The Thinking 
Housewife
 

A Bishop Changes Parties

August 17, 2013

 

DON VINCENZO writes:

Bishop Thomas Tobin, of Providence, Rhode Island, recently informed a group of Young Republicans that he had become a registered Republican after dissolving his long and, in my judgment, inexplicable association with the Democratic Party. The bishop’s statement and its implications only strengthen my conviction that the Church in the West has lost its way. From WPRI News:

Bishop Tobin claimed, “The a-ha moment for me was the 2012 Democratic National Convention.(Emphasis mine.) It was just awful,” Tobin, 65, told the Young Republicans during an event at the Holy Rosary Band Society Hall in Providence”

Why has the bishop appeared before a political group to explain his changing parties? The bishop’s role is to serve as the spiritual shepherd to his flock, which in this bishop’s case includes 147 shrines and parishes throughout the state.

In admitting to changing parties, Bishop Tobin also revealed a mindset operating in far too many bishops in the U.S.: they have been inextricably involved in political action, often in the case of supporting amnesty for illegal aliens, or in the name of “social justice,” which kept him a registered Democrat for forty years, but not an effective bishop.

But the larger question is this: why would this member of the Church hierarchy, Bishop of Providence since 2005, have been associated with the Democratic Party at all? Over the past forty years, every major success in changing and transforming American social and religious life, from the unlimited abortion license to homosexual “marriage,” including the coercing of Catholic chaplains to perform same-sex marriages on military installations, has come about because Democratic Party members, who many who claim to be Catholic, supported those measures. Their number are legion. When asked about Catholic complicity in legalizing same sex marriage in Rhode Island, the bishop responded as most of his fellow bishops and other hierarchy of the Church have:

Tobin reiterated his disappointment that Rhode Island legalized same-sex marriage, describing it as “a failure” on the part of him personally and the Catholic Church statewide. “I was profoundly disappointed that some of our Catholics who were trained to be faithful and well-educated Catholics … abandoned the ship on this issue,” the bishop said. “We needed them.”

When pressed to outline what serious measures might be used, as is now de rigueur amongst Catholic prelates, again, he retreated:

Yet Tobin shied away when state Rep. Doreen Costa, R-North Kingstown, and others in the audience suggested he should look for ways to punish Catholic politicians who take votes that contradict church doctrine, saying his options were limited. “It’s a complex world and a complex church,” Tobin said, adding that on other issues some of those same lawmakers “are very good and very supportive.”

The hierarchy of the post-Vatican II Catholic Church no longer considers itself bound by the traditions it followed for nearly two millennia. The Church’s primary responsibility was the salvation of souls, not “getting out the vote,” or seeking greater welfare payments. Its clergymen were trained and supervised to look at the problem in terms of its Catholic solutions, not political ones. I will assure Bishop Tobin that if he seeks his place in the GOP, he will also be disappointed. Unless and/or until that mindset is corrected, the Bishop of Providence and his colleagues will suffer the same fate as what the Catholic layman, Christopher Ferrara, said of Pope John Paul II: he was loved but not feared.

Laura writes:

You write:

But the larger question is this: why would this member of the Church hierarchy, Bishop of Providence since 2005, have been associated with the Democratic Party at all?

For Irish Catholics of New England, the Democratic Party is the Church. It doesn’t matter how many Church teachings the Democrats violate, they’re not the WASP establishment. The idea that “social justice” issues, which are also incidentally anti-Catholic, redeem the Democratic Party is a handy excuse. Tribalism lies behind the intense loyalty to the Party. Irish Catholics subconsciously believe they have more to gain by aligning themselves with Mexicans than their fellow Americans. And the post-Vatican II Catholic hierarchy does not believe the American nation has a right to exist. I’ll never forget the homily I heard in a New Hampshire church after the death of Ed Kennedy. A saint had just entered the pearly gates. That the man was an enemy of Church teachings simply didn’t matter. He was on the right team. He was an Irish Democrat and that was ample cause for his salvation and ultimate glorification.

Though Tobin has announced his switch (you’re right he should not be talking about party affiliation at all), he does so with great ambivalence. Other choice quotes:

“Would Jesus be a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative?” Tobin asked. “I’m going to punt on that question and say: all of the above and none of the above. Labeling Jesus or labeling the church or labeling me depends on the particular issue.”

