Late in the legislative session and on the coattails of New York’s redefining marriage, the Rhode Island Senate passed civil union legislation this past Wednesday. Governor Chafee, who made “same-sex marriage” a priority in his inauguration speech, has promised to quickly sign the bill into law. Bishop Thomas Tobin has not been silent on the fight against “same-sex marriage” and was instrumental in rallying Rhode Island Catholics against its passage. Here is his statement issued after the passage of civil unions:
I am deeply disappointed that Rhode Island will establish civil unions in our state. The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty.
In this context it is my obligation to remind Catholics of the teachings of the Church on this matter. First, the Church continues to have respect and love for persons with same-sex attraction; they are indeed children of God and our brothers and sisters in the human family. We pray for their well-being and offer them spiritual guidance and pastoral care. We also extend our love and support to families of homosexual persons who sometimes struggle with this difficult emotional issue.
At the same time, the Church reminds its members that homosexual activity is contrary to the natural law and the will of God and, therefore, is objectively sinful. Persons with same-sex attraction are required to live the Christian virtues of chastity and modesty, as all persons are. The importance of these virtues is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures and in the constant tradition of the Church.
Because civil unions promote an unacceptable lifestyle, undermine the faith of the Church on holy matrimony, and cause scandal and confusion, Catholics may not participate in civil unions. To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful. A civil union can never be accepted as a legitimate alternative to matrimony.
Can there be any doubt that Almighty God will, in His own time and way, pass judgment upon our state, its leaders and citizens, for abandoning His commands and embracing public immorality? I encourage Catholics to pray for God’s patience, mercy and forgiveness in these distressing times.
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.
Thomas J. Tobin
Bishop of Providence
New York Magazine featured a great article on Archbishop Dolan of NYC entitled Archbishop of Charm. The writer captures Dolan well: “He is a glad-hander and a backslapper, a tall, energetic, portly Irish-Catholic lug who likes smoking cigars and sipping Jameson’s. He makes a point of saying he’d be far happier talking to me at a parish fish fry than here, jamming himself sideways into an ornate, narrow chair.”
Here are some memorable quotes from the article:
On the Church
He once heard [Pope] Benedict say, “The church is all about yes, yes, not no, no.” “And I thought, Bingo! You know, the church is the one who dreams, the church is the one who constantly has the vision, the church is the one that’s constantly saying ‘Yes!’ to everything that life and love and sexuality and marriage and belief and freedom and human dignity—everything that that stands for, the church is giving one big resounding ‘Yes!’ The church founded the universities, the church was the patron of the arts, the scientists were all committed Catholics. And that’s what we have to recapture: the kind of exhilarating, freeing aspect. I mean, it wasn’t Ronald Reagan who brought down the Berlin Wall. It was Karol Wojtyła. I didn’t make that up: Mikhail Gorbachev said that.”
“I guess one of the things that frustrates me pastorally,” he adds, “is that there’s this caricature of the church—of being this oppressive, patriarchal, medieval, out-of-touch naysayer—where the opposite is true.”
On Gay Marriage
“If you have been gay your whole life and feel that that’s the way God made you, God bless you,” Dolan says. “But I would still say that that doesn’t mean you should act on that. I would happen to say, for instance, that God made me with a pretty short temper. Now, I still think God loves me, but I can’t act on that. I would think that God made me with a particular soft spot in my heart for a martini. Now, I’d better be careful about that.”
So, I ask, is being gay a character flaw?
“Yeah, it would be,” Dolan says—his smile broadening. “And we are all born with certain character flaws, aren’t we?”
But this leaves gay men and lesbians no choice but to form sexual partnerships that will always be seen as sinful. Isn’t that unfair?
Dolan takes a moment to think this over. “There’s no option,” he agrees, still smiling. “But I don’t know if that’s unfairness.”
Sex, he goes on to say, is not a human right, even if modern culture has made it appear that way. But this, he adds, is actually good news. His eyes light up. He seems excited—both by what he’s saying and by the fresh way he’s found to say it.
“The church—this hopeless romantic that she is—holds that sexual love is so exalted that it is the very mirror of the passion and the intimate excitement that God has for us and our relationship. We actually believe that when a man and a woman say ‘I do’ forever, that our love will be faithful, forever freeing, liberating, life-giving. We believe they mean it and they can do it! That’s exciting, that’s enriching, that’s ennobling. That’s a big, fat yes—yes!”
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.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 1, 2009
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2009
– – – – – – –
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.
LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country’s response to the HIV pandemic.
Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration — in both the White House and the Federal agencies — openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.
The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.
My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.
These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Forty years ago this month, the gay rights movement began with the Stonewall riots in New York City, as gays and lesbians demanded an end to the persecution they had long endured. Now, after decades of hard work, the fight has grown into a global movement to achieve a world in which all people live free from violence and fear, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In honor of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month and on behalf of the State Department, I extend our appreciation to the global LGBT community for its courage and determination during the past 40 years, and I offer our support for the significant work that still lies ahead.
At the State Department and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in Washington and around the world. They and their families make many sacrifices to serve our nation. Their contributions are vital to our efforts to establish stability, prosperity and peace worldwide.
Human rights are at the heart of those efforts. Gays and lesbians in many parts of the world live under constant threat of arrest, violence, even torture. The persecution of gays and lesbians is a violation of human rights and an affront to human decency, and it must end. As Secretary of State, I will advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Though the road to full equality for LGBT Americans is long, the example set by those fighting for equal rights in the United States gives hope to men and women around the world who yearn for a better future for themselves and their loved ones.
This June, let us recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which all people can live in safety and freedom, no matter who they are or whom they love.