Bishop Tobin urges Rhode Island lawmakers to resist redefining marriage

Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin is not afraid to speak out on behalf of truth.

When President Obama expressed his support for same-sex marriage, Bishop Tobin said that it was a “sad day in American history.”

When former Rhode Island Representative Patrick Kennedy made public Bishop Tobin’s private request for him to forego Holy Communion because of his views on abortion, Bishop Tobin released a statement saying “I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever [Rep. Kennedy] attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the Church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry.”

Now, Bishop Tobin is urging Rhode Island lawmakers to resist redefining marriage so to include same-sex relationships.

The Rhode Island House Speaker has already promised to bring forth a bill by the end of January that would legalize same-sex marriage. If passed, Rhode Island would join EVERY OTHER STATE in New England in allowing same-sex marriage.

In his column for this week’s Rhode Island Catholic, Bishop Tobin wrote the following (with some omissions):

The proposal to legalize “same-sex marriage” in the State of Rhode Island is immoral and unnecessary. Despite enormous political pressure, the General Assembly should stand firm, resist the current fashionable trend, and continue to uphold its longstanding commitment to marriage as traditionally defined.

The proposal to legalize same-sex marriage is an attempt to redefine the institution of marriage as it has existed in every culture from the very beginning of human history. Marriage between a man and a woman was designed by God for two specific purposes: to affirm the complementary roles of males and females in a loving relationship, and to provide a stable foundation for the procreation and raising of children. Homosexual relationships can achieve neither of those goals.

Secondly, homosexual marriage enshrines into civil law immoral activity. The natural law, the Holy Scriptures, and long-standing religious tradition are very consistent in affirming that homosexual activity is sinful, contrary to God’s plan. It should never be encouraged, ratified or “blessed” by the state. It’s important to emphasize once again, however, that while rejecting homosexual activity, the Catholic Church has consistently promoted respect and pastoral care for individuals with same-sex attraction. They are children of God and our brothers and sisters. They are invited to be members of our churches. It is our very concern for their spiritual welfare, however, that motivates our rejection of the homosexual lifestyle and same-sex marriage.

Next, the concept of same-sex marriage is an untested social experiment with unpredictable long-term outcomes. The marriage of man and woman is, and always has been, the fundamental building block of the human family and human culture. One cannot tinker with this societal DNA without risking unknown changes to the structure of our society, especially as it relates to the proper upbringing of children.

Another real problem to consider is that the establishment of same-sex marriage would pose yet another threat to religious freedom. Proponents of same-sex marriage have frequently proclaimed that no religious institution will be obliged to officiate at marriages that are contrary to their beliefs. That may or may not prove to be true. But what is of equal concern, however, is that religious bodies will be obliged to extend their resources, facilities and benefits to individuals who are living in immoral relationships – contrary to sincerely held religious beliefs. This is not a hypothetical situation; it’s already happening throughout our nation.

A final point. If we are in fact forced to discuss the nature of matrimony in our state, it should be placed before the general public in a referendum. The proposal to redefine marriage as a fundamental structure in our culture is a very serious issue with profound consequences. I suspect that people on both sides of the issue agree with that. On a question of this magnitude, then, the people of this state should decide as they have in many other states. Let us vote!

It has been said that “the world is changing” and that we need to get with the times. Well, it’s certainly true that the world is changing, but the truth is that not all change is good. It’s never good to accept and promote immoral activity; it’s never good to experiment dangerously with the long-term well-being of the community; it’s never good to impose a politically-correct, socially-fashionable agenda item on the entire community, especially if it challenges the conscience and religious liberty of many, many citizens.



  • Russell Lewis

    When Bishop Tobin relinquishes the coveted tax exemption, then he can become a political lobbying machine and “urge politicians” to his heart’s content.

    • Justin Jurek

      If the corrupt American state wants to take our tax exempt status away for preaching the truth, let them. We welcome oppression and martyrdom. We THRIVE on it!

      • Russell Lewis

        Perhaps you should forward your opinion to the bishop and the IRS and see what either of them will say about it.

  • Mark Smelzer

    Wow. NY Times reports this morning that the National Cathedral will begin same-sex weddings soon!!

    • Philip D.

      Actually, immediately. Good to see other religions welcoming gays and lesbians with open arms instead of attacking them and trying to ban them from legal rights and protections like the Catholic Church does.

      • Justin Jurek

        Probably why the Episcopal Church is imploding and faithful Anglicans are fleeing for the Ordinariate as fast as they can.

        • Philip D.

          Odd. The Catholic Church I attended as a high school student just locked their doors on jan 1. due to poor attendance.

    • abadilla

      Thank God the National Cathedral is not Catholic!

      • Patrick

        It is. It’s just not Roman Catholic.

  • Pingback: Faith Fiction | Big Pulpit

  • abadilla

    “I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever [Rep. Kennedy] attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the Church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry.”
    And that should be the clear position of every bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal in this country and in the world, for that matter!

  • Mark Hartman

    Bishop Tobin’s call for a referendum is, I believe, misguided. A referendum as to whether marriage should be redefined makes about as much sense as a referendum on whether to adopt an arbitrary table of the tides, or times for sunrise and sunset, or redefining the constant “pi.” That which the natural law, and the Author of that law, have already defined, are subject neither to the will of the legislature nor the will of the people.

    • Patrick

      That’s one reason. Another reason, and a more relevant reason, is that the hoi polloi should never get to vote on whether a minority class should have access to a fundamental right. If they did, half our population would still be enslaved. No, some things should not be left to the popular vote.

      • abadilla

        “…a fundamental right.” Really Patrick, a fundamental right? How could the Catholic Church could possibly be against a fundamental right?