And,

“When we involve ourselves in the public debate, it’s about issues we think transcend being Catholic and transcend being Christian – these are issues of concern to the whole human family,” he said.

Tobin is arguably not Catholic. He urges non-Catholics to keep practicing their faiths:

“Regardless of your religious perspective or your own faith tradition … whatever that faith commitment is, make room for God in life – make sure he’s at the center of your life,” he said. “And be involved in your own faith communities.”

August 19, 2013

Henry McCulloch writes:

You make a profound and, sadly, accurate observation.

You write:

But the larger question is this: why would this member of the Church hierarchy, Bishop of Providence since 2005, have been associated with the Democratic Party at all?

For Irish Catholics of New England, the Democratic Party is the Church. It doesn’t matter how many Church teachings the Democrats violate, they’re not the WASP establishment. The idea that “social justice” issues, which are also incidentally anti-Catholic, redeem the Democratic Party is a handy excuse. Tribalism lies behind the intense loyalty to the Party. Irish Catholics subconsciously believe they have more to gain by aligning themselves with Mexicans than their fellow Americans. And the post-Vatican II Catholic hierarchy does not believe the American nation has a right to exist. I’ll never forget the homily I heard in a New Hampshire church after the death of Ed Kennedy. A saint had just entered the pearly gates. That the man was an enemy of Church teachings simply didn’t matter. He was on the right team. He was an Irish Democrat and that was ample cause for his salvation and ultimate glorification.  (my emphases)

I don’t know if you are of Irish extraction; if so, I hope you won’t take this amiss.  Based on what you wrote, I doubt you will.  I have lived among Irish-Americans in the United States and worked among Irish immigrants and their children in England.  I have also spent quite a bit of time around Australians of Irish descent (and as a percentage of the once-Lucky Country’s population, there are a lot of them).  One of the common denominators of most Catholic Irish people, both the Irish diaspora as well as those who never left home, is a resentment, verging on and often spilling over into hatred, of England and the English.  As any Catholic knows, there are pretty good reasons for those resentments, but it’s past time to get over them.  It’s time for the Euros to stick together.

As I think I wrote in a VFR comment thread once, at one time whilst practicing law in London I worked with many Irish lawyers: the large London firms were full of Irish junior solicitors for some reason.  All were both contemptuous and resentful of the English, whilst having a lot more fun – and making a lot more money – in England’s capital than was available to them in Ireland’s.  The attitude was pervasive, and I was surprised by Englishmen’s bemused acceptance of it – because it came out loud and clear after a pint or two or more.  London was also full of young Australians, as it has been at least since the end of WWII (the Earls Court Road has been called “Kangaroo Valley” for decades), probably a majority at least partly Irish in ancestry.  They, too, took pleasure in being gratuitously offensive to the natives (“poms”), again especially after a pint or three, and after a while I came to think it was their inner Irishmen revealing themselves.

As we know, more of those Irish emigrants ended up in the United States than anywhere else, and New England – especially in Boston and other cities – got a disproportionate share.  Well, what did those Irish people find as they came off the boat?  A country run by the same people they so hated back across the pond: English people!  I suspect that to the average Irish immigrant of the 19th century, and probably later, there wasn’t much evident difference between Englishmen and New England Yankees.  Back in the now long-gone days when the Yankees still ran the states they had founded and settled, it was no doubt entirely natural for Irishmen to transfer their resentments from one variety of Englishman to another.  If it’s a stretch to say that the totally Irish-dominated American Catholic Church of the time fostered those resentments, it’s not much of one.  And the Republican Party back then was the Yankees’ party; no wonder the Irish were monolithically Democratic in their political allegiance.

None of that history excuses the current uselessness of many New England Catholic bishops – still disproportionately Irish in extraction, although the Mediterraneans have made inroads – but it does make it easier to understand.  Now I just wish these Irish-Americans would grow up, so to speak.

Laura writes:

Yes, I am Irish and I don’t take offense. Your experience in London confirms my own personal observations although much of what I have seen seems to work on a less obvious, half-repressed level. I don’t think Obama would have won so handily, certainly not among Catholics, without this dynamic.

There were a couple of discussions, here and here, on the Irish in America at VFR last year. While I don’t agree with those who said America would have been better off without the Irish, I strongly agree that their resentment of the English was a significant factor in the advance of liberalism.

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