News (USA)

Despite Pope’s message, R.I. bishop to continue to speak against gay marriage

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, known for his activism against legalizing same-sex marriage, struck a conciliatory tone Friday after Pope Francis criticized the Catholic Church for being too obsessed with gays and abortion, but signaled little change in his anti-gay activism.

Bishop Thomas Tobin
Bishop Thomas Tobin

In a statement issued Friday, Tobin said he welcomed Pope Francis’ “balanced and inclusive approach” and admires and appreciates his “dynamic leadership,” but said he would continue to speak out against abortion and same-sex marriage.

“It is a demand of the Gospel,” he said.

In interviews published Thursday in Jesuit journals in 16 countries, Francis said pastors should emphasize compassion over condemnation when discussing divisive issues of abortion, gays and contraception and said “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Tobin is known for taking strong stands on divisive social issues. He was a leading voice against the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage this year, and he recently switched his political party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, saying he could not be associated with the Democratic Party’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

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Tobin said he had also addressed issues such as immigration reform, gun control and gambling, and that the diocese has programs to support the poor, homeless and hungry.

In 2010, Tobin withdrew two hospitals sponsored by the diocese from membership in a Catholic hospital group that supported health care reform because of fears it would allow for public funding of abortion.

In 2009, he got into a protracted public argument with then-Rep. Patrick Kennedy over Kennedy’s support for abortion rights, culminating in the revelation that Tobin had asked Kennedy not to take Holy Communion because of his views.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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