Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Two Tobins Should Not Be Confused

How can this message have any credibility when our infantile Bishops maintain God will wipe us out over gay marriage?
I read the civil union views of Rhode Island's Bishop Tobin over the weekendI was sorely tempted to post on it, but thought I would wait for Bill Lyndsey's thoughts.  Good thing I did.  Bill can be very much on target with out my tendency to go all sarcastic:

"Responding to Rhode Island's new law permitting civil unions for same-sex couples, Bishop Thomas Tobin forbids Catholics to support or participate in any way in these unions.  "To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful," Tobin maintains.

Not only that: Tobin brings out the big religious-right rhetorical guns and says that civil unions for same-sex couples will bring God's wrath down on Rhode Island: 

Can there be any doubt that Almighty God will, in his own time and way, pass judgment upon our state, its leaders and citizens, for abandoning his commands and embracing public immorality? 

So think about it for a moment: Catholics (and Catholic bishops) have long since tacitly accepted the reality of divorce for Western societies in general, and even for Catholics themselves.  The bishops do not try to shame and frighten their flocks with threats of divine wrath if Catholics love, support, assist someone who divorces.

Nor do they spend lavish sums trying to outlaw either divorce or artificial contraception as they do with gay marriage or gay unions, though a far larger percentage of lay Catholics practice contraception than the percentage of Catholics we can expect to contract same-sex civil unions.  But nary peep about God blasting the earth with fire due to Catholic collusion with contraception.

This kind of ugly rhetoric is reserved solely and exclusively for the gays. And it shows to what a shameful extent the U.S. Catholic bishops have sold their souls to the puppet-masters of the religious and political right.  This is the kind of mean, uneducated, spiteful, bible-thumping rhetoric we expect to fall out of the mouth of a Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or Fred Phelps. (OK, maybe Bill got a little sarcastic at the end of this paragraph.)


Bishop Thomas Tobin should not be confused with Archbishop Joseph Tobin who is the secretary for the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Archbishop Tobin would never be quoted  as advocating for a God who punishes an entire State because he's irritated with it's legislature.  But then Archbishop Tobin is fully aware that he is not dealing with a pack of naive pouting twelve year old children reacting to some 'ick' factor.  He is dealing with well educated and dedicated religious congregations who are well beyond the magical thinking and emotional 'ick' factor of pre pubescent children.  Someone should tell the other Tobin that Rhode Island citizens do not share his same emotional and spiritual maturity level.  Neither do most Catholics.

The sad thing for me about American bishops in the mold of Rhode Islands' Tobin is they undercut the arguments of other Catholic leaders who are addressing other far more serious moral questions.  This would include  Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations who made a speech in the Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese intelligently asking for a phase out of all nuclear weapons.  Chullikatt was not talking about God wiping us out because God was going to act like a cosmic bully.  He was talking about an immature human capacity to act like bullies and doing such a thing to ourselves.  

That this speech took place in the Diocese of Robert Finn, did not go unnoticed by me.  Finn, for all his other questionable stances, has been consistent about the immorality of the upgraded nuclear weapons facility in his diocese.  Unfortunately for him, some of his other infantile decisions have not done much to further this particular moral cause.  Finn comes across as not having enough 'gravitas' to be taken seriously in some quarters, and as too much of a hypocrite in other quarters, a situation pretty much true for the entire USCCB.
Which brings me back to the other Tobin--the Rhode Island one.

I'm sorry, but it is beyond me to think for a nano second that gay marriage represents a bigger threat to civilization than the nuclear weapons plant in Kansas City.  The only way they become equivalent 'grave moral dangers' is if I concede that blowing up millions of people is the same as my gay friends getting married and living their lives exactly as they always have which hasn't effected me one little bit.  In my professional endeavors we would see that type of belief structure as indicative of an immature if not down right delusional, pattern of thinking.  Adult thinking does not equate personal sexual choices with the capacity to wipe out life on the planet.  Operative words in the preceding sentence is 'adult thinking'. 

