The Catholic bishop of Rhode Island has declined an invitation from that state’s governor-elect to attend inauguration events today, citing the Catholic pol’s support of abortion rights.
According to the Providence Journal, Bishop Thomas Tobin said he received a “formal written invitation” to attend the inauguration of Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island’s first female governor, but said he would be busy celebrating Mass instead.
“I should add, though, that in conscience, it would always be a problem for me personally to attend the inauguration of any public official who promotes or supports abortion, which we consider to be a very grave moral evil,” Tobin wrote in an e-mail to the Journal.
Tobin celebrated a noon Mass at Providence’s Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul with the intention of praying “for our country and elected officials.” Tobin led a similar liturgy four years ago.
Last fall, unsatisfied with the slate of pro-choice gubernatorial candidates, Tobin suggested Catholic voters write in “Mother Teresa” rather than cast a vote. He called the choices “a pathetic spectacle.”
Tobin also made headlines last year after the controversial synod on the family, which he described as “rather Protestant.” In a November interview with Crux, Tobin explained his remarks.
“I suppose it’s just an expression of my own style,” he said. “I don’t use a lot of filters. I just try to speak candidly and openly and personally, but hopefully never in a way that’s offensive.”
Before her inauguration Tuesday, Raimondo and her family attended morning Mass; a Providence Journal reporter tweeted that Raimondo’s daughter was an altar server. The parish priest was expected to attend the inauguration ceremony.
Tobin has previously said he has been in contact with the governor-elect, and hopes “to build some bridges” with her.
A poll on the Journal’s website asks if the bishop should attend the inauguration. As of Tuesday morning, 74 percent of respondents answered yes.
According to the Journal, Tuesday’s event will be only the second inauguration in at least 24 years without a blessing from a Catholic bishop. In 2011, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an Episcopalian, invited a cross-section of religious leaders, including Tobin, but decided against asking a Catholic bishop to pray at the ceremony.
Tobin criticized the decision, and skipped the ceremony. In a 2011 column in The Rhode Island Catholic, he wrote that the state’s political leaders “will need a great deal of human cooperation, but also a generous measure of God’s grace. They shouldn’t be afraid to fall on their knees and ask for God’s help. A little spiritual humility would go a long way in restoring the confidence and the moral quality of our community.”