Safety, Justice & Healing

In podcast, Bishop Tobin defines a role for 21st century Catholicism


EAST PROVIDENCE — Bishop Thomas J. Tobin joined WPRO’s Matt Allen on his “Matt Allen Uncut” podcast recently to discuss a number of issues facing the Catholic Church and greater Rhode Island.
“People think I am having you (Bishop Tobin) on my podcast to make news, but that is not my goal,” Allen said at the beginning of his podcast, where he focused on developing common ground for a discussion of broad topics and challenges facing the diocese and Catholic Church today.
Bishop Tobin delved into many of the current events and issues that the diocese is invested in — the newly passed abortion-rights access bill in the R.I. House of Representatives, proposed legislative changes to the state’s Statute of Limitations bill, and a discussion of the changing nature of Catholicism in the 21st century. These topics often elicit passionate reactions, making constructive dialogue even more important. Bishop Tobin mentioned the reality that younger people are moving away from the Church, and that he appreciated the opportunity to engage in the marketplace of ideas with a younger audience through the podcast.
This level of conversation is important for not only the Diocese of Providence to engage in, but the larger Catholic Community. As Allen mentioned, “moral leadership from trusted institutions is needed now more than ever. Society needs a foundation that we can all gather around.” Bishop Tobin agreed and referenced the Church’s continued commitment to gaining people’s trust, where it hasn’t always done so. “We all have an equal call to be nice and holy but we don’t always achieve that,” Bishop Tobin noted.
Addressing the Church’s role in ongoing political debates Bishop Tobin said, “We don’t get involved in politics in a partisan sense. We focus on issues because of the right and obligation we have in today’s society.”
Part of the diocese’s quarter century commitment to fulfill this obligation is reflected in the Office of Compliance and Office of Outreach and Prevention’s collective mission — support victims of abuse and report all instances. These offices have worked in concert to support victims by providing counseling referrals and payment of services, over $2.3 million in total over the last 25 years. The Office of Compliance has also reported all cases of abuse to law enforcement for 25 years and in 2016, started reporting to the Rhode Island’s Attorney General’s office. Neither step is required by Rhode Island state law.
“We must first focus on the survivors and victims, even as we talk about the politics, psychology, and sociology of this issue,” Bishop Tobin said. “Victims don’t heal easily or at all. People live with it for a long time and we need to keep that in focus.”
Allen mentioned that in the fast paced and all-consuming nature of today’s media, the good works of the diocese aren’t always noticed. Bishop Tobin expanded on the charitable ministries that the diocese maintains; the Catholic schools that teach thousands of students annually, their homeless shelter at Emmanuel House, and the “Keep the Heat On” heating assistance program, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for those in need.
The podcast aired as Lenten season unfolds, an important time for Catholics to reckon with weaknesses, sins and faults. By understanding faults, believers can repent with God and others. “This is a time of new beginnings,” Bishop Tobin said.

Click here to listen to the interview!