Rhode Island bishop faces backlash after tweet about Pride Month

In this Nov. 22, 2009 file photo, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin speaks to a reporter in Riverside, R.I. Tobin, Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop is facing backlash after tweeting Saturday, June 1, 2019 that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, File)In this Nov. 22, 2009 file photo, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin speaks to a reporter in Riverside, R.I. Tobin, Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop is facing backlash after tweeting Saturday, June 1, 2019 that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop on Sunday defended a tweet urging Catholics to not support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events, saying it was his obligation to teach the faith "clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues."

Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin sparked a backlash beginning Saturday when he tweeted, "A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ 'Pride Month' events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children."

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The posting spurred rebukes by thousands of people who replied on Twitter, including actresses Mia Farrow and Patricia Arquette. Many invoked the scandals of clergy sexual abuse of children in the church.

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"This is pure ignorance & bigotry," Farrow wrote. "Ignore this hate-filled hypocrite. His mind set leads only to suffering. He brings to mind those priests who molested my brothers. Of COURSE we should embrace our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and children. Jesus spoke of love."

Arquette tweeted, "Shame on you. LGBT kids are thrown out on the streets and abandoned because of poisonous thinking like yours."

The diocese on Sunday released a statement by Tobin.

"I regret that my comments yesterday about Pride Month have turned out to be so controversial in our community, and offensive to some, especially the gay community," Tobin said. "That certainly was not my intention, but I understand why a good number of individuals have taken offense. I also acknowledge and appreciate the widespread support I have received on this matter."

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Tobin added that he and the Catholic Church have "respect and love for members of the gay community."

"As a Catholic Bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues," he said.

As of Sunday afternoon, 69,000 people had replied to the tweet, about 15,800 liked it and nearly 4,700 retweeted it. Many of those who replied supported the bishop.

The LGBTQ group Rhode Island Pride held a rally outside the diocese's headquarters in Providence on Sunday evening.

"Jesus never said a word about homosexuality, about Pride, or the Queer community," the group's president, Joe Lazzerini, said in a statement. "Rhode Island Pride respectfully calls on Bishop Tobin to do some self-reflection as the majority of Catholic Rhode Islanders in this state reject the idea that to be Catholic is to be complicit to intolerance, bigotry, and fear.

"Bishop Tobin doesn't represent the majority of Rhode Island Catholics who support the LGBTQIA+ community in Rhode Island," he wrote.

The Boston Globe reported on Sunday that the Rev. Edward L. Pieroni begged gay and lesbian parishioners not to leave the church during Sunday Mass at St. Raymond's Roman Catholic Church in Providence, 

"A lot of people have hung in there, but it's like, 'One more slap and we are done.' I am here to beg you — and I will get on my hands and knees and beg you — not to leave," Pieroni told the congregation.

Tobin has said that he was aware of incidents of sexual abuse reported to church officials while working in Pennsylvania, but that it wasn't his job to deal with them. He was auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh from 1992 until 1996. A Pennsylvania grand jury report last year detailed decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses, including the Pittsburgh diocese.

In July 2018, Tobin deleted his Twitter account, calling it a major distraction, an obstacle to his spiritual life and an "occasion of sin" for himself and others. But he resumed tweeting in January, according to his current Twitter account.

This article has been updated.

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Vincent Couling
1 year 1 month ago

Tobin should again delete his Twitter account, which has yet again proven to be an "occasion of sin" for himself.

Jeanne Devine
1 year 1 month ago

"...especially harmful for children". Was he talking about clergy sex abuse? Oh no, he knew nothing about it and did nothing about it during his time as auxiliary bishop in Pittsburgh. Maybe he could prioritize the safety and well-being of children while they are in the care of the church and its clergy. And quit Twitter.

Annette Magjuka
1 year 1 month ago

I wish Tobin would find ways to be pastoral, not judgmental and harmful to the LGBTQ faithful. Look at the log in your own eye, man! It is time to love all of God's children and to accept them into the church just as God made them. I will be proudly attending Pride events. Tobin does not represent me or my faith. He is an embarrassment.

