On Saturday, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, sparked mass outrage after telling fellow Catholics not to celebrate LGBT “Pride Month.” In a statement published the following day, the Catholic leader clarified his stance concerning LGBT children of God but noted that he will not shy away from leading the faithful, even regarding "sensitive issues."
“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,” the bishop wrote in a tweet.
The Internet predictably erupted with fury over the statements from Tobin, who was quickly branded a hateful homophobe.
“Hey [Thomas Tobin] of the Catholic Church: I'm Catholic & I don't remember Jesus saying anything about LGBTQ. But I do remember Christ teaching about love,” wrote Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). “And your asinine remark about children is exactly the type of bigoted belief that leads to the evil of conversion therapy.”
Actress Mia Farrow responded: “This is pure ignorance & bigotry. 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,” she said. “Kids are in far more danger at a catholic church than at a gay pride gathering.”
“Shame on you,” scolded feminist actress Patricia Arquette. “LGBT kids are thrown out on the streets and abandoned because of poisonous thinking like yours.”
“A reminder that Catholic clergy has been a lot more dangerous to kids than LGBT. Just so you don’t forget,” posted former tennis star and gay activist Martina Navratilova.
According to The Boston Globe, Joe Lazzerini, the president of Rhode Island Pride, said the bishop’s “hate and intolerance” is not welcome in the state.
“We woke up this morning and we saw the bishop’s tweet and were honestly flabbergasted,” Lazzerini said on Saturday. “He is like the Donald Trump of the Catholic Church, he goes on Twitter and spews out hate.”
“Lazzerini said that he especially took offense at Tobin’s assertion that the LGBTQ community is harmful to children ‘especially considering the Catholic Church’s history of covering up clergy sexual abuse of children,’” the Globe noted.
According to The New York Daily News, Tobin acknowledged in 2018 that "he 'became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported to the diocese' between 1992 and 1996 in Pittsburgh when he was the auxiliary bishop of that city, according to The Providence Journal" but did not report the abuse.
“My responsibilities as Vicar General and General Secretary of the diocese did not include clergy assignments or clergy misconduct, but rather other administrative duties such as budgets, property, diocesan staff, working with consultative groups, etc. Even as an auxiliary bishop, I was not primarily responsible for clergy issues,” he told the Journal in a statement.
In the wake of the backlash over the "Pride Month" tweet, Bishop Tobin released a statement to offer clarification.
“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. 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,” he said. “The Catholic Church has respect and love for members of the gay community, as do I. Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters.”
“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,” Tobin noted. “That is what I have always tried to do - on a variety of issues - and I will continue doing so as contemporary issues arise.”
“As the gay community gathers for a rally this evening, I hope that the event will be a safe, positive and productive experience for all. As they gather I will be praying for a rebirth of mutual understanding and respect in our very diverse community,” added the bishop.
Tobin’s comments on the LGBT “Pride Month” were not condemned by all, however.
“Please stop labeling bishops who speak the truth of the Gospel as homophobic. God gave us sexual intimacy for the procreation of children and the deeper union of a man & woman in marriage. Stating this truth is not homophobia, it is simply reality,” wrote Bishop Joseph E. Strickland.
New York-based radio host Bob Lonsberry noted, “Agree or disagree, it's rare to see religious leaders these days who actually stand up for what their churches teach.”
“What shocks me the most is not the tens of thousands of vile responses to Bishop Tobin’s tweet that clearly states the position of the Catholic Church, it is the silence of the many other Catholic leaders and Catholic media personalities on this platform,” prominent global pro-life activist Obianuju Ekeocha said. “God bless Bishop Tobin.”
“Oh that's right Ted. I forgot the part where Christ actively promoted homosexuality and its education to children. You are such a devout Catholic,” 1791’s Christian O’Brien mocked Congressman Lieu’s remarks to Bishop Tobin.