In his many years as a bishop, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, has never failed to shine a light on what the Church teaches, first as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then in Youngstown, Ohio and later in Providence, Rhode Island. Human Life International and all faithful Catholics rejoice at his fearless proclamation of the Gospel.
Bishop Tobin displayed his pastoral strength memorably when Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island made public remarks stridently dissenting from Catholic teaching regarding the U.S. health care reform bill in 2009. Kennedy, who recently had a 100% pro-abortion voting record, insisted that: “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Tobin took up the challenge as his spiritual shepherd, stating:
Being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.
Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion?
When Congressman Kennedy refused to accept the pastoral guidance of his bishop and continued to publicly support legal abortion, Tobin declared that he should not be given Holy Communion. Bishop Tobin told him that he was doing this for the good of his soul and expressed eagerness to help him repair his relationship with the Church. In what was perhaps the final act of this drama, Michael Kennedy announced that he will not be seeking re-election to the US House of Representatives in 2010.
HLI is proud to confer our Cardinal von Galen Award on Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island. We are confident that he will continue to be a wise and exemplary leader for the Catholics in his care. HLI prays fervently that the Lord of Life will raise up many more pastors like Bishop Tobin to guide us in these very troubled times.