        • Marvin Derks

          Simple. By simply not understanding what a “right” is. The Catholic Church is not infallible and Catholic Doctrine is not infallible, no matter what the Church says and no matter what anyone believes.

          • abadilla

            Isn’t it a shame that after 2000 years of history, the Scriptures, incredible theologians and saints, councils, papal encyclicals, pastoral documents, the formulation of catechisms and still this poor Church is so ignorant it does not understand what a “right” is but Marvin does? Marvin, you should go to the Vatican and teach the ignoramus Holy Father what a “right” is, or you might not want to go that far and just go to Washington D.C. to tell the National Conference of Catholics Bishops, including Cardinal George, Bishop Paprocki, and Bishop Tobin what a “right” is because they still don’t get it.
            BTW, the Church is not infallible in everything, but in some very important teachings she is, whether you acknowledge that or not. See, when the sun is shining, I can crawl under a rock and pretend the sun does not exist and get cold. You can do the same with the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

          • Marvin Derks

            I know the teachings of the Church and, in my opinion, some of those teachings are not accurate. You however, refuse to believe that’s possible. So who’s under the rock? And if the Church is not infallible in everything, as you’ve stated, then how do you determine when it is and when it isn’t infallible? What teachings of the Church are infallible and what teachings aren’t? What criteria do you use?

          • abadilla

            Hi. Marvin.

            But I thought you were an atheist. If so, how do you know the teachings of the Church?
            As far as the “rock” reference is concerned, what I meant to say is that just as the sun is in no way affected by a human being crawling under a rock and refusing the warmth of the sun, the Church is in no way affected because there are Catholics who openly disobey her teachings. They are the one affected negatively, not the Church.

            “You however, refuse to believe that’s possible.”
            Correct, if indeed the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity guides the Church, then error is impossible in her teachings, but to understand this reality, one needs to be a man or woman or faith. I frankly do not believe most people understand this truth because the distractions of the world are more important to them than listening to Christ’s Church.

            No, the Church is not infallible in everything. The Pope can tell all U.S. Catholics tomorrow the winning numbers of the lottery and it would be foolish for us to listen to that advice because he might be wrong. The gift of infallibility does not cover such adventures in predectability.

            “how do you determine when it is and when it isn’t infallible?”
            The Church proclaims a body of teaching to either be infallible or not. Sometimes the teaching is part of the ordinary teaching of the Church and the Popes are adamant in telling us that is the teaching of the Church, like the non-ordination of women to the priesthood.
            Christ is truly Man and truly God, we believe in the Blessed Trinity, the Scriptures are God’s word, the Blessed Virgin is immaculately conceived, etc. Those, we Catholics would call “infallible” teachings. I must contribute financially to my parish is a precpt of the Church that does not fall under infallibility. We must pray the Rosary is a beautiful devotion but hardly infallible.
            Remember Marvin, we live in a secular society and a secular society where democracy and pluralism are alive and well, and such a society has a hard time understanding a hierarchical Church where the truth is objective and relativism is not welcome. When you and I engaged is these discussions, it’s almost like a Martian is talking to a creature from Venus. Unless we find a common language to communicate, it is almost impossible for us to understand one another, but I am glad to have the opportunity to write to you. It’s the teacher in me. I’ve been teaching for almost thirty years, so, at times, I’m going to sound pompous to you and others.

          • Marvin Derks

            So you determine what is and is not infallible based on what your Church tells you, like a child who does what they are told to do for fear they’ll be punished. No wonder it’s necessary for you to blindly follow Church teachings without questioning.

          • abadilla

            Hi. Marvin,

            “So you determine what is and is not infallible based on what your Church tells you.”

            Basically, but I need to explain this concept to you. To us the Church IS Christ in space and time. Christ is truly man and truly God. As God He is the source of all goodness, knowledge, truth, and therefore when I, as a Catholic Christian, allow the Church to guide me in the turbulent waters of this world, I am acknowledging that I don’t know it all, even if I have a very high I.Q. I’m trying to practice the virtue of humility by allowing the Church I claim to belong to, to guide me in this world. Another person may choose to have the secular society around him or her guide them, but they are taking a chance they will be confused because the world around us sends us conflicting and confusing messages all the time. I know there are people who think, “I think what I think and no one influences me.” I believe those folks are delusional at best. All of us are somehow influenced by the culture around us. I choose to be influenced by a Church claiming to be infallible in certain things, so I can trust it.

            “like a child who does what they are told to do for fear they’ll be punished.”

            It’s not a matter of being punished, it’s a matter of knowing one is doing the right thing in spite of living in a very confused world. There are two dimensions here I need to explain to you. If you grab the hand of a child to cross the street, that child is trusting you will safely cross the street without allowing anyone to hurt him or her. As believers we do have that type of trust in God.

            The use of reason is equally important. Many accuse us of not using “reason” but I don’t know of any other Christian body that emphasizes the use of reason more than the Catholic Church. All you have to do is read the writings of St. Anselm, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and many of the Fathers of the Church to see how they use “reason” to understand their faith. Even in our own day you’ll find the encyclical Fide et Ratio, Faith and Reason, written by Blessed John Paul II which clearly states there is no conflict between reason and faith, so this idea that many have that Catholics do not use their reason in accepting the faith is simply not accurate. One thing is for sure, if a person thinks he already knows it all, the Church has nothing to offer him or her till he or she acknowledges a) we don’t know it all. b) The Church is not just and institution, this is the Mystical Body of Christ guiding me through this life. When we pray the Rosary we refer to this life as a “a valley of tears” meaning that what we must confront in this life ain’t pretty, but we are also a people of hope who rely in our Church for guidance in the midst of darkness. If not, then there is no point in belonging to a Church we believe is one among many.



Receive our updates via email.