Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bishop Tobin's Pastoral Response to Catholic RI Gubernatorial Candidates

The Bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, has not shied away from defending Catholic beliefs in calling out Catholic politicians or weighing in on controversial issues such as immigration and "homosexual marriage".  His strong response to Congressman Kennedy's misguided attack on the Church's moral authority landed him in the national spotlight, making news headlines and television appearances.  He has frequently stated that professing to be Catholic means something and requires something from those who call themselves Catholic.

On March 4th supporters of same-sex marriage held a rally at the Rhode Island statehouse.  Present on the podium were four of the five current candidates for governor, two of whom profess to be Catholic (and pro-choice as well).  First to take the mic was State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio who said,  “As governor I will sign the marriage-equality bill. I also will work with the legislature to see that it gets through the legislature.”  Next, Patrick Lynch, RI Attorney General, said he “would quickly put pen to paper” and sign a marriage-equality bill, and would veto a bill that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Bishop Tobin responded in a statement, “It is extremely disappointing to see Catholic politicians abandon their faith for the sake of political expediency.  I would hope that as candidates and office holders, they would be able to support traditional, moral values such as the recognition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. I am hopeful that they will reconsider their position.”

The Rhode Island Catholic has links to copies of the letters Bishop Tobin sent to both Catholic candidates.  The text is below [my emphasis]:
I am writing to express my profound disappointment that you participated in the recent rally at the State House and there publicly pledged to sign a bill allowing "homosexual marriage" in the State of Rhode Island should you be elected Governor.

From a practical point of view, your pledge to sign such legislation -without even knowing any of the details of the eventual legislation -is very puzzling. You've now put yourself in a box - pledged to sign legislation, even if the legislation that eventually emerges is seriously flawed or unacceptable for practical reasons. I wonder if you would make a similar pledge for any other piece of hypothetical legislation.

The greater concern for me, of course, is that your willingness to support -even promote- "homosexual marriage" is contrary to the obligations of the Catholic Faith you profess. The teachings of the Church on this matter have been clear and consistent.

While the Church strongly affirms and defends the human dignity and human rights of homosexual persons as beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters, the Church also teaches that homosexual activity is unnatural and immoral, a sin against human dignity and a grave offense to Almighty God. This teaching is based on the natural moral law, the Holy Scriptures and the constant tradition of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.

The concept of so-called "gay marriage" is offensive because it amounts to public acceptance of and endorsement of immoral homosexual activity and is a blatant attempt to redefine the sacred institution of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. This traditional definition of marriage is not of human origin. It was designed by God and has been unquestioned in every culture and society from the very beginning of the human family.

I need to remind you that Catholic political leaders are not exempt from the obligations of their faith, any more than members of any other profession are exempt from their faith. Your Catholic Faith is not a private matter -to be authentic it must inform every aspect of your personal and public life. You cannot profess to be a Catholic on Sunday and then set out to promote immoral activities the rest of the week. To consider your faith a private matter without any impact on your professional life is clearly inconsistent with the teachings of Christ who taught His disciples to be "the salt of the earth and the light of the world." (Mt. 5: 13-14)

As your bishop I am concerned primarily for your spiritual well-being and for that reason I am obliged to remind you that your public support of "homosexual marriage" creates a grave spiritual danger for you. Someday you will stand face-to-face before the judgment seat of God and have to explain why you publicly promoted immoral sexual activity, scandalized the community and contributed to the erosion of Holy Matrimony and family life.

Lent is a time of spiritual renewal, repentance and reconciliation. In the spirit of this holy season, therefore, I plead with you to reflect upon and reconsider your stance on "homosexual marriage." As always, I am available to discuss this matter with you personally, and I take this opportunity to extend to you and your family my prayers and blessings.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin
Bishop of Providence

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