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04/04/2011

His Providence, our families: RI's Bishop Tobin warms NOM's Catholic heart

by Jeremy Hooper

The National Organization For Marriage, a predominantly Catholic group that hides that fact in order to make itself opposed to *CIVIL* marriage equality on non-religious grounds, calls these comments "inspiring":

Tobin[Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence]: Historically there has been some apathy about it among the citizenry of Rhode Island, including among the Catholic population. But recently, because our political landscape has changed, we’ve done a better job in getting our pastors involved, rallying the Catholic faithful against it. I’m proud of what our pastors and people have done, both in reaching out to our legislators and making their voices heard in the media, saying this is not something that is acceptable to us.

We need our people to understand that this is a serious issue. Our greatest danger as a Catholic community is apathy. If we’re not aware of the situation, don’t care about it or make it a priority, gay marriage will pass in Rhode Island. But if we’re galvanized and make our voices heard, we’ll keep it out of our state.

It is important to emphasize that this is not just an exercise in partisan politics. This is an expression of our faith. We have to be involved in this issue as disciples of Christ and members of his Church.

Recently, the
Providence Phoenix, a liberal-leaning, gay-friendly newspaper here in Providence, ran a lead story by David Scharfenberg, “Will the Catholic Church kill gay marriage?” They gave us a left-handed compliment by saying that we’ve been rather effective in our opposition. We have a long road ahead of us, and a tough fight. I don’t know what the outcome will be. But we’re doing our best.
Bishop Tobin of Providence talks about marriage and "rediscovering courage and conviction" [Catholic World Report via NOM]

No Bishop Tobin: You are not doing your best. Your best would see you focusing on actual social issues. Your best would be honoring America's sense of religious freedom (which does not mean you and you alone have freedom to trample others' CIVIL rights with your personal theology). Your best would lead you to at least acknowledge the deep divide between Catholic leadership and the flock. Your best would admit that the Catholic Church already turns down all kinds of couples (interfaith, atheist, etc), and is not being forced to marry anyone, gay or straight, in a religious ceremony. Your best would be doing just about anything other than turning your state's CIVIL government against certain tax-paying citizens!

It can all be summed up with this couplet: "[T]his is not just an exercise in partisan politics. This is an expression of our faith." Because if Bishop Tobin were truly seeking "the best," he, a person trained in theological study, would never put this modern day civil rights battle in the realm of either partisan politics or personal faith: He would focus on what is fair and humane within our shared human community, regardless of contrived political label or widely varying religious belief. As long as he keeps talking like someone who seems debatably in need of filing as "culture war" PAC like NOM or FRC Action, he, a theologian educated in God's law as filtered through the Catholic lens, has missed the boat that he is best trained to steer. At least here in America, if not Vatican City.

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