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By Jack Perry, Journal Staff Writer, Providence Journal, June 1, 2019
PROVIDENCE — Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin tweeted Saturday that church members should not show support for Pride Month events, a message that drew a lot of attention on social media and brought a critical response from a Rhode Island gay-rights group.
“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,” tweeted Tobin.
Pride Month runs through June and is especially prominent this year, since it marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which served as a catalyst for the gay-rights movement.
Rhode Island Pride, a group that supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, issued a statement saying that Rhode Island is an “inclusive and welcoming state for everyone” and that Tobin’s stance on the issue doesn’t represent the majority of Rhode Island Catholics, who support the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Jesus never said a word about homosexuality, about Pride, or the Queer community,” Joe Lazzerini, president of Rhode Island Pride, said in an emailed statement. “Rhode Island Pride 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.
“Many Catholics are LGBTQIA+ and allies to our community, who participate in the love and diversity that is Rhode Island Pride. All are welcome to enjoy a safe, fun, and prideful celebration on Saturday, June 15th,” Lazzerini said.
He later added that Rhode Island Pride will hold a rally at Cathedral Square in Providence at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
“Since Bishop Tobin called on Catholics to abandon Pride & the LGBTQIA+ community, we are taking Pride directly to them,” Lazzerini said in an email Saturday night.
Saturday, June 15, is the date for Rhode Island PrideFest, in Providence.
As of about 9 p.m., Tobin was trending on Twitter. His tweet had about 1,800 retweets and 6,100 likes.
It had also generated many critical replies.
One person said in a tweet, “I’m a practicing Catholic & I attended Pride parade with a bus of middle schoolers. I told my priest & deacon & dared them to say anything to me. They didn’t.”
Another tweeted, “As an Irish Catholic I 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.”
But other writers agreed with the bishop’s message, including one tweet that said: “As a Catholic, I feel so blessed to attend mass, the celebration of the Lord’s supper, and receive the Eucharist. All are welcome. I agree with the Bishop. Children shouldn’t view the gay pride parade etc. because they are innocent & that is not what’s being celebrated.”
Some tweeters referred to sexual abuse by Catholic priests, particularly by priests in Pennsylvania, where a grand jury report said the Catholic Church covered up decades of sexual abuse by more than 300 priests.
From 1992 to 1996, Tobin served as auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh, one of six Pennsylvania dioceses covered in the grand jury report.
“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,″ Tobin said in an email to The Providence Journal.