The Rhode Island Tobin is not the kind of religious leader whose thinking encourages the development of healthy adult believers.  It does foster the kind of thinking engaged in by psychologically unhealthy people.  These are the kind who catastrophize the small event in to a grand scale event.  This is the kind of mental universe that needs a cosmic bully kind of God equally capable of the same kind of over reaction.  Obviously this kind of thing does not describe the God of Love as Jesus taught in the gospels.  That God lets the sun shine and the rain fall on the just and unjust, not because God didn't care, but because God respected free will and gave everyone equal dignity as His sons and daughters.  The Cosmic Bully God has no sons and daughters, just victims and victims of victims----which come to think of it, kind of describes the operative philosophy of too many American bishops.



  1. I am all too familiar with the general rhetoric which bishop Thomas Tobin is bandying about. Clearing away the incense and vestments, this is the same type of fire and brimstone which comes from olde-tyme evangelical preachers who prey upon the unlettered and feeble-minded (cue banjo music).

    That this person represents the official teaching organ of the Roman Church says as much about the dysfunction of the Magisterium (and it's attitude towards the laity) as it does about the spiritual infantilism propagated within the laity itself.

  2. Exactly Tim, what does it say about the view of the laity when this kind of 'official' teaching is perpetrated as authoritative. Beavis and Butthead made more sense.

  3. [in Butthead voice]Uuuuuhh....if they're called the laity, does that mean they get laid? *Uh huh huh huh* [/Butthead]

    In a more serious vein, this sort of things calls into question both the motives and mentality of a hierarchy which expects this schema of blind obedience.

  4. Thomas Tobin was also the one who invited the Legionaries of Christ into his diocese even after it was clear they were compromised, to say the least. Also, I think you and Bill have great thoughts, please keep sharing them.

  5. There will be those who applaud this "tough stance" enthusiastically. Most American Catholics will, like good Americans, resent being told what they cannot do and will rebel. They'll continue to exercise their consciences and continue maintaining their membership in the Church.

    Bill's point is well taken. If the dear bishop had told his people that God's wrath would be unleased against the nation because of divorce, artificial contraception, and a myriad of other "sins" the Church condemns, there would be a hue and cry from all quarters of the Church and beyond. Somehow gays are singled out for such special treatment.

  6. Colleen, thanks for the shout out.

    I've been struggling with Bishop Finn's praiseworthy proposal to end production of nuclear weapons for precisely the reason you state: "Unfortunately for him, some of his other infantile decisions have not done much to further this particular moral cause."

    And as NCR's latest editorial points out today, this is the situation the U.S. bishops have placed themselves in, in general, due to their pastoral malfeasance with the abuse crisis.

    They've simply lost moral authority. No one's listening any longer.

    The only path to retrieving moral authority is to do what they tell us to do when we've been wrong: to admit our wrongdoing and begin repairing what we've set awry with our wrongdoing.

    It's the lack of humility, of transparency and accountability, that undermines the bishops more than anything else as moral teachers.

  7. Bill I found the NCR editorial pretty much right on. I just can't quite understand why our bishops are going all ballistic over gay marriage when they pretty much kept silent about the total rejection of Humanae Vitae. Aren't both issues about non procreative sex?

    I sometimes wonder how many of our bishops sit alone in the dark of night wondering just how stupid they actually look to their flock. But then I think some of them are sitting there sipping cognac courtesy of that part of the flock that banks on them looking less than bright.

  8. I think this is an excellent blog. I check it daily. However, I am very disturbed that you 'recommend'the "Of Course I Might Be Wrong" blog. That blog and its 'supporters'come very close to "fraud." The blog owner has consistently over the years solicited money for, he admits, his own personal use.He hides under the guise of piety to line his own pockets. Those who 'enable' him should be "called out." The blog has a long record of hate mongering and falsehoods. Charles

  9. Charles, thanks for the post, but I think the people who read this blog are pretty much adults capable of making their own decisions about any blog I have posted on the side bar. I just happen to think their are times OCIBW is really funny, and if we can't laugh about all this once in awhile, well then there's something missing.

    Anyway, he calls his blog Of Course I Could Be Wrong, which is a far cry from priests like Corapi, Euteneur, and Maciel who pretty much demanded we believe They Have The Truth.

  10. Hey, sure, I agree with your response. But I did want to say the OCICBW blog has engaged in illegal activities as well as not being very truthful, Thought you might be interested. Charles