Recent uproar regarding paid passes for several Washington National Cathedral services of Holy Eucharist (since made optional) may have overshadowed another, unticketed service at the Episcopal Church’s most prominent place of worship.
Reverend Mother Felix Culpa, “Abbess” of House of Magnificent Intentions, participated in the November 30 evening service as a reader attired in oversized headgear and heavy makeup. Culpa is part of the satirical drag group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence controversially invited earlier this year as honorees at the Los Angeles’ Dodgers Pride Night, a decision that made national news for the Major League Baseball team.
The group of male performers parodies religious women by dressing in drag and habits.
Prominent Roman Catholic officials, including Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services, lamented the Dodgers’ invitation as “not just offensive and painful to Christians everywhere; it is blasphemy.”
The context of Culpa’s participation at the cathedral was a service dedicated in honor of murdered Episcopalian Matthew Shepard, whose remains are interred within, intended as a remembrance by the LGBTQIA+ community. Culpa read “A Prayer for Wanderers” by transgender theologian Shannon T.L. Kearns.
Liturgical readings were offered “in honor of black trans lives,” “A Prayer for My Queer and Trans Siblings” and a prayer thanking God “for creating us in your holy image, with a wide range of genders and sexualities that reflect your sacred diversities.”
Officiated by retired Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson and Cathedral Canon for Worship Rosemarie Logan Duncan, the service mentioned JesusChrist only twice, at the reading of John 6:37-40 and the concluding prayer.
I’ve been told by conservative Episcopal Church friends that the National Cathedral Dean is “a really orthodox and theologically moderate leader.” Maybe so, but this transpired at the cathedral in the past month.
Can Shepard’s passing be marked in the context of an Episcopal cathedral’s service without platforming an anti-Catholic drag performer mocking Catholic practices and beliefs? Is doing so orthodox and theologically moderate?
Let’s not kid ourselves here.