A Rhode Island Bishop has come under fire for tweeting a warning against participating in pro-LGBT “pride” events.
In a message addressed to his diocese, Bishop Thomas Tobin tweeted that these occasions “promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals,” before warning that “Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June.”
In addition to this stern caution, Tobin also insisted that the events, which often involve the appearance of scantily clad gay, lesbian and trans people, are “especially harmful for children.”
Within a day of posting the message, Tobin was inundated with criticism, receiving almost 100,000 replies, most of which were overtly negative. “This is pure ignorance & bigotry. Ignore this hate-filled hypocrite. His mind set leads only to suffering,” one person wrote.
“You know what’s proven to be actually harmful to children..? The Catholic Church,” another jabbed, seeking to draw attention to the sexual abuse crisis that has engulfed the church in recent years.
Tennis star Martina Navratilova also took this line of criticism, tweeting that “the Catholic clergy has been a lot more dangerous to kids than LGBT. Just so you don’t forget....”
In response to the Bishop’s tweet, the pro-LGBT community decided to organize a protest Sunday, which occurred outside the Providence Diocese’s Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul while Mass was being celebrated inside.
But not everyone came out in criticism of the clergyman. One of Tobin’s fellow bishops, Joseph Strickland, jumped to his colleague’s defense. “Thanks for speaking up Bishop Tobin,” he wrote on Twitter. “Let us be mighty loving messengers of truth and light in Jesus Christ.”
“Bishop Tobin is simply speaking for one truth of the deposit of faith,” Strickland added in another tweet. “God made humans male & female. Certainly those who are confused about their identity need Christ’s love & compassion, let’s remember Christ’s love is expressed when dies on the cross for the truth.”
In a lengthy set of remarks, Strickland urged people to “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,” he said. “Stating this truth is not homophobia, it is simply reality.”
In a statement issued following the relentless backlash, Tobin noted that it was “not his intention” to cause offense to gay people. “The Catholic Church has respect and love for members of the gay community, as do I,” he added. “Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters.”
Tobin did, however, stick to his guns on the issue at hand.
“As a Catholic Bishop, 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. “That is what I have always tried to do – on a variety of issues – and I will continue doing so as contemporary issues arise.”
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