Thomas Joseph Tobin

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Thomas Joseph Tobin
Bishop of Providence
AppointedMarch 31, 2005
InstalledMay 31, 2005
PredecessorRobert Mulvee
OrdinationJuly 21, 1973
by Vincent Leonard
ConsecrationDecember 27, 1992
by Donald Wuerl, Anthony G. Bosco, and Nicholas C. Dattilo
Personal details
Born (1948-04-01) April 1, 1948 (age 72)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
Previous postAuxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh
Titular Bishop of Novica
Bishop of Youngstown
Alma materGannon University
Saint Francis University
Pontifical North American College
Pontifical Gregorian University
Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm
Styles of
Thomas Joseph Tobin
Coat of arms of Thomas Joseph Tobin.svg
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop

Thomas Joseph Tobin (born April 1, 1948) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island. Tobin is known for his conservative views and pro-life teachings.[1]


Early life and ordination[edit]

Thomas Tobin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied at St. Mark Seminary High School and Gannon University, both in Erie, before entering St. Francis University in Loretto where he received his BA in 1969, and the Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Gregorian University, both in Rome. He also pursued his graduate studies at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome.[citation needed]

Tobin was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Vincent Leonard on July 21, 1973, and then served as an assistant pastor at St. Vitus Parish in New Castle until 1979. From 1979 to 1984, he was an assistant pastor at St. Sebastian Parish in Ross Township, later becoming administrative secretary to Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua, Associate General Secretary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh (1987), and Vicar General and General Secretary (1990).[citation needed]


Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh[edit]

On November 3, 1992, Tobin was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh and Titular Bishop of Novica by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on December 27, 1992, from Bishop Donald Wuerl, with Bishops Anthony Bosco and Nicholas C. Dattilo serving as co-consecrators.[citation needed]

When a 2018 grand jury report detailed sexual abuse in the Diocese during his time there from 1992 to 1995, Tobin said he "became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported" but was "not primarily responsible for clergy issues … Issues involving clergy were handled directly by the Diocesan Bishop with the assistance of the clergy office”. He also said that he carried out "other administrative duties such as budgets, property, diocesan staff, working with consultative groups".[2]

Bishop of Youngstown[edit]

Tobin was named Bishop of Youngstown, Ohio on December 5, 1995, and installed there on February 2, 1996. In 1997, he was given an honorary doctorate from his alma mater of St. Francis University.

Bishop of Providence[edit]

Pope John Paul II appointed Tobin Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, on March 31, 2005 as one of his last appointments of a bishop during the pope's 26-year reign; he was installed on May 31, 2005. Bishop Tobin sits on the Board of Trustees of Providence College and of Salve Regina University. He also maintains a column for his diocesan newspaper, Without a Doubt. These columns have been published in two volumes: Without a Doubt: Bringing Faith to Life and Effective Faith: Faith that Makes a Difference. [3]


In November 2009, Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy said Tobin told him not to take Communion because of his support for the legalization of access to abortion. Tobin said he had written Kennedy in confidence in 2007 and never intended a public discussion, adding "At the same time, I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the Church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry."[1]

Tobin is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and displays a Steeler banner on his residence during each game day.[4]

When President Obama announced support for same-sex marriage, Tobin said it was "a sad day in American history".[5] His views on Catholic morality and voting have included the concept that voting for a pro-choice, feminist, or pro-LGBTQ candidate is morally unacceptable. He also stated:

... the Catholic Church has respect, love and pastoral concern for our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. I sincerely pray for God’s blessings upon them, that they will enjoy much health, happiness and peace.... Our respect and pastoral care, however, does not mean that we are free to endorse or ignore immoral or destructive behavior, whenever or however it occurs. Indeed, as St. Paul urges us, we are required to “speak the truth in love.” (Eph 4:15). At this moment of cultural change, it is important to affirm the teaching of the Church, based on God’s word, that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357) and always sinful. And because “same-sex marriages” are clearly contrary to God’s plan for the human family, and therefore objectively sinful, Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.[6]

