An American Bishop switches political parties

Rev. Mr. Kandra, at his blog Deacon’s Bench, has an entry about His Excellency Most. Rev. Thomas Tobin, Bishop of Providence.

Bp. Tobin has announced a switch of his political party.  He has left the Democrats and has registered as a Republican.

Kandra quotes sources:

“The a-ha moment for me [Bp. Tobin] was the 2012 Democratic National Convention. It was just awful,” Tobin, 65, told the Rhody Young Republicans during an event at the Holy Rosary Band Society Hall in Providence. The leader of Rhode Island’s roughly 621,000 Catholics said he had been a registered Democrat since 1969.

“I just said I can’t be associated structurally with that group, in terms of abortion and NARAL [Pro-Choice America] and Planned Parenthood and [the] same-sex marriage agenda and cultural destruction I saw going on,” Tobin said. “I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

Tobin switched his affiliation to the Republican Party effective Jan. 5, according to voter records reviewed by [Uh-huh.  I am sure this TV station was sniffing around out of purely benign motives.  Someone wrote to clarify that they checked records after Bp. Tobin’s statement.] He is registered to vote from a house on the 140-acre grounds of the diocese’s Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Providence.  [Note the inclusion of 140-acres…. gosh, he must be rich.  After all, I’ll the people are dying to get into that neighborhood.]

“I’ve changed my party registration now, but the fact is that the registration itself doesn’t mean a whole lot to me,” Tobin said.  [Will the MSM take him at his word?]

A couple things.

Aside from the fact that the GOP is not perfect, how can any cleric be a member of a political party that is so clearly pro-abortion?  How can a cleric be a member of a party that actively, openly undermines the true definition of marriage?

The Democrat platform enshrines abortion rights and homosexual “marriage”.

“But Father! But Father!”, you squishy soft identity types are about to pipe up, “You hate Vatican II and….”

Nope.  That’s enough.

Don’t give me any of that “you can be ‘pro-life’ and yet not talk about abortion because ‘pro-life’ can’t be limited to the abortion issue” seam-less garment blah blah. We have to defend the poor and the un-born.  Don’t give me that “we help the unborn more by not talking about abortion and focusing on government entitlement programs for the poor”.  B as in B.  S as in S. We don’t have to choose between the unborn and the poor.  We can’t choose between them.  We have to choose both.   Silence about the unborn and avoidance of the issue for the sake of a “bigger picture” is a cop out. Without the right to be born, the other social justice issues are so much wind in the weeds.

Moreover, though we must help the poor, the best ways to help the poor are matters of contingent moral judgments (about we Catholics can disagree).  The right to life of the unborn is not a matter of contingent moral judgments (we Catholics can’t disagree).

I suspect some will say that clerics should not be inscribed in any political party.  That is defensible position.

However, in some states is it not the fact that if you are not registered in a party you cannot vote in that party’s primary?  I don’t know how RI is set up. Perhaps this switch to GOP means that Bp. Tobin will at least be able to vote in the primary of the party that is not the Party of Death.

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  1. iPadre says:

    What (channel 12) forgot to say is the 140 acres is a Diocesan cemetery. Everyone that lives there is deceased except for the Bishop and his dog. He does not live in some opulent mansion like many of those who attack the Church of Providence. They throw stones from their corrupt, glass houses. Maybe the liberals don’t like him, but those who are faithful to Holy Mother Church do! God bless our Bishop!

  2. msc says:

    I don’t like the idea of priests (like the military) belonging to political parties. Certainly they can vote, but I think they should be slightly removed from partisan politics. I think there’s a difference between saying clearly “The Church believes x, y, and z” and “The Church believes x, y, and z, and so you should vote for party A.”

  3. PA mom says:

    Pa is a closed primary state; independents may not vote.
    So, while I greatly respect Abp Chaput for being mentally politically independent, I/we could use his assistance is supporting quality candidates in the primaries. I don’t think being Catholic first is meant to rob you of your right to vote.

