PROVIDENCE — Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has a message for those who find themselves caught up in the current media storm – out of either excitement or anxiety – following a statement released Monday by the Synod of Bishops gathered at the Vatican that some believe portends a “seismic shift” in the church’s approach to specific issues of marriage and family, including the pastoral response to persons with homosexual orientation.
Using a football analogy, the bishop, a staunch fan of his native Pittsburgh Steelers, on Monday quoted rival Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers who sought to assuage the fears of many in Packers nation, who lamented their team’s slow start on the road to victory this season by enunciating five letters: “R-E-L-A-X.”
Bishop Tobin says that Catholics concerned that the church is moving into new territory that they find challenges the principles of faith they were brought up with can “relax” for three reasons.
First, the statement released Monday at the midpoint of the Synod, or gathering of bishops from around the world to discuss matters of the family, is only a draft used for discussion purposes, he said. The bishops’ findings will be the subject of great debate and revision over the remainder of the Synod, and even during the next year until the Synod of Bishops meets again in October 2015 to formulate final recommendations.
“Secondly, we can relax because even though the perceived tone of the document is new and different, the fundamental teachings of the Church haven’t changed, and will not change,” Bishop Tobin said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “Persons of homosexual orientation are very welcome to participate fully in the life of the Church, as they always have been. But homosexual activity and relationships are and will continue to be immoral. The Church will continue to believe and preach that.”
Lastly, Bishop Tobin reminds the faithful that it is the Divine, rather than humans, who are truly in control of the Church and its doctrine.
“We can relax because despite our human machinations, the Holy Spirit is still firmly in control of the Church. As Jesus promised, the Spirit will guide the Church to the fullness of the truth, in this and all matters!”