Just a few days before Nelson Mandela’s funeral, Thomas Joseph Tobin, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, has displayed a bit of selective moral arrogance.
One can wonder where the Bishop of Providence picked up his pastoral ministerial sensitivity. I don’t see much resonance with the ministerial style of the historic man from Nazareth. But then I am not a bishop.
I am an historian and I find the Tobin Providence proclamation rather ironic. Providence was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, a religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He named the area in honor of “God’s merciful Providence” which he believed was responsible for revealing such a haven for him and his followers.
Bishop Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, however, has issued a statement in which he harshly criticized Nelson Mandela’s liberalization of South Africa’s abortion laws. He ignores of course any discussion about civil law, moral law, and the ethics of abortion at various stages and in various contexts of a woman’s pregnancy.
“Many people around the world and in our own nation are mourning the loss of former South African President Nelson Mandela,” he wrote. “Indeed there is much to admire in Mandela’s long life and public service, particularly his personal courage and his stalwart defense of human rights.”
However, he continued, “…. part of President Mandela’s legacy is not at all praiseworthy, namely his shameful promotion of abortion in South Africa. In 1996, Mandela promoted and signed into law the ‘Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill’ that, according to the New York Times, ‘replaced one of the world’s toughest abortion laws with one of the most liberal.’”
“We can only regret,” he concludes, “that his noble defense of human dignity did not include the youngest members of our human family, unborn children.”
In September 2013, Bishop Tobin expressed disappointment that Pope Francis had not made banning abortion the signature agenda of his papacy. “I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that,” he told The Providence Journal.
“It’s one thing for him to reach out and embrace and kiss little children and infants as he has on many occasions,” he said. “It strikes me that it would also be wonderful if in a spiritual way he would reach out and embrace and kiss unborn children.”
Maybe the Bishop of Providence needs a good hug and a kiss…….