Judge not lest ye be judged

Boston Globe

By Kevin Cullen GLOBE COLUMNIST AUGUST 02, 2016

Pope Francis made a powerful statement last week without saying a word. His silent visit to Auschwitz allowed the stilled voices of all those murdered there to be heard.

The pope’s respectful silence showed that moral authority does not have to be shouted, that sometimes it’s what you don’t say that speaks louder.

The pope has gone some way toward restoring some of the moral authority of a church that was severely eroded by generations of covering up the sexual abuse of young people by priests. His success has been rooted as much in how he says things as what he says.

“Who am I to judge?” he says, and for someone who is deemed infallible on matters of his faith he has managed to maintain the tenets of Catholic teaching without coming off like a self-righteous, judgmental know-it-all.

And then there’s the bishop of Providence.

Every once in a while, Bishop Tom Tobin comes up with an ecclesiastical dope slap, a bracing reminder that not all of the hierarchy agree with the pope’s distaste for judgmental finger-wagging.

Years ago, Tobin decreed that Patrick Kennedy, then a Rhode Island congressman, should be denied Communion because Kennedy supported abortion rights.

When Nelson Mandela died, Tobin denounced Mandela’s “shameful promotion of abortion” in South Africa.

Last week, the good bishop took to his Facebook page to take a slap at Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

“Tim Kaine has been widely identified as a Roman Catholic. It is also reported that he publicly supports ‘freedom of choice’ for abortion, same-sex marriage, gay adoptions, and the ordination of women as priests,” Tobin wrote. “All of these positions are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings; all of them have been opposed by Pope Francis as well. Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do.’ But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life.”

And apparently, and unfortunately, as he sits in judgment of others, Bishop Tobin’s obsession with following Catholic teaching didn’t apply to the cases of Helen McGonigle and Jeff Thomas. Tobin’s response in those cases was not pastoral, it was dryly legalistic. It was not in keeping with the well-established Catholic teachings of humility and compassion.

A month before Tobin called Kaine out, Tobin’s lawyers succeeded in getting lawsuits against him by McGonigle and Thomas thrown out. The Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that agreed with the bishop’s lawyers that McGonigle and Thomas didn’t file their suits in time.

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