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(LifeSiteNews) — In a move intended to help protect the Catholic faithful from fake priests and religious predators, the French Bishops Conference has decided to replace the printed “celebret” badges needed to perform priestly functions outside a home diocese with a digital ID card containing a QR code that will not only give information about a cleric’s canonical status but also will note any restrictions that may be applicable for a variety of reasons.

The announcement was made May 10 by Bishop Alexandre Joly of Troyes, the spokesman for the conference, who said the French bishops have already received their digital Celebret IDs while France’s 17,000-18,000 priests and deacons will be issued theirs by the end of this year.

“Celebret” means “should” or “may” celebrate.

Church authorities will be able to scan the visiting priest’s or deacon’s ID card, which will include a photo, name, date and place of birth, ordination date and diocese where it occurred, and a personal identification number. The QR code will be linked to a national database and the bearer’s status will be revealed on the scanner’s screen via a color code: green for valid ordination and absence of restrictions, orange for valid ordination but with restrictions, and red for a priest who no longer has his priestly faculties for any reason.

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We ask you to join us in thanking this faithful shepherd for his years of loving service to Christ and His Church. 

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, RI, known for his outspoken defense of the Church’s moral teachings on the sanctity of life, marriage, and human sexuality, has just resigned upon reaching the age of 75 on April 1.

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Here is our message to Bishop Tobin which you can sign: 

In a statement to the diocese on the occasion of his resignation, Bishop Tobin thanked the faithful and clergy of Providence for their support over the years, encouraging them to remain steadfast in the faith. “I urge all the members of the church to remain steadfast in your faith, to be proud of the good work you are doing, and to be determined to carry on the work that Jesus has entrusted to you,” Tobin said. 

As bishop, Tobin consistently raised his voice to clearly reiterate the perennial teachings of the Church that the life of the unborn is sacred, marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and the innocence of children must be protected in society.

He has also defended traditional Catholics who wish to worship according to the Church’s ancient liturgy in the Tridentine Latin Mass. 

Unafraid to hold to account so-called “Catholic” politicians who aggressively promote abortion and oppose the protection of the lives of the unborn, in 2019 Tobin excoriated Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, who says he is Catholic but voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act, designed to protect children born alive during botched abortions from being left to die.   

In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Tobin called out the contradiction between a politician calling himself Catholic and yet rejecting Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. In a tweet sent out on May 7, 2020, Tobin said one cannot be an “authentic” Catholic and hold a pro-abortion position. 

“Just saw a headline in a Catholic newspaper with the phrase ‘pro-abortion Catholic.’ Sorry. That’s a contradiction in terms. You can’t be a Catholic, at least not an authentic one, and be ‘pro-abortion.’ Or ‘pro-choice.’ It’s the same thing,” the bishop said

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Several months later Tobin again sparked a heated Twitter debate over what constitutes a Catholic when he sarcastically implied that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden isn’t one. The outspoken bishop was hammered on Twitter with ad hominem attacks after he posted the following:  

Biden-Harris. First time in a while that the Democratic ticket hasn’t had a Catholic on it. Sad. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) August 11, 2020 

Tobin doubled down on his criticisms of President Biden’s zeal for abortion in 2022, when he stated that he could not be “both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot”: 

President Biden cannot be both a devout Catholic and a pro-abortion zealot. The two are mutually exclusive. He is a poor, lost and confused soul. Truly, we need to pray for him, everyday. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) September 23, 2022 

Tobin’s courageous defense of the Church’s moral teachings was not limited, however, to standing up against the prominent pro-abortion advocates of the Left. He also earned their hatred with his public stance against LGBT ideology and intimidation. 

On June 1, 2019, to mark the beginning of so-called “pride month”, the Rhode Island bishop tweeted that Catholics should not take part in “pride” events due to their conflict with the Catholic faith, making special note of the danger to children: 

A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) June 1, 2019 

The public stance made the bishop the target of high-volume vitriol from LGBT adherents and supporters, who moved swiftly to squash the Catholic shepherd’s advisory to his flock to remain faithful to “Catholic faith and morals,” demonstrating the resolve of anti-Catholic forces to silence Church teaching. 

Several days later, Tobin issued the following statement, declaring it his obligation as a bishop to preach the truth of Christ “even on very difficult and sensitive issues”, affirming that he would continue to do so. He stated, “As a Catholic Bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues.  That is what I have always tried to do – on a variety of issues – and I will continue doing so as contemporary issues arise.” 

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church

Ever sensitive to the needs of the flock entrusted to this care, Tobin also supported those Catholics devoted to the ancient liturgy in the Traditional Latin Mass. In January 2022, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he encouraged “respect and support” for “members of our own Church who are devoted to [the] TLM,” affirming their fidelity to the Church, a notable public defense in the face of attacks from authorities in Rome, such as Cardinal Roche, who has dubbed those who love the ancient Mass “more Protestant than Catholic.”  

In contrast, Bishop Tobin wrote: 

In this Week of Prayer for #ChristianUnity, let’s also work to safeguard and promote “Catholic Unity.” In particular, let’s resolve to respect and support members of our own Church who are devoted to TLM. They are faithful Catholics who greatly love the Lord and his Church. 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) January 18, 2022 

Again, earlier this year, Tobin criticized the increased ostracization of traditional Catholics by Rome in a tweet that contrasted the heavy-handedness of the Vatican’s restrictions with the Pope’s call for accompaniment and listening. The prelate wrote,  

The way the Vatican is dealing with the Traditional Latin Mass does not seem to me to be the “style of God.” Pope Francis himself has emphasized that those who are attached to the TLM should be “accompanied listened to, and given time.” 

— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) February 21, 2023 

With the courageous Bishop of Providence now retiring, the sentiments of Catholics grateful for his defense of life, family, and faith can perhaps not be put better than what was stated by those same Catholics several years ago: “Your clear and compassionate teaching gives hope to Catholics and Christians everywhere.”  

In the words of Bishop Strickland, “Thanks for speaking up Bishop Tobin….let us be mighty loving messengers of truth and light in Jesus Christ.” 

SIGN: Thank you Bishop Tobin for answering God's call to serve His Church


Bishop Thomas Tobin retires at age 75 - LifeSiteNews

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The nature of restrictions will not be identified on the screen and will only be available online after the cleric enters his pin plus a four-digit personal and confidential code offering access to the national database.

The restrictions are as follows: a ban on celebrating the Eucharist in public, preaching, baptizing, confessing or having one-on-one pastoral conversations (mentioning the restricted audience if applicable, such as men/women/boys/girls/outside congregations-institutes); preparing for and celebrating weddings; preparing for and celebrating the anointing of the sick; celebrating funerals; supervising youth groups alone; being alone with a minor, even in a visible space; participating in broadcasts via radio, television or the internet; and restrictions not included on the list. This information will appear in French, English and Latin, but no reason will be given for the applicable restrictions to ensure the cleric’s right to privacy.

This is one of the reasons that vocal groups of abuse victims in France have slammed the measure as “one of the Catholic Church’s top three most stupid ideas,” claiming that it did not address the causes of abuse. The last claim is true, but being able to prove one’s identity, credentials and habilitations was never a way to stop undue behavior.

The abuse victims’ groups want more, including full and public lists of clerical abusers, but this would infringe upon individual rights in a country where no such public records exist for sex offenders. It would add force to the claim that the Church includes an exceptionally high proportion of abusers, which is not true. The proportion is roughly the same as in other social and professional groups. The main difference is that there is a much higher proportion of male victims among clerical sex abusers.

Many have instead applauded the move.

Such was the case of a member of a traditional institute who writes for leading conservative weekly Valeurs actuelles and the Catholic fortnightly magazine L’Homme nouveau under the pen name of  “Père Danziec.” In an interview with CNews on May 11 (shortly after the 44th minute), he commented that “the ecclesiastical authorities have every reason to maintain strong vigilance on ministers in order to avoid that those who are under sanctions should be able to dodge restrictions.”

These restrictions are not necessarily the result of sanctions, however. Recently ordained priests may not have received the faculty to hear confessions; priests who are unable to hear or understand a confession may also have been banned from doing so.

While the card will be valid indefinitely (unless its bearer’s place of incardination should change), its information will be updated once a year, and in case of sanctions, the update will take place immediately. If a diocese forgets to do the yearly update, a priest visiting a parish or sanctuary outside of his diocese would not be able to celebrate the sacraments there. A PDF version of the celebret will be available for priests to print out for use in places with no internet connection.

The French bishops decided to update the traditional form of the Celebret in the wake of the independent report on abuse of minors by priests, religious and employees of the Catholic Church over the last 70 years that was published in October 2021. While many of its findings, based on unwarranted extrapolations of internet surveys conducted with paid respondents, are disputable, the “CIASE” report did reveal a troubling number of sexual abuse cases.

The creation of an “unfalsifiable” Celebret was not among its recommendations (these included an attack against the seal of confession and measures aimed at “desacralizing” the priestly function), but it was one of the first steps taken by the bishops conference that is now coming to fruition.

What was not said at the time is that the new national card, which will replace printed cards that vary from diocese to diocese, would use a digital, “credit card” format and make potentially sensitive information available regarding sanctions and restrictions incurred by priests.

The traditional celebret, which is classically required under Church law as proof of valid ordination and the capacity to celebrate Mass and hear confessions, is in theory issued yearly bears the signature of the bishop and the stamp of the diocese of its bearer, and the latter can be asked to produce it when seeking to celebrate Mass in another diocese, another country or a sanctuary center.

In practice, priests are seldom required to show their credentials, as they are usually known in the parishes that invite them for a liturgical function. This is less true in pilgrimage locations and abroad, and in these places the Celebret is more often demanded to check the canonical status of its bearer.

Cases of bogus priests are not unheard of and include men seeking a way to obtain funds or accommodation, or the opportunity to commit a crime thanks to the priestly status. Oftentimes, their imperfect knowledge of doctrine or the liturgy would lead to their unmasking.

In the Diocese of Toulon in the south of France, a spurious Franciscan brother was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment in 2018 for having scammed a local Catholic lady who gave him 2,500 euro (about $2,700 US) to finance the hiring of a teacher in an African orphanage.

Others pretend to be Catholic priests in order to celebrate the sacraments in Catholic churches, such as a bishop of a schismatic church in France who celebrated a funeral in a crematorium while passing himself off as a Roman Catholic priest. One of the major reasons for requiring priests to have a celebret is to protect the sacraments themselves from abuse, as well as the rights of the faithful to obtain valid sacraments.

Celebret originated in the Middle Ages under the form of a “mission letter” issued to traveling clerics in order to help identify “gyrovagues,” or monks who would travel from monastery to monastery without belonging to any single one. The practice of the celebret was extended to the universal Church by the Council of Trent.