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Bishop McElroy addresses USD drag show controversy: “My sweet little darlings, please come home.”

Ecce Homos?

A USD student in drag lip syncs to The Weather Girls' “It’s Raining Men.”
A USD student in drag lip syncs to The Weather Girls' “It’s Raining Men.”

Last week, the University of San Diego, a Catholic institution, once again hosted an LGBTQ organization's annual "PRIDE Celebration of Gender Expression: Supreme Drag Superstar" show, a tawdry, sad affair that nevertheless seeks to promote acceptance on campus. There were, as usual, protestors gathered outside the drab, overlit hall that played host to the event, reciting the rosary and citing the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that condemns homosexual acts as objectively disordered. But this year, the stakes were raised: two of the protesters revealed that they had taken their grievance all the way to the Vatican, and had received a letter of reply from the Congregation of Catholic Education. The letter read in part, "in view of the gravity of the case, it is worth mentioning that in light of the show and the scandal that it caused, this congregation intends to act through administrative channels to the competent ecclesiastical authority in San Diego.”

The “competent ecclesial authority” is San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy, and today he responded by releasing a public invitation to the event’s organizers and participants to “exercise their gifts in full communion with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Having attended the drag show at the University of San Diego,” he wrote, "I can say without question that when it comes to glam, camp, swagger, pomp, stagecraft, drama, beauty, pathos, and sheer over-the-top muchness, it doesn’t hold a beeswax candle to even a middling, ordinary-time ecclesial affair. It was a little like those 'irregular relationships' Pope Francis cited in his recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which may echo in their own way the richness, unity, and fruitfulness of sacramental marriage, but still fall well short of its excellence. Put simply, nobody does theater like Catholics do theater. And the best part is, we don’t have to be ironic about it. Sure, camp is fun, but how much more amazing is it when even your kitsch has intrinsic value? It’s not a question of acceptance; it’s a question of love and its sometimes terrible cost: Christ ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes, even as he called the woman caught in adultery to ‘Go and sin no more.’ Jesus longs for you to accept Him, who is Love incarnate. And once you do, to put your very special talents to work in service of His Church on earth.”

“By way of illustrating my point, let me, as your bishop, invite you to compare and contrast the image taken from your little drag show with a more traditionally Catholic tableau: a trio of Swiss Guardsmen in feathered helmets and stripey conquistador-style uniforms bear an enthroned bronze statue of Saint Peter, itself draped and crowned in miniature versions of the official papal vestments and tiara like some kind of fantastic doll, through the baroque riot of ornate splendor that is Saint Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of Saint Fabuloso, a 16th-century Vatican tailor’s assistant who was castrated as a boy with a pair of his own pinking shears for refusing to make a horned miter for Reformation Protestants seeking to demonize the pope. (Fabuloso spent the rest of his life as the Pope’s favorite castrato, and is reputed to have had the purest soprano voice ever heard, one capable of wringing tears from the very statue borne by the Guardsmen.) Behind him, a squad of litter-bearers wearing suits of crushed red velvet and white silk gloves squire the Holy Father on a sedia gestatoria of purest gold, from which he may survey the filthy, breeding masses who have come to pay him homage. The Pope, himself swaddled in red satin, dangles from his index finger a reliquary containing the actual, desiccated head of Saint Catherine of Siena. The object summons forth feverish devotion from the faithful, who believe that it possesses miraculous powers of healing, in part because Saint Catherine is reputed to have drunk the pus from the cancerous wound of a poor soul, which is about 15 times more batshit intense than anything Ryan Murphy has ever put on screen. Really, it’s no contest."

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A USD student in drag lip syncs to The Weather Girls' “It’s Raining Men.”
A USD student in drag lip syncs to The Weather Girls' “It’s Raining Men.”

Last week, the University of San Diego, a Catholic institution, once again hosted an LGBTQ organization's annual "PRIDE Celebration of Gender Expression: Supreme Drag Superstar" show, a tawdry, sad affair that nevertheless seeks to promote acceptance on campus. There were, as usual, protestors gathered outside the drab, overlit hall that played host to the event, reciting the rosary and citing the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that condemns homosexual acts as objectively disordered. But this year, the stakes were raised: two of the protesters revealed that they had taken their grievance all the way to the Vatican, and had received a letter of reply from the Congregation of Catholic Education. The letter read in part, "in view of the gravity of the case, it is worth mentioning that in light of the show and the scandal that it caused, this congregation intends to act through administrative channels to the competent ecclesiastical authority in San Diego.”

The “competent ecclesial authority” is San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy, and today he responded by releasing a public invitation to the event’s organizers and participants to “exercise their gifts in full communion with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Having attended the drag show at the University of San Diego,” he wrote, "I can say without question that when it comes to glam, camp, swagger, pomp, stagecraft, drama, beauty, pathos, and sheer over-the-top muchness, it doesn’t hold a beeswax candle to even a middling, ordinary-time ecclesial affair. It was a little like those 'irregular relationships' Pope Francis cited in his recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which may echo in their own way the richness, unity, and fruitfulness of sacramental marriage, but still fall well short of its excellence. Put simply, nobody does theater like Catholics do theater. And the best part is, we don’t have to be ironic about it. Sure, camp is fun, but how much more amazing is it when even your kitsch has intrinsic value? It’s not a question of acceptance; it’s a question of love and its sometimes terrible cost: Christ ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes, even as he called the woman caught in adultery to ‘Go and sin no more.’ Jesus longs for you to accept Him, who is Love incarnate. And once you do, to put your very special talents to work in service of His Church on earth.”

“By way of illustrating my point, let me, as your bishop, invite you to compare and contrast the image taken from your little drag show with a more traditionally Catholic tableau: a trio of Swiss Guardsmen in feathered helmets and stripey conquistador-style uniforms bear an enthroned bronze statue of Saint Peter, itself draped and crowned in miniature versions of the official papal vestments and tiara like some kind of fantastic doll, through the baroque riot of ornate splendor that is Saint Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of Saint Fabuloso, a 16th-century Vatican tailor’s assistant who was castrated as a boy with a pair of his own pinking shears for refusing to make a horned miter for Reformation Protestants seeking to demonize the pope. (Fabuloso spent the rest of his life as the Pope’s favorite castrato, and is reputed to have had the purest soprano voice ever heard, one capable of wringing tears from the very statue borne by the Guardsmen.) Behind him, a squad of litter-bearers wearing suits of crushed red velvet and white silk gloves squire the Holy Father on a sedia gestatoria of purest gold, from which he may survey the filthy, breeding masses who have come to pay him homage. The Pope, himself swaddled in red satin, dangles from his index finger a reliquary containing the actual, desiccated head of Saint Catherine of Siena. The object summons forth feverish devotion from the faithful, who believe that it possesses miraculous powers of healing, in part because Saint Catherine is reputed to have drunk the pus from the cancerous wound of a poor soul, which is about 15 times more batshit intense than anything Ryan Murphy has ever put on screen. Really, it’s no contest."

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