The Sisters have been at the forefront of LGBTQ rights activism for decades. The group began organizing in the 1970s to support people with HIV/AIDS.
In the end, the Sisters received a Community Hero Award in a brief on-field ceremony held with few fans still in their seats before the Dodgers’ game Friday against the rival San Francisco Giants.
The invitation angered many conservative Catholics, even at the highest levels of the American hierarchy.
On Monday, Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, joined a statement calling it offensive and a mockery.
The statement was not referring to the Dodgers by name but to a professional baseball team. They asked Catholics Friday to pray “as an act of reparation for the blasphemies against our Lord that we see in our culture today.”
Phoenix-based Catholics for Catholics organized what it called “a prayer procession” and had advised people not to bring children to the rally because it anticipated “hostility from anti-Christian protesters,” The Associated Press reported.
But there were no disturbances or arrests from the protests, which spread from the main entrance to the stadium and down Vin Scully Avenue before the game, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said.
A man with a megaphone repeated “Hail Mary, full of grace” and a prayer, and at one point the entrance was closed, with a rolled chain-link fence and police vehicles present, but then reopened. It was not clear why. Police had no information and the Dodgers did not respond to a request for comment.
Others enjoyed the event. A man who attended the game said Los Angeles that it mattered that the team honored LGBTQ issues.
“My team supports me and I want to show my support,” he said. “I think they [protesters] they have their right, but today is like a special day for us. Especially because we don’t have much respect, especially for LGBT and for the Dodgers team to support us.”
The Sisters’ invitation, initially extended by the Dodgers in May, sparked a backlash that included a letter of objection from Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, to Major League Baseball.
In his letter to the league, Rubio called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence an “anti-Catholic” group with members “who mock the faith” and encourage the “perversion of Jesus’ command to ‘go and sin no more’.”
The Dodgers’ turnaround did little to calm things down. Equality California, an LGBT civil rights group, said the team “should be ashamed of themselves.”
LA Pride, which among other things organizes the huge LA Pride Parade & Festival, said it was disappointed that it would not participate in the Dodgers’ planned Pride event.
“Pride is a fight for equality and inclusion for the entire LGBTQ+ community and we are not stopping now,” the nonprofit organization said.
Among those who disagreed with the Dodgers’ decision to host the Sisters was the team’s own star pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner.
Kershaw told the Los Angeles Times in late May that he was “disagreeable with making fun of other people’s religions”. The left-hander told the newspaper that his opposition to the ceremony was not against the LGBTQ community, but only in honor of the Sisters.
“This has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community or Pride or anything like that,” Kershaw told the Times. “This is simply a group making fun of a religion I don’t agree with.”
On May 22, the Dodgers apologized to the Sisters, as well as the LGBTQ community in general, and invited the group back.
He said he changed course “after much thoughtful feedback from our various communities, honest conversations within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, and generous discussions with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”
Many of the signs at the protest against Friday’s event were insulting to the Catholic faith, according to video from the scene.
But the Dodgers controversy comes after some companies have been attacked by conservatives and others for ads or merchandise featuring transgender people and issues.
Bud Light was the target of a boycott after it teamed up with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in a social media ad, and Target in May removed some products from its Pride collection after the retailer said its employees received threats.