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 John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews

VATICAN CITY, June 22, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis announced Monday the appointment of Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.SS.R, as well as 11 other bishops to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court.

The Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, will serve a five-year term, per the Vatican’s press statement on the appointment, alongside 11 other bishops, including Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, fellow American Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, and Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. A further eight bishops from Africa, North America, and Europe were selected to serve as members of the court.

The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura operates as the highest juridical authority in the Catholic Church after the Pope, who takes precedence in all ecclesiastical judgments. The Apostolic Signatura is currently headed by Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, who was accused by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó of knowing about the illicit actions of disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in his explosive 2018 testimony against the now-defrocked Prince of the Church.

Mamberti replaced Cardinal Raymond Burke as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal in 2014, at which time Pope Francis had Burke reassigned as patron of the Order of Malta, a post from which he was subsequently “suspended” in 2017. Burke was then reassigned to the Vatican court in October 2017, where he now serves a more minor role.

Tobin’s appointment to the court comes just three months after the Pope named him as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, the ecclesiastical body responsible for overseeing the selection of new bishops to be proposed to the Pope for final approval. Tobin joined Chicago Cardinal Archbishop Blaise Cupich on the congregation. Both of the cardinals are famed for their markedly liberal stances in relation to Church doctrine and sexual ethics, particularly regarding the homosexual lifestyle.

Most notably, in 2018, Tobin found himself at the center of a storm after mistakenly tweeting an intimate message, supposedly intended for one of his sisters. The cardinal posted a public message reading: “Supposed to be airborne in 10 minutes. Nighty-night, baby. I love you.” Tobin later deleted the tweet after learning it was not made privately and offered two follow-up messages explaining that the original tweet was an “error” and apologizing for any “confusion or embarrassment.”

Both Tobin and Cupich were at the forefront of opposition to a document on “Eucharistic consistency,” in part aimed at correcting Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion by denying them Communion, during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Spring General Assembly.

“Any effort by this conference to move in support of the categorical exclusion of Catholic political leaders from the Eucharist, based on their public policy positions, will thrust the bishops of our nation into the very heart of the toxic partisan strife,” Tobin warned during the second day of meetings, in effect placing “fruitful meaningful dialogue,” as he said, above St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians that “he that eateth and drinketh (Holy Communion) unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:29)

Tobin prioritized concerns regarding the alienation of “immense numbers of the faithful” if the Conference apply the Church’s canon law on Catholics who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” by not admitting them to Holy Communion. The archbishop claimed that such application of the law “will drive a wedge between the Church and the wider section of American society as a whole.”

On account of his “efforts to curb the practice of giving the most Holy Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians” and his attending objection to Church law, a priest friend of LifeSiteNews described Tobin’s appointment to “the highest juridical body in the Catholic Church” as “very disturbing.”

“Such actions just serve to continue to weaken an already ailing church in the key areas that are so vital for Her to fulfil Her mandate to the One truly present in that same Sacrament,” the priest said, adding that “rather than unacceptable incompetence, clergy and laity are left sensing that such appointments are in fact deliberate.”

Tobin’s objection to the drafting of a document on “Eucharistic consistency” accorded with complaints from the Vatican itself. Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria, the Jesuit Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously wrote to USCCB president Archbishop José H. Gomez to relate his own reservations about the implications of the proposed document.

Ladaria expressed fear that excluding pro-abortion politicians from receiving the Eucharist might become “a source of discord” and that the bishops should instead focus on engaging in “extensive and serene dialogue.”  

Tobin appealed to Ladaria’s exalted position in the Church during his address to the Spring General Assembly of the USCCB, noting the “serious questions about the nature and speed” Ladaria raised about the drafting of any document on the Eucharist. Tobin echoed the cardinal’s emphasis on “dialogue,” adding that approving the creation of the document would serve only to “produce a document, not unity.”

Accordingly, Tobin implored his brother bishops to reject the proposal. “Our very identity as an episcopal conference calls us to vote no,” he said.

Against his wishes, the USCCB voted overwhelmingly in favor of producing a formal statement on the Eucharist, commencing the process of excluding pro-abortion, anti-family politicians such as President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion.