Wednesday March 31, 2010

Shepherds and Flocks: Catholic Bishop Personally Leads Pro-Life Protests in Rhode Island

By Peter J. Smith

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, March 31, 2010 ( – Bishop Thomas Tobin, the leader of Rhode Island’s Roman Catholics, took a personal lead in the 40 Days For Life Lenten campaign last Friday, joining his flock and other Christians in two peaceful pro-life demonstrations at Rhode Island abortion clinics.

Tobin reminded pro-life advocates that they were setting a positive example by challenging social acceptance of abortion and giving the issue a high profile, when others would rather keep the problem of abortion out of the public consciousness, the Rhode Island Catholic reported.

“Your witness to life is very important. It’s very effective and it’s very encouraging,” the Catholic bishop said. “Thank you for that.”

Rhode Island pro-life advocates, many of them Catholic, gathered to pray and give a pro-life witness at the Women’s Clinic on Broad Street in Cranston and the Planned Parenthood in Providence. The RI Catholic said that those praying at the abortion centers also recited the Rosary, a traditional set of prayers asking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which asks the angel by the power of God to “cast into Hell Satan and all evil spirits.”

Sandra Jeanne Lefebvre of Woonsocket told the RI Catholic that standing shoulder to shoulder with the bishop and others at the abortion clinic filled her with hope, and felt uplifting.

“Earlier that day, God’s sovereignty was so evident when one of the women who never made it into the clinic to seek an abortion was Spanish speaking and we did not speak Spanish,” she said. “God provided someone at the end of the phone to counsel her and she left. We called the place where we thought we called and they said you didn’t call here. So we don’t know who, but there was an angel of mercy out there.”

The day before, Tobin gave a homily on a pro-life theme at St. Martha’s Church for the Feast of the Annunciation, the day the Catholic Church celebrates the Virgin Mary’s consent to bear Jesus Christ in her womb.

Tobin told the packed congregation at St. Martha’s that Mary’s “yes” gives a powerful example for both Christians and those in the pro-life movement.

“Mary said yes, let it be done to me according to your word,” the bishop said during his homily at St. Martha Church. “With that yes she allowed God’s plan to be fulfilled. Like Mary, you are saying yes to life, like Mary you are accepting his word, like Mary you are doing God’s will.”

For Catholics and pro-life advocates, Tobin’s actions have provided a consistent pastoral example of showing how a bishop should lead on the life issues and uphold Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life.

The Rhode Island bishop was thrust into the national spotlight over a duel with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), a pro-abortion Catholic and son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, when Rep. Kennedy rebuked the U.S. bishops in October as not being “pro-life” because they opposed the Democrats’ health care reform legislation.

Tobin chastised Kennedy for his remark, calling the lawmaker “a disappointment to the Church and to the citizens of Rhode Island.” A public exchange followed between the two men in which the bishop subsequently warned Kennedy that his pro-abortion stance “absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.”

Kennedy ended his public confrontation with Tobin when polls in the state, which has the highest per capita density of Catholics in the U.S., revealed that taking on the bishop had hurt him politically – but not before he revealed that Tobin had privately instructed him not to receive communion in 2007.

Tobin also went on the record at the time saying that pro-abortion Catholics in politics “must quit your job and save your soul” rather than advance the abortion agenda.

Kennedy announced last month that he would not seek re-election as Rhode Island’s representative.

See related coverage by

Pro-Abortion Rep. Patrick Kennedy Will Not Seek Reelection

Bishop Tobin on O’Reilly: Catholic Politicians Must “Quit Your Job and Save Your Soul” Rather than Support Abortion

Bishop Tobin Asked Rep. Kennedy Not to Receive Communion

Rep. Kennedy Questions Whether Bishops “Pro-Life” over Opposition to Healthcare: Local Bishop Demands Apology