Dodgers Debacle Calls for a More Vocal Catholic Citizenry
COMMENTARY: Catholics have a spiritual duty to promote truth and orient themselves toward God, not the whims of man.
In his influential prose work The Captive Mind, a reflection on the mental contortions required to live and work in the Stalinist “people’s republics” of Eastern Europe, Polish Nobel Prize-winner and dissident Czesław Miłosz details the concept of “Ketman,” the act of outwardly supporting the regime while harboring internal opposition.
Practitioners of Ketman could include artists and writers seeking to maintain their craft, professionals seeking to earn a living, and, particularly relevant in Catholic Poland, people of faith seeking truth despite official proscription of religion.
In the United States, where Miłosz spent much of his life in exile, Catholics can increasingly recognize Ketman in their own lives. Churches are vandalized, and pro-life advocates are legally harassed, but most remain silent and hope to “go along to get along.”
A recent episode in professional baseball, of all things, revealed much about the position of Catholics in American society’s identity caste system and the impunity with which they can be disparaged.
The Los Angeles Dodgers announced they would disinvite, then reinvite, the activist group “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” from the team’s planned “LGBTQ+ Pride Night” after certain Catholic figures, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., objected to the team’s plans to honor the group with a “Community Hero Award.” Non-Catholic figures inevitably objected to the objection.
The activist group’s members don gaudy “nun” drag costumes and assume names like “Sister Selma Soul” and “Sister Guard N. O’Pansies” in a thinly veiled mockery of Catholic social teaching. Past activities have included “Hunky Jesus” and “Foxy Mary” costume contests and sexually explicit “twerking Jesus” performances. The group’s jeering motto is “Go forth and sin some more!”
“Case closed; just another culture-war squabble” might have been the takeaway for many familiar with the story. Indeed, that is the conclusion leading societal voices wanted onlookers to reach. The unrepentant Dodgers dismissed the episode as “the source of some controversy” and avoided anything resembling an apology.
ESPN sported the homepage headline “LGBTQIA+ group disinvited from LAD Pride Night” and minimized the controversy as “opposition from conservative Catholic groups.” The article offers a glowing history of the “nun impersonators” and highlights their publicly reported mission of “promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment,” among other unquestioned, uninvestigated banalities.
CBS News blamed a “conservative backlash” for the outcome, and a Los Angeles Times columnist lamented the supposed attempt to “pacify religious and political extremists” and drew a shameless Jackie Robinson comparison. This dismissive approach, diametrically opposed to society’s usually hypersensitive identity complex, was remarkably bold.
Bold enough, apparently, that the Dodgers reversed their decision a second time, apologized to the activists and reinvited them. In the statement, they applauded the group’s unspecified “lifesaving work.” Like so many corporate entities, the Dodgers organization demonstrated whom it can acceptably antagonize.
In the face of such forces, then, Ketman is a powerful tool for societal self-preservation. Most Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, don’t genuinely believe a costume-clad anti-Catholic activist group is worthy of celebration and a “community hero” distinction. Certainly at least some members of the Dodgers’ marketing staff don’t believe it; even some Democratic politicians probably don’t. Yet, as society retreats further into dystopian, truth-denying madness, it is safer to bow one’s head and remain silent. Corporations and their associated activists are confident they can count on this passivity.
Catholics, comprising about one-fifth of the American population, are well-positioned to engage in the sort of concerted economic behavior that would draw notice. If the recent Dylan Mulvaney-Bud Light saga and the rise of platforms like Public Square offer any indication, the appetite for such behavior is growing.
More importantly, Catholics have a spiritual duty to promote truth and orient themselves toward God, not the whims of man. Here too exists reason for optimism. It is no coincidence that Miłosz’s Poland became the Warsaw Pact’s epicenter of protests for freedom and human rights, in which the Catholic Church and Catholic activists played a leading role, in the late Cold War era. Catholic Lithuania was, among Soviet republics, arguably most troublesome to the regime.
It is true that Americans do not currently endure the oppression of either the Stalinist or late-Soviet era in Eastern Europe. It is also true that society is likely to get worse before it gets better. The timeliness and ferocity of resistance to societal groupthink will do much to determine America’s trajectory, and Catholics have both an opportunity and a responsibility to occupy a role in that resistance.
As the Dodgers controversy entered the headlines, the Catholic Church commemorated the birthday of another Pole and witness to godless regimes bent on societal reconstruction, Pope St. John Paul II, who was fond of exhorting the faithful to “be not afraid.” May current events serve as a wake-up call to heed these words.
Michael O'Shea is a visiting fellow at the Danube Institute. He is an alumnus of the Budapest Fellowship Program, sponsored by the Hungary Foundation and the Mathias Corvinus Collegium.