PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Though the Providence Diocese’s Bishop Thomas Tobin has been in the news in the past for conservative stances — including disagreements with Pope Francis about relaxing on divisive social issues — he is directing his priests to offer special prayers at parish Masses this weekend for the victims of the shooting at an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub.
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“In the face of so much violence and pain, we raise our voices to Almighty God seeking his compassion and healing for all the victims of this atrocity,” Bishop Tobin wrote in a news release from the Providence Diocese Tuesday.
“In response to the hatred and fear, and the attacks on human life and dignity we see all too often in our world, we should renew our commitment to be instruments of peace and justice in our own daily lives. We should echo the words of the hymn, ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.'”
The attack at Pulse, a popularly known gay nightclub in Orlando, involved a man forcing his way into the club about 2:00 a.m. Sunday with an AR-15 assault rifle and opening fire. Most people were able to get out, but the gunman — later identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a resident of Port St. Lucie, Florida — took hostages. By about 5:00 a.m., a SWAT team decided to force their way into the club — using a large armored vehicle to ram holes in the back wall. Eyewitnesses said a long volley of gunfire followed, and Mateen was killed.
The bishop has weighed in on gun control in the past, writing in 2012 that “The right to own guns is not an absolute right. As a personal right it always has to be balanced with the legitimate rights of other people, and with protecting the common good.”
In 2013, Tobin said he was “profoundly disappointed” when Rhode Island was about to legalize same-sex marriage — and warned Catholics to “think hard” before going to same-sex weddings. In May of that year, after marriage for gay couples was approved, he wrote an open letter to the state’s Catholics to “respond to this new challenge of the post-Christian era into which, clearly, we now have entered.”
He cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, written by Pope John Paul II in 1992 to sum up Catholic teachings, which reads at paragraph 2357, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” Tobin continued that same-sex marriages are “clearly contrary to God’s plan for the human family.”
The same section of the Catechism also dictates gay people must be accepted with respect — though they must live lives of chastity.
Tobin reiterated that “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.”