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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Right-wing talking points don’t constitute moral leadership

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

“We need a moral leader of the church who will speak out against war and poverty, not gay marriage and marijuana,” I said about Bishop Thomas Tobin on NBC10 News Conference this weekend.

Tobin was in the news for a blog post he wrote calling on lawmakers to keep cannabis illegal in Rhode Island. “In opening the door to drug use even a little bit, we have so much to lose and absolutely nothing to gain,” he wrote.

But as I responded on TV, “The Bishop is essentially siding with mass incarceration if he wants marijuana to stay illegal, and that’s a far greater sin than indulgence.”

I called him a “moral failure for our state and for the Catholic Church.”

In the online segment I made clear my harsh judgement is not for his position on drug policy. It’s also not for taking a strong position against abortion.

It’s because he has been completely absent from the public discussion on poverty and war – issues that have been central to all Rhode Islanders lives during his tenure as bishop.


“I want the Church to advocate for issues that matter to the people of Rhode Island,” I said.
In his interview with Bill Rappleye, Tobin expressed his views on war.

“Of course I’m against wars, I don’t know anyone who is in favor of wars,” Tobin said. “I think it was St. John Paul who said war is always a defeat for humanity. It’s never good.”

But, he added, “Sometimes there are prudential judgments.”

He continued, “The Catholic Church has a long tradition of talking about a ‘just war theory’. It is never to say someone is just in starting a war, but we certainly believe in the right of self-defense. What would someone do to respond to the attacks of terrorism, of ISIS, the terrible persecution of Christians taking place in the Middle East, the attacks on our own country or in France or in Belgium? How do we respond to these violent terrorist attacks without having some means of self-defense. That’s where I think someone providing legitimate armaments and self-defense has a legitimate role to play. Again, no one is in favor of war.”

On transgender bathrooms, Tobin, a Republican who said he probably won’t vote for Donald Trump, showed some compassion before invoking a popular conservative talking point.

“I have no doubt there are some people for physiological or psychological reasons have to deal with being transgendered and those people deserve all the support and respect and cooperation and assistance we can offer them but I’m also concerned this seems to be becoming a politically-driven agenda. It does seem to me to be very sweeping and overarching and perhaps another intrusion of the federal government into areas that are best decided at the local level.”


Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.