Tim Donovan
1 year 1 month ago

Hello. You may be interested in my comments about my experiences growing up in the 1970's and the lack of a "pastoral" attitude on the part of a relatively youthful Marianist brother who was "progressive" (so to speak) regarding contraception and abortion but although he had a "hip" attitude about sex, couldn't resist making light of gay people. As a Catholic who's gay, I believe that God
loves,me, but I believe that God expects me to follow the teachings of Jesus. Regarding divorce, Jesus answered the Pharisees, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a,man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?'" (Matthew 19: 4-5). Finally, the Church has,long had a,ministry for homosexuals, Courage. The ministry supports Church teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and encourages homosexuals to participate in support meetings, have many chaste friendships, and avail themselves of the Sacraments for support. I think it's crucial that Courage doesn't attempt to "change" gay men and women into hetero sexuals. Finally, there is a companion group, Encourage. This group is composed of family, friends and other loved ones of gay people who provide support and encouragement to pursue chaste friendships. Finally, as I noted in my remarks below, I have found meaning and satisfaction in life as a celibate gay man by (before they became adults) helping to love and care for my nieces and nephew as well as my friends children (who are now also adults). I also found meaning and great purpose in life as a Special Education teacher (now retired) who instructed and cared for children with brain damage. I now live in a quality nursing home, for which I feel blessed. I enjoy assisting my friends and other residents with their personal and social needs.

Alexei Michalenko
1 year 1 month ago

Our bishops should stop throwing stones. The Pride Celebration is like the Corpus Christi procession. All of humanity belongs to the body of Christ. St. Peter was told to "put away your sword" - I believe that recommendation refers to bishops, too. "Love one another as I have loved you" still applies as well.

Douglas Fang
1 year 1 month ago

What kind of Bible teachings he is referring to? Based on my limited understanding, the Bible does contain sentences that condemn homosexuality by choices, as at that was the knowledge at that time. I don’t see the Bible condemn homosexuality that is a natural inclination that someone is born with because again, this was not a concept understood before. I can say that as I know someone who is a very good human being and also is gay and it is completely not his choice.

In the other hand, any forms of sexual deviations or sinful activities committed by choices, either gay or straight, i.e. promiscuity, infidelity, porn, child abuse, sexual exploitation, etc. are not good before God.

I usually stay out of this topic but I have to speak up as it becomes a glaring issue for the Church, which still denies that our LGBT brothers and sisters are also children of God and deserve our love and respect equally.

Pancho Mulongeni
1 year 1 month ago

Hi Doug,
Please go back to your gay friend and ask him what he aspires for one day. Does he want to live a lonely life of celibacy, or one of relationship? Or does he want something else, which is celebrating with the LGBT community.Thank you for your support and I hope you can learn more about us Queer and Catholic. Love from Sydney, where I have been going to an inclusive LGBT mass every Friday (Acceptance Sydney).

Robert Klahn
1 year 1 month ago

When I was young the church taught us that sex was dirty. No, it never said those words, it never said any such words, but the meaning was clear. Why was it a sin even to think about sex?

An awful lot of people had their thinking screwed up by that.

Then the teaching turned to sex is sacred, same result.

Sorry, but being gay is not a choice. To go against human nature is hard, but this article demands it. If it's consensual maybe we should just mind our own business.

As I have long wondered, if homosexuality is forced back into the closet will a lot of gay men marry as a cover to their true choice.

So, would you want your daughter to marry one?

I have been married twice, have three daughters and one step daughter, and if some gay man married one of them as a cover I would be outraged at those who made it necessary.

Thousand of children die because of America's poor medical care, lack of nutrition, etc. Abortions happen because of a failure to provide a society that insures the mother can have the baby and still have a decent life.

Yet you have time to worry about people's private lives? About their free choices? Sorry, work on the important stuff first. That which hurts innocent people is far more sinful than that which is consensual even if you disapprove.

Tim Donovan
1 year 1 month ago

Hello. With due respect, I imagine that you are,older than me. I'm 57, and as a,lifelong Catholic who was educated in Catholic schools through college, I wasn't taught that sex "was dirty," or that it was a sin to even think about sex. I was taught that within marriage between a, man and woman, that sex was beautiful. It's truly regrettable if you had the impression that the authentic teaching of the Church was that "sex is,dirty." Yes, the Church does teach that sex is sacred. Frankly, as a human, I certainly at times have lustful desires.

