Catholic Church In The Castro Bans Drag Queens

MostHolyRedeemerChurchIn 2006, Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church — a charming little house of worship just two and a half blocks from The Castro Theatre, and even closer to The Sausage Factory — laid down the law: No more Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters had been running bingo games at the church, the proceeds from which went to charity, and some of the congregants seem to have hated it. At the time, the parish council president called the Sisters' very existence a "direct affront to Jesus," and likened their use of church facilities to "using a Jewish space to host an Adolf Hitler look-alike contest."

But it was just the Sisters who were banned. People in drag not impersonating nuns were, in theory, still welcome. Now they'e not

So learned the Castro Country Club, a queer recovery group, when they were planning their annual Harvest Ball fundraiser at the church — an event always emceed by drag queens, and until now held happily in Most Holy Redeemer's social hall. But this year the San Francisco Archdiocese has a new Archbishop, and Most Holy Redeemer has a new pastor, Rev. Brian Costello. From the Bay Area Reporter:

Costello said that during a telephone conversation with a Castro Country Club representative, when the topic of drag queens came up, he told the person, "That is not going to work under the present circumstances."

"I said work with me. You can still have the dinner. You can have a regular emcee, but not drag queens on church property," Costello said.

Costello says the order comes directly from the Archbishop: he will allow no drag queens on church property, ever. If that's true, it's silly, because Archbishops like to dress like this:

Pallium archbishops



  1. NE Rich says

    Why would any GLBT organization WANT to have their event at a Catholic church ? I don’t care if it is the Castro. My anger at this is not with the church, we all know where they stand and I choose not to support THEM in any way shape or form. What I would support is the Sisters of PI or any other drag group and buy a ticket for their event for charity any day but not in a Catholic facility. Move on people, stop going to this well, it’s dry, there is no water.

  2. Elsewhere says

    As we say here in the neighborhood, men in dresses have banned men in dresses.

    Probably because they’re jealous their purses.

  3. Andrew says

    There’s a new archbishop in town, bitches, he’s Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, and he takin’ names. The catholic church liked what he did with Prop 8, so they have sent him in to clean up San Francisco. We’ll be seeing a lot of him.

  4. George says

    I guarantee thet those robes that the arch-bishops are wearing and they’re accessories cost a hell of a lot more than most drag outfits. Crap, the lace alone costs a small fortune.

  5. Paolo says

    This one time, the Catholics got it right. There is absolutely no reason they should feel compelled to allow the disgusting Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on their property. They welcome gays and lesbians. They are not discriminating based on sexual orientation. They are making a judgment call based on dress, conduct, and course language. I wouldn’t want that minstrel act in my home either. I don’t know whether they are an affront to Catholics, but they are certainly an affront to any gay person with an ounce of self-respect.

    It is really sad that some gay people think that they need to defend clownish drag shows.

  6. john patrick says

    When Salvatore Cordileone shows up in his gowns, he should be met outside the church by a crowd of LGBT people refusing to allow a drag queen such as he into the church. They should declare “no exceptions to the ban.”

  7. Seamus says

    I used to visit San Francisco often in the past. One Sunday, years ago, a friend took me to this church in the Castro. I was stunned! A totally packed church, with about 95% of the congregants gay, and the remaining churchgoers senior citizens of the neighborhood, who welcomed these gays with warm hugs. This is the church that sponsored an HIV/AIDS hospice on its property at the beginning of those dreaded times, and all this went on with the consent of the bishop. This care center continued on for years. So, before one condemns this particular parish church, know something about its wonderful caring for gays and its concern for social justice. I am not so naive as to suggest that other Catholic churches in the nation act in a similar manner. But this particular church stood as a beacon for spirituality and justice for our gay community at a time when the Castro was clearly welcoming this.

  8. jamal49 says

    @PAOLO Obviously you know nothing about The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

    They actually are performance-artists who happen to dress in quasi-nun drag.

    They do not disrespect the women-religious of the RCC. They satirize the chauvinism and misogyny of the Church. Real Nuns have no problem with the SOPD. The SOPD do lots of charitable work in SF and are fantastic people!

    The new archbishop who is a corporate man, a real Vatican up-and-comer. He was a big influence getting Prop 8 passed in CA and was responsible for the Church’s outreach to Mormons and evangelicals to unite to defeat marriage equality. He’ll go far in the increasingly reactionary Catholic church.

    One might expect the “comparative” comments here about who are the bigger drag-queens: the SPOD or the bishops.

    Comparing the bishops to drag-queens gives drag-queenery a bad name. The bishops are hypocrites; hateful, spiteful, mean-spirited, perverted men.

