A Free-Market Catholic’s Conversation with the Bishop, Part 1 of 3
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Providence (Ocean State Current) — When Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin took on the responsibility of leading the Diocese of Providence (encompassing the entire state) in 2005, he stepped into a society self-endeared with its own quirkiness. Rhode Island is simultaneously the most Democratic state in the union and the most Catholic. Not that long ago, such a condition wouldn’t have resonated as a contradiction, but traditionally religious voters have increasingly migrated toward the Republican Party as the Democratic Party has solidified its position on issues, such as abortion, that are irreducibly inimical to Catholic and other traditionalist beliefs. In that limited context, Rhode Island can be seen as one of the final reserves for old alliances and may therefore provide fertile ground for changing minds through mutual understanding.
Bishop Tobin’s reception has been suitably mixed. On matters of social welfare and immigration, Rhode Island conservatives often see him in line with his more activist counterparts in progressive denominations. On abortion and same-sex marriage, his stance has been so stalwart as to inspire as vicious a response as any right-wing pundit could manage. When the conservative blog Anchor Rising (of which I remain administrator) compiled a list of the most influential conservatives in the state (as distinct from the most conservative people in the state), the bishop came in at #2, just behind the Republican governor.
However, the answers that he gave when fielding questions from a different perspective than normally posed to public figures in Rhode Island prove that the bishop, like the Church, does not fit conveniently into partisan, or even ideological, categories.
Part 1: Welfare and Charity; “A Global Authority”; Solidarity and Subsidiarity; Giving Authority Over to the State