The LA Dodgers and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: is there a down side to enthusiastic blasphemy?

A gay group devoted to parodying Catholicism, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, has re-emerged in headlines. One of America’s most famous baseball teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers, plans to honour its LA branch with a "Community Hero Award" at the team’s annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night on June 16.

Catholics and conservatives are outraged.

Bishop Robert Barron, a popular Catholic apologist, tweeted: “Friends, it’s hard to imagine anything more offensive than some of the behavior of the ‘Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,’ which I think can only be described as an anti-Catholic hate group. Yet the Los Angeles Dodgers have invited this group to be honored at their stadium. Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in America, and we shouldn’t tolerate it.”

I agree with Bishop Barron. The antics of the SPI are offensive and hateful. But this is not the ultimate problem; it’s blasphemy, as a casual glance at the SPI website will show. The names, the rituals, the costumes, and grotesque obscenities are intended to mock not only dedicated Catholic women but God himself.

It’s astonishing that the Dodgers think this is socially acceptable, even though deriding LGBTQI people would be considered beyond the pale, or even a hate crime. Perhaps enduring this is the price we have to pay for free speech.

However, contempt for Catholics is one thing; mockery of God is altogether different. Perhaps it can’t be banned legally, but it certainly is morally destructive.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but gratuitous blasphemy appears to be more and more common in the United States. In late April, “the largest Satanic gathering in history”, SatanCon, took place in Boston. The two-day event in late April at the Marriott Copley Place featured a hellava lot of blasphemous events with relatively little negative publicity. More than 800 people attended, doubling the numbers who came in 2022.

In the opening ceremony a cheering crowd shouted “Hail, Satan” and a woman ripped pages out of a Bible. In the “Little Black Chapel” there were “unbaptisms” of people who wanted to repudiate Christianity. There were talks like “Deconstructing Your Religious Upbringing” and “Sins of the Flesh: Satanism and Self-Pleasure”. There were booths advertising After School Satan clubs and satanically-inspired merchandise. Like the Sisters, many of the Satanists were wearing campy costumes.

The organiser of SatanCon is a group called The Satanic Temple (TST), which has been recognised as a religion by the Internal Revenue Service. Its headquarters are in the Massachusetts town of Salem, the site of the notorious 17th century witch trials. TST claims that its membership has exploded from 10,000 in 2019 to 700,000 today.  It insists that its members don’t believe in a literal Satan; they’re just zealous activists for free speech, secularism, humanism, benevolence and empathy.

An older, rival organisation, the Church of Satan, is more ideological. It, too, is atheist. “We see the universe as being indifferent to us, and so all morals and values are subjective human constructions.” It takes a dim view of humanity. “Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours,” according to its website. As for its moral code, the first of its “Nine Satanic Statements” is “Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!”

I’m not aware of a direct link between Satanism and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, although The Satanic Temple believes that half of its members are LGBTQI. But that word “indulgence” suggests that they are cut from the same cloth. They’re both strong supporters of abortion.  They’re atheistic, hedonistic, and aggressively blasphemous.

It is often said that Satan’s greatest trick is to get people to believe that he doesn’t exist. Let's update that – his greatest trick is to get people to pledge allegiance to him by screaming “Hail, Satan” – as they did in Boston -- and still believe that he doesn’t exist.

Are we witnessing the emergence of a new religion based on parody, blasphemy, and the culture of death, a dark Doppelgänger to Christianity’s culture of life?

It has happened before. Back in 1793, revolutionaries celebrated Festivals of Reason across France: donkeys wore chasubles and mitres; a dancer was crowned on the high altar of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris as the goddess of reason. Latter-day revolutionaries like the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and The Satanic Temple are celebrating Festivals of Indulgence, with equal zest for blasphemous burlesque.

What comes after this madness? Surely repudiating the Decalogue and the Beatitudes, cancelling 2,000 years of Christian traditions, and embracing Satanism would transform our societies for the worse.

In the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars which followed it, an estimated 3.5 million people died. Nothing so dramatic is likely to happen in the wake of the blasphemies of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and SatanCon. But wars are not the only way to make people suffer. Americans already have rising rates of deaths of despair, gun violence and mass shootings. Suicide rates in the US have risen nearly 40 percent since 2000.

The bleak hedonism spread by these professional blasphemers can take some of the responsibility for this malaise. Christ called Satan “a liar and the father of lies”. And there is no lie more destructive than the promise of happiness through sex-soaked hedonism. Blasphemy is hurtful, but those it hurts most are the blasphemers.


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