    When the archbishop of SF owns up to the decades-long (hell, centuries-long) sexual abuse of adolescents and children, he can then get all pissy about the SOPD. Until then, one must respond to Ms. Archbishop like this: Girl, STFU!

  9. voet says

    Hey, Jesus, put on some pants! And take off those sandals; wear some shoes and socks! And while you’re at it, get a man’s haircut. Now don’t come back to this church until you do!

  10. Howard says

    They’re all wearing my Mardi Gras costume…same color and everything. I paid good money to rent that thing and now everybody has one. I am pissed!!!

  11. Guy says

    @Seamus: I think you got the history of the Coming Home Hospice wrong. You should check on it. It is run by a local hospital and it was funded by individuals, not MHR.

    As for gay men thronging MHR on Sundays, well, it’s conveniently in their neighborhood. Many of them were former members of Dignity, a gay Catholic group that tried to change the church’s attitudes but got thrown out.

    They have helped MHR pay for its mortgage but now that that is done, you’ll notice that they’re not acknowledged directly from the pulpit. You can go to Easter mass, as I did, and hear no mention of the thousands who died of AIDS although you’ll hear about people dying of cancer and other diseases. Gay issues are not mentioned or supported from hierarchy there.

    You have got to realize that the officials at MHR toe the party line. And it is a line that is hostile to gays.

    It’s about time the parishioners spoke up by withholding their donations until the church changes. Otherwise, they are deluding themselves and can bring their good work to any number of other organizations.

  12. says

    The scarves hanging down the back from the chapeaux are a nice effect, but the slips are too long and hide the pumps.

  13. Mike says

    How can you tell the difference between the Queens and the Priest, they all look pretty all dressed up. Discrimination is not what Jesus would do.

  14. BABH says

    As Tallulah Bankhead said to the thurifer:

    “Love the frock, vicar, but your purse is on fire.”

  15. Otkon says

    The SoPI are less drag queen and more terrifying bearded clown. It’s like my sphenisciphobia and my coulrophobia had Sunday-kneeling ass-babies.

  16. John says

    This is disappointing. Most Holy Redeemer was my parish, and it bills itself as an inclusive spiritual home in the heart of the Castro. And it was. The previous pastor was always able to walk the line between having an open and inclusive parish and following the Archdiocese’s mandates. But with a new archbishop and a new pastor, the parish isn’t the same anymore.

    This parish held some of the earliest AIDS Support Groups and was home to one of the first AIDS hospices. It opened its doors to LGBT groups who needed a space to hold fundraisers and is still the meeting site of many LGBT-focused substance abuse recovery meetings.

    Most Holy Redeemer, previously, provided a home to the outcasts of society, in much the same was as Christ did and has asked us to do. Despite the Vatican’s teachings, Most Holy Redeemer preached love, compassion, and acceptance and encouraged parishioners to live out a life in service to one another. It seems the Vatican has forgotten that “sola fide” is not a Catholic concept. But the current Pope has been preaching that concept and ignoring centuries of Church teachings that faith alone is not justification for salvation. Unfortunately, the Church hierarchy seems bent on destroying groups (the Leadership Conference of Women Religious included) that seek to live lives according to Christ’s teachings.


  17. chuck says

    They rented the facilities in the past…thereby supporting the RCC’s homophobic endeavors. No difference than having Chick-Fil-A cater an LGBT party.

  18. seriously? says

    I can only look at that picture and laugh at the thought of the bishops facing down the Sisters of Perp Indulgence. Who’s kidding who?

  19. says

    The Sisters of Perpetual Infection have a God-given right to go into the Catholic Church during services anytime they wish; to be disruptive, disrespectful, and dressed to mock Catholicism.

    They also have the right to use the hypocritical faggot media as their own little personal tool to cry pretend persecution, giving our enemies every reasonable justification in the world to hate us as much as we hate them.

    This is how “progress” is made, by constant deception, hypocrisy, and disrespect !

  20. CPT_Doom says

    Every business in the Castro – hell in the city – that considers gays and lesbians to be full human beings should retaliate by simply posting pictures of Mr. Costello & Mr. Cordileone with the simple message “Do not serve.” The Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth said that you should treat others as you’d like to be treated. The leadership of the Catholic Church has made it clear how they expect to be treated by those who believe in equality – with disdain & disrespect. We should meet their expectations.

  21. says

    If they were this aggressive about purging pedophiles from their church, they’d be paying a lot less in court fees and settlements.

  22. BuckieWeston says

    When I lived in SF, I often patronized coffee shops in the Castro. They were nice places to meet people and kick back and read a book, have a cup of coffee, socialize with friends…

    On MANY occasions Sisters would wander in, in full clown regalia, often desperate to be the center of attention.