Hugh McLoughlin
1 year 1 month ago

""Jesus never said a word about homosexuality, about Pride, or the Queer community," the group's president, Joe Lazzerini, said in a statement."

This is about as idiotic a statement as I have ever seen on these matters. Firstly, neither "Pride" nor "the Queer community" existed in Jesus's time. Secondly, Jesus spoke quite clearly about marriage, and he didn't countenance same sex marriage in anything he had to say. Indeed, his first miracle was performed at a marriage feast. And it was NOT of the Queer variety.

arthur mccaffrey
1 year 1 month ago

personally I do not want the LGBT community serving as a role model for my children or encouraging young children and teenagers to question their sexual identity, as part of a LGBT recruitment drive. Go ahead and enjoy your pride week, but stop bashing us over the head with it.

Judith Jordan
1 year ago

arthur mccaffrey
“The LGBT recruitment drive?” You really have an ethical and moral obligation to educate yourself about gays before speaking publicly about them. Your comments are the spring board of prejudice and brutality toward those who are different than you.

Tim Donovan
1 year 1 month ago

I'm a Catholic who's gay. I certainly understand the emotional pain that often accompanies not being heterosexual. When I was a boy, I was fairly often called "sissy" by my peers. Granted, there are worse terms by which a person can be taunted (I think of the word "n####r" to refer to black people). Later on, as a teen and young adult, I was also fairly frequently taunted by being called "faggot." Although this is painful for me, I actually felt worse about being called " sissy" as a boy. When I was in elementary school (perhaps about 12 years old) I was spit on by a younger student. In fairness, he did apologize, probably because I apparently looked so distraught by his actions. For many years, I have taken the attitude that such people called me painful names to make themselves feel better about themselves by putting me down. For most of my life, I was celibate. It was often difficult, but I found that by helping to care for the children of my brother and sister (as well as for my friend's children, especially their first son who was born when my two friends were young and unmarried) that my life had meaning by giving myself to other people in need. I also found that as a Special Education teacher who instructed and cared for children with brain damage that life had meaning not only for me but for those who are often considered burdens who would be better off had their lives been ended by abortion. In 1994, (when I was 32) I finally summoned the courage to reveal my sexual orientation to my family members, co-workers, and friends. I chose not to tell my neighbors that I was gay; however, I imagine that many of them knew the truth about me. Fortunately, almost all people were accepting, and I felt secure in the love of my family and friends. My loving sister encouraged me to read a newspaper that promoted gay rights and the gay lifestyle. After some time, I did begin to have se, with men. However, I decided that the Church was right in its teaching that marriage properly was the union of one man and one woman. Even so, I have remained friends with a man who's gay whom I had worked with many years ago. It's true that Jesus never said anything directly about homosexuality. However, He did clearly state that marriage was the union of one man and one woman. It's also true that Jesus didn't state opposition to slavery, although the Romans and people in other cultures practiced slavery. It seems to me that Jesus remained silent about many matters. However, I believe that He gave authority to Peter and the Apostles to make judgements about the way to live. I believe that the Pope is the successor of Peter, and the bishops are the successors of the Apostles. Certainly, the Pope and the bishops have made mistakes throughout history. Jesus said to the Apostles, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." ( Matthew 28: 19-20).

Stephen Samenuk
1 year 1 month ago

Just another made up crisis by the bishop to deflect criticism from the church's real problems.

Dale Athlon
1 year 1 month ago

The BISHOP is a hero!

Anyone who has every been to a Pride "Lust" parade knows it's not a place for children. It would definitely do them harm and disservice. Plus the amount of hatred & bigotry against God Jesus Christ's holy Church is off the charts these days. Open hate on display against God and his sheep.

Judith Jordan
1 year ago

Dale Athlon---
The hatred and bigotry I see are from homophobic people against gays.

Judith Jordan
1 year ago

There are over 2,000 verses in the Bible about poverty. Yet, some in the church can only focus on the "pelvic issues."

J Jones
1 year ago

Here is what the Roman Catholic Church has contributed and continues to contribute to: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-48555889

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