PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin said Thursday he was "profoundly disappointed" that Rhode Island leaders have decided to allow same-sex marriage and warned Catholics to think hard before going to the weddings of local gays and lesbians.
"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," Tobin wrote in a pastoral letter to the faithful released on Thursday afternoon.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed a bill Thursday evening that will allow same-sex marriages to take place in Rhode Island beginning Aug. 1.
- Related: Tobin on the State of the Church
- Live Stream: Watch today's bill signing
- Full Coverage: Same-sex marriage in RI
Rhode Island is both one of the most Roman Catholic states in the country and one of the most politically Democratic. There are about 621,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Providence, according to the Official Catholic Directory, although a diocesan spokesman said it's difficult to obtain an exact number.
Tobin urged Rhode Island's Catholics to engage in "a moment of prayer and reflection" in light of the gay-marriage bill's expected signing "as we respond to this new challenge of the post-Christian era into which, clearly, we have now entered."
While leaders in more liberal religious denominations have supported the drive to legalize same-sex marriage, Tobin on Thursday reiterated the Catholic Church's official teaching that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered," describing same-sex marriage as "clearly contrary to God's plan for the human family, and therefore objectively sinful."
"The Catholic Church has fought very hard to oppose this immoral and unnecessary proposition, and we are most grateful to all those who have courageously joined us in this effort," he wrote. "When all is said and done, however, we know that God will be the final judge of our actions." The Church made an unsuccessful bid to have lawmakers call a voter referendum on same-sex marriage instead.
The bishop also emphasized that the Catholic Church "has respect, love and pastoral concern for our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. I sincerely pray for God's blessings upon them, that they will enjoy much health, happiness and peace." Some Vatican officials, reportedly including Pope Francis when he was in Argentina, have suggested supporting civil unions for gays.
The late Pope John Paul II appointed Tobin as the eighth Bishop of Providence just three days before his death in April 2005. Tobin, 65, has since emerged as perhaps the most high-profile opponent of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. He also clashed with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy over the Democrat's support for abortion rights.
Same-sex marriage has divided top Catholics at the State House. All four of the Senate's leading Democrats are Catholic, and three of them - Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael McCaffrey - voted against the bill last week.
But the fourth - Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin - voted in favor of same-sex marriage after delivering an impassioned speech about the difficulty she'd had reconciling her devout Catholic faith with her affection for the gays and lesbians in her life, though she criticized advocates for "mocking" her beliefs.
"Despite this serious regression in the public morality of our state we need to recognize that there are other major issues that demand our attention," Tobin wrote in Thursday's letter. "We must continue to engage our culture, remembering that Jesus called us to be 'the salt of the earth and the light of the world.'"
Copyright WPRI 12
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