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Bishop Tobin Batting .500

Bishop Tobin of the Diocese of Providence writes a weekly column in the Rhode Island Catholic entitled Without a Doubt. It is always well done, thought provoking and pastoral but this past week made me cheer at one point and feel utterly frustrated at another. In his most recent submission, Bishop Tobin briefly addressed several issues, including the Fr. Cutie scandal in Miami, the murder of Dr. Tiller, President Obama’s reception of an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame, President Obama’s declaration of the month of June as Lesbian,Gay, Bi-sexual Transgendered pride month, and a couple of other random wanderings. First the ‘home run’ then the ‘swing and a miss’.

On the “gay agenda” he wrote:

I see that President Obama has declared June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) month. The President has called on all Americans to “turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” In other words, if you’re opposed to the homosexual sub-culture and behavior, you’re now a presidential bigot. “If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit,” the President said. In that spirit, I can’t wait for the President’s declaration of a month dedicated to pro-life Americans. After all, our Nation was founded on the principle of life – along with liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Speaking of the gay agenda, the left-leaning columnist of the “Providence Journal” Bob Kerr, who frequently sounds the trumpet on behalf of the gay lobby, has asked why some people feel the need to defend traditional marriage. “What are they protecting it from?” he pleads.

The answer, Bob, is identity theft. From the very beginning of recorded history, marriage has had a very specific identity – the union of one man and one woman, joined together for the dual purpose of mutual love and the creation of new life. Because of its essential contributions, marriage has been afforded special rights and privileges in every culture. Now, in just the last few years, some individuals involved in other forms of immoral sexual liaisons have appeared on the scene to say, “Hey, we want to be married too. We hereby claim your identity, your rights and privileges, for ourselves.” So that’s the answer, Bob. We’re protecting the fundamental institution of marriage from identity theft.

Identity theft…I like that. Now on to the strikeout. On President Obama at Notre Dame:

I didn’t offer any public comments about President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame last month for several reasons: Lots of other bishops made excellent public statements that covered everything I would have said; I have no jurisdiction over Notre Dame and my voice would have meant little; and along with Notre Dame, there’s lots of other Catholic colleges and universities across the country that could be challenged for similar situations.

Nonetheless, to say that I was disappointed by the decision of Father Jenkins to invite the President and award him an honorary degree is a huge understatement. The invitation seriously compromised the Catholic identity and integrity of Notre Dame and gave plenty of encouragement to the pro-abortion folks around the country who love to see the Church divided over this issue. Accordingly, even if asked, I won’t be writing any letters of recommendation for anyone applying for Notre Dame any time soon. Or Georgetown either, for that matter.

These last two paragraphs are contradictory. The latter is a very strong statement which articulates the heart of the issue and the gravity of the scandal. Merriam-Webster defines scandal as “discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person; conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another; loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety : disgrace.” This is exactly the detrimental outcome Bishop Tobin observes, and it is the very reason it necessitated a public statement.

To make a public statement when ‘lots of other bishops’ are doing the same is not “piling on”, but an important sign of solidarity. Silence is affirmation and it spoke more loudly and added to the fervor of controversy because it was perceived as tacit support. Even though Bishop Tobin has no canonical jurisdiction in South Bend, the effects of the scandal reached the faithful he is charged with shepherding–in his jurisdiction. And lastly, the fact that many other Catholic institutions could be challenged for similar incidents is a sad commentary on the state of Catholic higher education, and no excuse for ignoring the most public display of Roman Catholic Identity crisis.

The Church in the United States is at the bottom of the ninth inning and we’re on our feet. We just need our shepherds to step up to the plate.

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