Tobin sounds off on Pope Francis’ support for same-sex civil unions

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin is sounding off on Pope Francis’ support for civil unions.

The announcement coming from the Vatican is a historic shift. Pope Francis is the first Pope in the Catholic Church’s 2,000 year history to endorse civil unions for gay couples.

The Pope made the comments while being interviewed for a documentary called “Francesco”, which had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.

In the documentary, the Pope says, “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family.”

His words are a major departure from the position of the Vatican’s own doctrinal office.

The Pope also stated, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way, they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While experts are calling the move a ‘monumental’ movement, conservative Catholics like Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin are calling for clarity.

In a statement, Bishop Tobin says in part, “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships. The legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible.”

The Pontiffs words have also struck a chord with a younger generation and the LGBTQ community, which has been fighting for a long time for gay marriage rights.

Sandra and Ron Richard run the local chapter of PFLAG, which is a national organization providing support and guidance for LGBTQ+ parents and families.

“There’s nothing disordered about being gay or lesbian or bi-sexual or non-binary,” Sandra Richard said. “That’s just who that person is.”

The Richard’s say while the statement is hurtful to the local queer community, the Pope’s message is far more impactful.

“I wasn’t surprised at his reaction to the statement, I didn’t expect him to wrap his arms around this,” Ron Richard said. “The biggest piece we can take from the Pope is, it’s made front page news, so it’s got people talking about this issue once again.

People like Pastor Timoth Sylvia at Newman Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.

“What I’m seeing as a by-product of that being shared are members of the queer community feeling again this weight of exclusion and hatred,” Sylvia said. “And then Bishop Tobin came out with his statement.”

Pastor Timoth posted a statement on the church’s Facebook page welcoming the queer community in with open arms. The statement read:

This message is for all of our queer and queer loving friends.

Jesus Loves You! And so do we!

With recent news being shared from the Roman Catholic Church, significant amounts of systemic hatred is surfacing once again. This, on top of the threats coming from sitting Supreme Court Justices to revisit the Court’s decision on Marriage Equality, leaves many of us in the queer community feeling unsettled and unsafe.

Know that you are not alone.

Know that our faith community has for many years lived its public statement of love and support, acceptance and affirmation of you and others in the queer community.

And we aren’t stopping now.

It is true that not every church, not every religious institution is willing to stand in support of you and those whom you love.

Know that we are!

Newman UCC, an Open and Affirming congregation in the United Church of Christ continues to dedicate itself to living out Jesus love and teachings in an effort to create a Just World for All.

And you, our dear friends, are included in that “All.”

Be gentle with yourselves.

Let us know how we can be helpful.

Call us if you need to talk.

We are here for you!

“I want to let people know that when these things pop up in our dialogues and on our social media or wherever, to know that they’re not alone,” Sylvia said. “There are plenty of supportive folks out there who are willing to love and care for them and stand alongside them in this continual fight for equality.”

ABC 6 did reach out to Bishop Tobin whose office said he wasn’t available for comment.

Categories: News, Providence, Rhode Island, US & World News