Rhode Island Bishop’s Offensive Missive on Marriage

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed marriage equality into law Thursday evening in a celebratory ceremony on the steps of the state capitol. While activists were celebrating the tenth state to embrace marriage equality, Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin released a “pastoral” letter that was anything but.

Tobin starts his letter by insulting pro-equality Christians. He invites Catholics into prayer and reflection about “this new challenge of the post-Christian era into which, clearly, we have now entered.” By suggesting that marriage equality is “post-Christian,” Tobin denigrates the faith of all those Catholics and other Christians (such as Gov. Chafee) who support legal equality for LGBT people and same-sex couples.

Tobin professes his love for “our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction,” adopting the language of conservative evangelicals who believe there is no such thing as a gay person. He describes the marriage bill as immoral and same-sex marriages as “objectively sinful.”

Tobin warned the state’s Catholics that even attending a marriage ceremony might cause them spiritual harm: “Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.”

Bishop Tobin may want to do some of his own reflection about the fact that a majority of Catholics in Rhode Island, like a majority of the state’s residents overall, support marriage equality. 

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