    On MANY occasions, they would butt in on conversations I and my friends would be immersed in, make rude remarks, interrupt and disrupt our conversations with their opinions, which they would offer based on their often misunderstanding the contexts and details which they weren’t there to hear from the beginning of the conversations.

    I’ve seen them spit on gay people, yell, and behave in a generally awful manner.

    So, yeah, I can see why ANY church would want to avoid their type of “activism” and attention whore seeking behaviore.

    There’s no reason why people who are basically COWARDLY and who HIDE behind Halloween makeup should be taken seriously, and I refuse to even engage someone that is so chickencrap that they are AFRAID to show their face.

  23. Frankie says

    I don’t think that you can seriously compare the The Sisters, who HIDE their faces with clown makeup, with people who don’t HIDE their faces.

    So, no, this “issue” is childish and a fine example of hypocrisy. The Sisters do some pretty awful things, and they do them by HIDING their faces.

    They’re cowards.

  24. D.R.H. says

    It’s like sticking your finger in a hornets nest and then crying because you got stung. They’re bigots, WHY would they host bingo in the Catholic church? Sometimes the stupidity of this community of breathtaking.

  25. MonkeyPuzzle says

    Though I haven’t always been pleased with all of the Sisters’ antics, they are simply a charitable organization that reinterprets the camp of Catholicism. My personal experiences with the Sisters over my decade here in the SF have always been positive, and straight families happily take their kids to their annual Easter Egg hunt in Dolores Park. You don’t need to be afraid of them.

  26. Artie_in_Lauderdale says

    From Federico Fellini’s movie, Roma, I give you Exhibit A, “The Presentation of Ecclesiastical Fashions”:

    No one can outdo the drag creations that the guys who run the Catholic Church wear.

  27. Tom says

    Drag acts are degrading to women and to gay men. They are a remnant of the past. Most of the people defending this self-debasement are older people who have an attachment to it born of nostalgia. For younger people, the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” are a pathetic joke.

    We are members of our communities. We have families and lots of friends. We are respected by others and we respect ourselves as gay people. We don’t have to prance around like obscene court jesters to feel important.

    Can’t wait for the last aging Sister to croak. It will be as joyful an occasion as when Jerry Falwell kicked the bucket.

  28. peterparker says

    For all of you haters of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: SPI is a worldwide performance art drag protest organized into a loosely bound group of orders, most of which are non-profit, charitable organizations.

    The San Francisco chapter of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence has raised and distributed over $1,000,000.00 to other non-profit organizations such as Faithful Fools which provides dental work to the homeless, Camp fYerfly which is an LGBTQ camp for queer youth, SF Woman Against Rape, Tenderloin Tessie which is a holiday meals program, Gay Men’s Health Summit, and on and on and on…

    What have *you* done for the less fortunate lately?

  29. says

    “We are members of our communities. We have families and lots of friends. We are respected by others and we respect ourselves as gay people. We don’t have to prance around like obscene court jesters to feel important.”

    Sounds like SOME young gay people respect themselves only as pretend-straight people and have very little respect for the kind of people who fought to let them assimilate.

  30. JeffB says

    I am SO sick of reading about the bigotry of the Catholic church. The hostility and out and out hatred this “religion” bears to anyone who doesn’t subserviently obey is sickening. I am SO glad I am no longer a part of this slimy bunch of crooks, hate-mongers, and hypocrites. We are going to Italy in a couple of weeks and I refure to go anywhere NEAR the Vatican and contribute, in any way, to its perpetuating its perverted ideology.

  31. Guy says

    Looked into this more and find it interesting that Castro Country Club didn’t book any number of other venues in the Castro.

    The church, as a religious organization, is like a private club. It is under no obligation to accommodate everyone.

  32. Sere says


    If a group of people want to get together to raise money for charity, they don’t need to paint their faces white and dress up as nuns with dildos around their necks to do so. There isn’t any justification for the minstrelsy of this group. They supposedly were about attacking the Catholics but in reality they debased and insulted and hurt gay people.

    For decades, the “Sisters” have been featured in a variety of anti-gay videos, websites and printed literature. People who know little about gay people, or who might be on the fence, take one look at the depravity of this group and they support the anti-gay side. And this has been going on since the 1980s. The so-called Sisters are the gift that keeps on giving to the anti-gay side. And the warped, selfish, attention-whores that make up this group have never cared. They just carry on with their vileness, however many gay kids it might wind up hurting.

    Screw them. If I believed in a hell, I’d say screw them to hell.

  33. Phil says

    The happiest day of 2012 was when “Sister Boom Boom” dropped dead. How does someone spend a lifetime degrading gay people in order to satisfy his craving for attention? These people send a terrible message to gay kids about what it means to be gay and how gay people conduct themselves in their communities.

