Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has called on Catholics to “relax” following the tumultuous synod on the family, but nonetheless expressed concern over how bishops, cardinals, and even the pope conducted themselves earlier this month.
“Have we learned that it’s probably not a good idea to publish half-baked minutes of candid discussions about sensitive topics, especially when we know that the secular media will hijack the preliminary discussions for their own agendas?” Tobin wrote on the Diocese of Providence website.
In a piece entitled “Random Thoughts About the Synod on the Family,” Tobin said that “it’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families.”
He argued against what he called the pope’s suggestion that the Church “accommodate the needs of the age.” If that happens, he wrote, “the Church risks the danger of losing its courageous, counter-cultural, prophetic voice, a voice that the world needs to hear.”
“Pope Francis is fond of ‘creating a mess.’ Mission accomplished,” Tobin wrote.
He expressed support for Cardinal Raymond Burke, a favorite of the Catholic right who is expected to be demoted next month. Tobin called Burke “a principled, articulate and fearless spokesman for the teachings of the Church.”
Tobin, known as an outspoken, socially conservative bishop, asked how the Second Vatican Council would have looked “if social media had existed,” and wondered if American bishops would follow the synod’s structure during their November gathering in Baltimore.
“The concept of having a representative body of the Church voting on doctrinal applications and pastoral solutions strikes me as being rather Protestant,” he wrote.
Tobin’s comments came a day after Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, a leading conservative voice in the US hierarchy, says he was “very disturbed” by the debate over Church teachings on gays and remarried Catholics at this month’s Vatican summit, saying it sent a confusing message and “confusion is of the devil.”
In a lecture delivered Monday evening in Manhattan, Chaput also suggested that in the wake of the rapid series of court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage in more than 30 states, Catholic priests might consider opting out of certifying civil marriages as a sign of “principled resistance.”
Chaput is expected to host Pope Francis in Philadelphia next September for a global World Meeting of Families, and his criticisms tracked complaints by other conservatives who were upset with Francis for encouraging a freewheeling discussion among the 190 cardinals and bishops at the Vatican’s two-week Synod on the Family.
The 70-year-old archbishop, who was not part of the Rome summit, made his remarks in response to a question after a lecture event sponsored by the journal First Things.
“I was very disturbed by what happened” at the synod, Chaput said. “I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.”
Kenneth Gavin, the archdiocese’s communications director, told Crux that Chaput’s comments were not intended to criticize the pope nor the synod itself.
“It was not a criticism of either the Holy Father or the Vatican but rather of those who used the draft report from the synod out of context to reinforce their own opinions and agendas,” he said.
Still, Chaput said the confusion he sees from the synod serves a purpose.
“We also need to thank God for the gift of this present, difficult moment,” Chaput said. “Because conflict always does two things: It purifies the church, and it clarifies the character of the enemies who hate her.”
Material from the Religion News Service was used in this report.