from all walks of life should feel welcomed, something I greatly respect and support.”
“This is the purpose of different themed nights hosted by the [Dodgers] organization, including a Pride Night,” Williams wrote.
But, the pitcher continued, “to invite and honor a group that makes a blatant and deeply offensive mockery of my religion, and the religion of over 4 million people in Los Angeles County alone, undermines the values of respect and inclusivity that should be upheld by any organization.”
“Creating an environment in which one group feels celebrated and honored at the expense of another is counterproductive and wrong,” he added.
Williams pointed out that the invitation to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence would seem to contravene the Dodgers’ own stadium rules, which ban “conduct or attire … prejudiced against any individual or group (e.g. because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation).”
He called on the Dodgers to “reconsider their association with this group and strive to create an inclusive environment that does not demean or disrespect the religious beliefs of any fan or employee.”
The Pillar spoke with Williams about his statement, his faith, and what it means to welcome everyone to the ballpark.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You must have expected your statement about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence would get a lot of attention.
Why did you decided you needed to say something, and particularly when you did it?
I would never have known about this group had the Dodgers not issued an invitation to them in the first place. And I think a lot of people probably didn’t know anything about them — both the good and the bad — until then.
I’ve been told and I’ve read that they’ve been doing work in the community for almost 30 years, positive work, providing people with financial help and emotional help. So, because of the invitation, I've become aware of how they’ve been doing positive work.
However, on the flip side of that, there’s a negative, right? Like the horrific stuff they did, mocking the Mass and the sacraments — things I wish I didn’t read and didn’t see.
At the point when they got re-invited, the Dodgers had to know about them — about the good and the bad side of this group — and the Dodgers decided to honor them for getting their point across by, you know, acting and being very anti-Catholic.
That’s where I felt I needed to at least make a statement.
And when we were scheduled to go to LA, it just made sense to do it while I was there, so it would have the most impact, and so that I would be able to answer questions from the media there, while I was there.
What has the response been, generally speaking?
I haven’t really been logging in to my social media accounts since [posting the statement].
Granted, I don’t usually spend much time on my socials; I try to spend as much time off as possible. But there are positives to social media. When you have a platform, you can use that to inspire change and the get word out about important things.
But, you know, the response from people teammates, former teammates, and friends has been generally positive.
You know, this wasn’t “Trevor the Nationals player” making this statement, or even “Trevor the baseball player.”
This is me — Trevor the Catholic — making this statement.
And it’s been encouraging to see that there are a lot of people in support. I’ve had support from countless people — including people saying they wish they could speak up, but they can’t: stadium workers, bus drivers, even other players.
I’ve also had really good conversations with people, with reporters and with friends that I trust, who have had other thoughts on it — and those have been good conversations, in which I’ve been open about why I felt inclined to do this, and why it hurts me deeply when people do these certain things about my faith.
I’ve tried to clarify why I felt the need to stand up for my faith, when someone else might not necessarily have had a much a reaction to someone making fun of their religion.
There are good conversations to have about [the Sisters], too, how sometimes it doesn’t push a movement forward to do something negative. It can kind of derail the whole position or message.
I mean, just look at the Church, right? The Church has its problems. And that's a fair argument against me, right? Like, I've had a lot of people say “Don't you think the Church deserves [to be mocked]?”
But my argument isn’t about who deserves what. It’s about a group, [the Church], getting mocked, and then the group doing the mocking being honored. And that was the problem that I had.
You talked in your statement about the ballpark being a place for everyone. You were pretty clear that you’re not opposing the Dodgers having a Pride Night.
So, for you, is this a question of not everyone actually being welcomed?
Right. One hundred percent, a Major League baseball field should be a place where everyone feels welcomed. I support that 100 percent.
I think that’s the reason why we have these themed nights. It’s a beautiful thing, from a baseball fan’s perspective, to feel welcome, whether you're a visiting fan coming in and cheering your team on, or you’re there for Pride Night.
But it feels like they want everyone at the ballpark except [Catholics], because what they are doing is against the Dodgers Stadium Code of Conduct.
So, by the Dodgers allowing this group, they’re making an exception to their rule at the expense of another group — at the expense of my group, the Church.
Now, if you aren’t mocking a certain religion, then of course you should be welcomed.
But anytime someone gets mocked, you’re not gonna feel welcomed, right? No one likes being put down or cast away. That isn’t a welcoming environment, when one group is getting celebrated while another’s not.
For you as a ballplayer, what does it mean to be a Catholic in a league in which, as you say, everyone should be welcomed?
What does it mean to be in that space and to love everyone, and to sort of manifest the love of Christ?
Look, I like being a baseball player. It’s not the first way that I would describe myself, but it’s a privilege to play this game, and we’re called as Catholics, whatever our vocation is, to spread the love of Christ everywhere.
I just happen to do that on a baseball field, and I do my best to try to win gracefully, lose gracefully and respond with grace to everyone, everywhere I go.
Granted, it’s not always going to be that way. And it’s always funny when you become known as a “devout Catholic” — I will be the first one to tell you I’m still a sinner and I still need grace, and I still need the sacraments and I still need the Mass.
But, you know, when my religion is being mocked in the arena that I’m in — in the baseball arena — then that’s when it’s time to step up. And I think that’s when Christ is asking me: “Are you willing to defend me right now?”
In your statement, you finished by saying that all suffering in this world is linked to Christ’s suffering.
Do you think that, as a Catholic in a public role, a certain amount of mockery from the world is to be expected?
Isn’t that just part of living a Catholic life?
I mean, when you read the Bible, it’s all over the place, right? Christ was mocked, you’re gonna be mocked.
It’s just something that comes with the territory, right?
I think if you’re serious about the faith, you’ve got to be willing to suffer for Christ, just as he suffered for us. And like I said, any suffering in this world unites us to Christ in the next.
And that’s something that is easy to say, but it is hard to do.
While I’m thankful for the prayers and countless messages of support from Catholics I’ve received, this is a very small blip on the map in Los Angeles, California in the year 2023. There are bigger things going on, in terms of people suffering for the Church.
But I do know that to be in a position to stand up for our faith is a tremendous responsibility, which I want to be willing to say yes to.