    The sooner the rest of these Stepnfetchits retire to a cave or a mental hospital, the better it will get for gay and lesbian youth.

  34. WeDontNeedToLieToWin says

    “peterparker” :

    Who said they hate them ?

    They’re ridiculous, cowardly clowns that hide behind masks.

    They should have stuck with what they were doing back in the late 70’s – encouraging people to STOP spreading STD’s.

  35. Gast says

    So what does it mean o dress in drag? it’s an act a parody right? Why must folks carry an act into Church? I completely get a transgender person going along with his/her identity. But I don’t get our insistence to overact in church. Be yourself and focus in the reason you’re going to church in the first place. We aren’t right all the time and this is one of those times.

  36. Reilly says

    Oddball parts of our community aren’t the problem… our infighting is. Seems like nearly every story lately, on this and a number of other LGBT blogs, degenerates into a kind of “Us Gays vs. Those Gays” crap. When gay men fight about drag, it’s really just a thinly encoded version of the “effeminate vs. masculine” false dichotomy that has tragically seized our community in the last few years (in which one side argues that masculine gay men are somehow in denial of their sexuality, while the other asserts that effeminate / flamboyant gay men are a kind of PR liability for the community). How about we all just *be ourselves* (whomever that might be), while being open to others unlike ourselves…

    Oh, and there’s a priceless irony in a series of comments that slams the Sisters and other drag performers as attention whores… and then implies that the gay community should consist only of that which will make mainstream society “like us”.

  37. Mike says

    MHR was already planned on not renting it hall to anyone, GAY or STRAIGHT. The Archdiocese of SF just had them implant that policy now instead of after these events. This was NOT an order from the new AB of SF.

    MHR welcomes people in drag at services already and always have as well as Transgender, Gay Couples, and Straight people. This entire situation has been blown out of proportion. It is MHR prerogative to not rent its hall. To many times it’s been left trashed by straight weddings and sweet 16 parties. As far as the Castro Country Club goes, they held this event MHR two years ago and the vacant Patio restaurant last year. It’s not like they’ve had it at MHR for the past 10 years. There was also another LGBT group that was going to hold a function at MHR in Sept and that was cancelled also. They were very understanding. In fact, the MHR community is trying to raise funds from it parishioners to help BOTH venues to defer the cost of relocating. Hope some of this information help people to understand what actually happened.

  38. Mike says

    It’s unfortunate that Most Holy Redeemer was forced by the San Francisco Archdiocese to cancel the Castro Country Club’s use of its hall for a fundraiser. But, it’s far worse and more hurtful for Donna Sachet to want to “get that bigoted church out of the Castro” and others to call it a hate group. Despite MHR’s being a part of the neighborhood for over 100 years, it shouldn’t really take too much effort for even Donna to recall the service the parish has done for the Castro Community. Donna should be able to remember back to the early 1980’s (I certainly can) when friends were dying almost daily. MHR sometimes hosted 5 funerals a week. To this day, a scroll with the names of parishioners who died from AIDS inscribed on it resides in the church. It was about that time that a group of MHR parishioners and others got together to raise funds to open Coming Home Hospice, the first AIDS hospice in the country which is housed in MHR’s former convent. At a time when many were afraid to touch people with AIDS, MHR priests ran over to the hospice to administer last rights at all times of the night and day. The Castro Country Club, itself, would not likely exist if our deceased Fr. Joe Healy hadn’t been one of the founders. The MHR AIDS support group has a long and distinguished history of providing practical and emotional support to thousands of people suffering and living with AIDS. The parish hosts more 12 step meetings than any location in the area, attended mostly by LGBTQ. Fundraisers were held at MHR to help establish and found LYRIC. For the past 11 years, MHR has provided a weekly meal with dignity and respect to 100, including many LGBT youth, of our homeless and needy friends. In addition to the meal, medical help, clothing distribution, haircuts, podiatrist care are provided, and there is a monthly movie night. There are many more.

    Some may not like nor feel a need for organized religion, but others do. MHR has become an oasis in the Castro for those of us who want to practice the faith of our ancestors, even if we do have many difficulties with the Church at large. For us, “church” is what we create with each other as we come to worship and celebrate our sacraments. MHR has always been a welcoming community, predominantly gay since the 1980’s, but as the neighborhood changes so does the congregation. There are straight and gay couples and families with children, singles, transsexuals, people in drag and people of all races and colors.

    There’s far more hate directed toward MHR than you’ll ever find emanating from it.

  39. Ivan says

    As a friend once said (very loudly) about a priest as he was waving a thurible (an incense burner) during mass = “I love the dress, but his purse is on fire’