In August 2013, Tobin announced that he had changed his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican, citing the Democratic Party's support for abortion access as his primary reason for doing so. Later in the year, he criticized Pope Francis on multiple occasions. After the Pope reprimanded Catholics who "obsess" over abortion, Tobin, without mentioning the Pope by name, called the abortion issue "a very important obsession". "It’s one thing for him to reach out and embrace and kiss little children," Tobin said. "It would also be wonderful if in a spiritual way he would reach out and embrace and kiss unborn children." He added that he was "a little disappointed in Pope Francis." Many Rhode Island lawmakers criticized Tobin for his words, both on abortion and homosexuality, with one alleging that his tone was "not very Christian-like." Many publicly stated that they preferred Francis's less dogmatic approach. Tobin later defended himself, referring to his comments as "little concerns," adding that he had said "a lot of nice things" about the Pope. On a separate occasion, he asked, "Is an ‘easy’ church, devoid of any moral imperatives or challenge, being faithful to its mission?"[7]

On June 1, 2019, Tobin tweeted:

"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."[8]

He received both backlash and support for the tweet, and as reported by the Catholic News Agency and others, of the over 88,000 responses and comments, most were critical.[9][10][11]

After the RI arts magazine Motif published a critical open letter to the bishop as a signed op-ed in response to the tweet,[12] the diocese withdrew permission for the state Theater Awards, hosted and sponsored by the magazine, scheduled to be held only two months later at church-controlled McVinney Auditorium where the event had been held previously,[13][14] with both The Boston Globe and The Providence Journal quoting a spokesperson for the Diocese of Providence citing the op-ed as the reason for canceling the booking: "Motif Magazine published and embraced an open letter which does not comply with our venue’s policies. McVinney Auditorium did not have a signed contract in place for this event and felt it in the best interest of both parties to not host the magazine’s award ceremony this year."[15][16]

On August 12, 2020, Tobin stirred controversy on Twitter by suggesting that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was not a Catholic. Biden is a professed Catholic who attends Mass regularly but was denied Holy Communion due to his support for abortion.[17] On October 21, 2020, Tobin expressed opposition to Pope Francis' call for civil unions. He said that it "clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church." According to Tobin, “Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human rights and civil rights recognized and protected by law. However, the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible."[18]


  1. ^ a b Gilgoff, Dan. "Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin's Response to Rep. Patrick Kennedy". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  2. ^ "Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin says abuse was outside his responsibility". Providence Journal. August 21, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  3. ^ "The Rhode Island Catholic". January 12, 2008. Archived from the original on January 12, 2008.
  4. ^ " Local & World News, Sports & Entertainment in Providence, RI". Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  5. ^ "RI Bishop Tobin: Obama's support of gay marriage 'a sad day in American history'". Providence Journal. May 20, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
  6. ^ Tobin, Thomas Joseph (May 2, 2013). "Letter to Catholics on the Approval of "Same-Sex Marriage" in RI". Diocese of Providence. Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
  7. ^ Stanton, Mike (December 10, 2013). "Combative R.I. bishop counters Pope Francis's message". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  8. ^ "Original tweet regarding LGBTQ "Pride Month"".
  9. ^ "Providence Bishop Tobin responds to controversy over 'Pride' tweet". Catholic News Agency.
  10. ^ Kilgannon, Maddie (June 1, 2019). "Providence bishop faces backlash for homophobic tweet". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  11. ^ "U.S. Bishop: 'Catholics Should Not Support or Attend LGBTQ Pride Month Events'". June 3, 2019.
  12. ^ Broccoli, Kevin (June 4, 2019). "An Open Letter to Thomas Tobin, Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence". Motif Magazine. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  13. ^ Ryan, Mike (June 14, 2019). "McVinney Withdraws Support for RI Theater Awards". Motif Magazine. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  14. ^ Ryan, Mike (June 15, 2019). "On the Relocation of the RI Theater Awards". Motif Magazine. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  15. ^ Fitzpatrick, Edward (June 15, 2019). "R.I. diocese won't let magazine hold event at auditorium after it criticized bishop". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  16. ^ Anderson, Patrick (June 16, 2019). "Diocese of Providence closes McVinney Auditorium to theater awards show". The Providence Journal. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  17. ^ Perry, Jack (August 12, 2020). "Bishop Tobin stirs up Twitter with Biden tweet". Providence Journal. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  18. ^ McGowan, Dan (October 21, 2020). "Providence Bishop Tobin criticizes Pope Francis again, this time over same-sex civil unions". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 22, 2020.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Robert Edward Mulvee
Bishop of Providence
Succeeded by
Preceded by
James William Malone
Bishop of Youngstown
Succeeded by
George Vance Murry, SJ
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by