Rhode Island bishop facing criticism for Pride Month comments

Rally held after Rhode Island bishop's viral tweet about Pride

BOSTON — Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop on Sunday defended a tweet urging Catholics to not support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events, saying it was his obligation to teach the faith "clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues."

As many celebrated the first day of Pride Month, Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin, faced heavy criticism for comments he made on Twitter about the LGTBQ community on June 1.

"A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ "Pride Month" events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children," Tobin said.

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The tweet went viral within minutes.

In response to the tweet, the Rhode Island Pride group called the statement shameful, and held a rally outside the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence Sunday night to celebrate love, diversity and inclusion.

Members of Boston Pride were also not pleased by Tobin's statement - including some Catholics. They told Boston 25 News that the bishop's statement does not represent the general consensus of their religious community.

"I think there are a lot of things harmful for children," said South End resident John O'Connor, who went on to mention repeated allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members. "And I don't think that has anything to do with LGBTQ rights."

O'Connor was among the Bostonians who believe the Bishop's remarks are out of touch with practicing Catholics.

"I think if you go to an LGBTQ event, you're going to find plenty of practicing Catholics who don't agree with this stance," he said.

"I'm Roman Catholic and I still believe in my faith and I practice...that bishop doesn't understand the teachings of Jesus Christ."

Jesuit Catholic priest James Martin, who also tweeted about Pride Month, had a different approach to the celebrations, tweeting:

"To all my many #LGBTQ friends, Catholic or otherwise: Happy #PrideMonth, be proud of your God-given dignity, of the gifts God has given you, of your place in the world, and of your many contributions to the church. For you are "wonderfully made" by God (Ps 139). #PrideMonth2019."

Tobin said in a statement that he now regrets his controversial tweet, but did add further comment:

"As a Catholic Bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues."