Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin admonished Catholics in an inflammatory tweet on Saturday not to support or attend any LGBTQ Pride Month commemorations in June, warning that such events promote a “culture” and “activities” that are “especially harmful for children.”
Joe Lazzerini, president of Rhode Island Pride, said in a statement to The Providence Journal that his organization “respectfully calls on Bishop Tobin to do some self-reflection, as the majority of Catholic Rhode Islanders in this state reject the idea that to be Catholic is to be complicit to intolerance, bigotry, and fear.” He pointed out that many Catholics are members of or strongly support the pride community.
Pride Month is particularly significant this year because it marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, which fueled the gay — and soon LGBTQ — rights movement.
Tobin’s particularly harsh warning stunned many, given the many revelations in recent years of the Catholic Church’s history of child sexual abuse. The U.S. Catholic Church revealed Friday that allegations of child sex abuse by clerics more than doubled to 1,455 in its latest 12-month reporting period, and that spending on victim compensation and child protection efforts topped $300 million.
A scathing grand jury report last year said the church covered up decades of sexual abuse of some 1,000 victims by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania, where Tobin was formerly posted. He served for four years in the 1990s as auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh, one of six Pennsylvania dioceses covered in the report.
Tobin acknowledged a year ago that he “became aware of incidents of sexual abuse” in Pittsburgh, but said that his responsibilities didn’t include “clergy misconduct,” he told The Providence Journal.
Responding to Tobin’s Saturday tweet, one Twitter user said he would be “much more concerned for the safety of my children in the company of a Pennsylvania priest than with anyone attending LGBTQ Pride Month.”
There were several similar responses to Tobin’s tweet, along with comments from those who believe that love and tolerance are Catholic values.