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Rhode Island, Most Catholic State, Welcomes Gay Marriage

by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

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  • Descriptive Title:
    Bishop Tobin's Column Addressing Gay Marriage April 2009
    Description:
    Alert to the possibility that same-sex marriage or civil unions will be legalized in Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence—the state’s sole diocese—challenged Catholics in an April 23, 2009 diocesan newspaper column to abandon “our abysmal apathy” and “help Rhode Island maintain its moral sanity.”
  • Larger Work:
    Rhode Island Catholic
  • Publisher & Date:
    Diocese of Providence, April 23, 2009

That’s a headline we haven’t seen yet, dear readers, but probably will in the next couple of years. And, make no mistake about it – that’s exactly what the headline will say as the story makes its way around the state and across the nation.

The march toward gay marriage across our nation is relentless, and liberal New England is leading the way. The supporters of gay marriage in Rhode Island are well-organized and well-funded. They’re fiercely determined to impose their politically correct agenda on all the citizens of the state – human history, culture and moral principles not-withstanding. Anyone who opposes them is quickly labeled a bigot.

And what’s the typical response of Catholics in Rhode Island? “As long as it doesn’t affect me, I really don’t care what other people do,” you say. “We shouldn’t judge other people,” you demur. “The Church is losing its influence. I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” you rationalize.

Well, my friends, gay marriage will affect you and you should be concerned. And there’s a lot we can do. But first, let’s review the principal reasons why we’re opposed to gay marriage.

First is our firm belief – based on the natural law, the Bible and consistent religious tradition – that homosexual activity is unnatural and gravely immoral. It’s offensive to Almighty God. It can never be condoned, under any circumstances. Gay marriage, or civil unions, would mean that our state is in the business of ratifying, approving such immoral activity. And as I’ve written previously: “The state shouldn’t be placed in that position, and as a citizen of the state I don’t want that imposed on me and my conscience. Neither should you.”

Second is the fact that gay marriage seeks to radically redefine the most fundamental institution of the human race, the building block of every society and culture. From the beginning, marriage has been defined as the stable union of man and woman, designed by God to continue the human race through the procreation of children. Homosexual relationships are not marriage – never have been, never will be.

Here let me explain the “champagne principle.” Not every wine is champagne. Champagne has certain very specific, universally recognized characteristics. If someone were to take a bottle of Chianti, label and sell it as champagne, they’d be arrested for fraud. In the same way, those who seek to redefine marriage – with its specific characteristics – and to usurp the title “marriage” for their morally bankrupt relationships, are committing an act of fraud. It’s insulting to those who have entered the authentic, sacred and time-honored institution of marriage over the years.

The gay culture continues to seep into our popular culture, cleverly claiming credibility. Did you see that President Obama issued special invitations to gay families to participate in this year’s Easter Egg Hunt at the White House? Just another not-too-subtle attempt to ignore the objective immorality of the situation and present gay couples as normal and happy as every other couple.

The third way in which gay marriage will affect you is its impact on religious freedom, including that of the Catholic Church.

A recent headline in the Washington Post demonstrates the problem: “Faith groups losing gay rights fights.” It goes on to give some examples of how the gay agenda is imposing itself on religious beliefs: a Christian photographer in New Mexico was fined because she refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony; Christian doctors in California were obliged to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient; A Christian student group was punished because it denied membership to anyone involved in sex outside of marriage.

We’re familiar with other examples of the gay agenda infringing on religious freedom. In Massachusetts, the Catholic Church was required to place children for adoption with gay couples; and in some countries, clergy preaching the Christian doctrine about homosexual practices have been accused of hate crimes.

Proponents of gay marriage say that the Church won’t be forced to witness such marriages. Don’t believe it. And other related problems will inevitably arise. Will the Church be required to admit gay couples as sponsors for baptisms; to rent its facilities for gay wedding receptions; to hire employees despite their immoral gay lifestyles; to grant family benefits to gay couples? For simply maintaining its teachings in these and many other possible scenarios, the Church will be accused of bigotry and unlawful discrimination. The threat to our religious freedom is real, and imminent.

The fact that Rhode Island has successfully avoided the gay marriage phenomenon is a credit to our Governor, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. They – along with a number of other legislative leaders – have been consistent and courageous in deflecting the onslaught of gay activists and in upholding the traditional definition of marriage. We hope and pray they’ll continue to do so.

“The Church is losing its influence,” you say, “and there’s nothing we can do.” “Bull feathers,” I reply. I don’t know if we have 600,000 Catholics in the state or 500,000 or 400,000. But if even ten percent of our Catholic population got actively involved in this issue – even five percent – we could have an enormous impact and help Rhode Island maintain its moral sanity.

Lots of things you can do about this issue. First, you can be aware of the legislation as it’s introduced in the General Assembly. You can contact your state senator and representative and insist that they oppose gay marriage and defend marriage and family values. You can exert your influence with letters to the editor and calls to talk shows. You can join and support organizations like NOM-RI that’s leading the charge on this issue. And you can pray fervently that God will help us in this critical struggle on behalf of morality and common sense.

The Church teaches us that it’s the responsibility of the laity to get involved in public life, to transform the secular order into the Kingdom of God. Therefore, if someday a headline reads, “Rhode Island, Most Catholic State, Welcomes Gay Marriage,” people across the nation will ask, “How did that happen?” And it’ll be our fault, fellow Catholics – not necessarily because we approved of gay marriage – but simply because our abysmal apathy allowed it to happen.

© Rhode Island Catholic

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