  4. Tim says:

    Iowa requires you be registered to a party to vote in that party’s primaries. Which of course means some folks (not me) jump back and forth in an attempt to sway the outcome.

  5. Clinton says:

    “Silence about the unborn and avoidance of the issue for the sake of the “bigger picture” is a
    cop out. Without the right to be born, the other social justice issues are so much wind in the

    We’ve all heard the party line from Democrats and their fellow-travelers that abortion
    is a shame, but the left’s wealth redistribution programs are the answer. Their stance– that if
    poverty is reduced by government largesse, abortion rates will drop– might sound plausible.
    Such a stance has been repeatedly presented by a regular pro-Democrat commenter on this site.

    However, the facts don’t support that assertion. A study that came out last year concluded that
    while poor unmarried women have more unintended pregnancies than unmarried women
    making 200% more than the poverty line, it is the more affluent women who are 30% more
    likely to procure an abortion. The study, in a nutshell, concludes that a smaller percentage of
    poor women with unplanned pregnancies choose to abort than their more affluent sisters.

    Naturally, one might assume that the study was done by some org. hostile to abortion, but it
    was actually done by the Guttmacher Institute, which is a think tank sponsored by none other
    than Planned Parenthood.

  6. amenamen says:

    Good news. I guess. Better late than never.
    If the “a-ha” moment did not occur until 2012, what exactly was different from the pro-abortion political conventions of the past four decades?

    But in the spirit of New England politics, the good bishop may want to ensure that all of the residents of his 140 acre home also change their voter registrations in time for the next election.

  7. robtbrown says:

    He is registered to vote from a house on the 140-acre grounds of the diocese’s Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Providence. [Note the inclusion of 140-acres…. gosh, he must be rich. After all, I’ll the people are dying to get into that neighborhood.]

    I understand they are getting a lot of new customers.

  8. OrthodoxChick says:

    I lived in RI all of my life up until 8 years ago. And even now, I still live very close to the RI border and am there frequently. My husband’s uncle was a priest in the Diocese of Providence up until his death in 2010. Bishop Tobin is a good man, a good priest, and a good bishop.

    I don’t think that Bishop Tobin is a native Rhode Islander, but as Fr. Finelli alluded to recently, there are still a great amount of RI residents who self-identify as Catholics. Granted, they are mostly small “c” catholics unfortunately, and they are predominatly Democrats. I hope that many of them will give serious consideration to following in their bishop’s footsteps.

    I have never been a registered member of any political party and as such, I could not vote in any primary when I lived in RI, nor in my present state of residence (CT).

  9. Geoffrey says:

    “I suspect some will say that clerics should not be inscribed in any political party… ”

    I would venture to say that the same should go for the lay faithful as well.

  10. Tim says:

    But in the spirit of New England politics, the good bishop may want to ensure that all of the residents of his 140 acre home also change their voter registrations in time for the next election.

    That has to be worthy of gold star of the day consideration. Well done!

  11. Tradster says:

    “I’ve changed my party registration now, but the fact is that the registration itself doesn’t mean a whole lot to me,” Tobin said.

    A cynic might view that statement as hinting that the switch may have been for show and that his actual voting is likely to continue unchanged.

  12. Moro says:

    Change I can believe in!

  13. wmeyer says:

    msc, note that, as some others have mentioned, some states only allow voters in primaries for the parties in which they are registered. Would you wish, then, that bishops not vote in primaries?

  14. msc says:

    wmeyer: I would rather priests not be members of political parties, and that of course includes voting in primaries (where such primaries are not open).

  15. Back pew sitter says:

    A few points:

    1. Why did it take so long for a Catholic (and especially a Bishop) to recognise the wrongness of being registered with a party that supports abortion? (Yes, it’s good that he is no longer registered, but it is still an important question to ask.)

    2. Yes, as citizens clergy have a right to vote; yes, clergy are entitled (and have a duty) to provide moral education and guidance to the faithful about public affairs and voting in elections. However, it seems inappropriate for clergy to be actively involved in party politics and overtly identifying with a political party. Their care for souls is more important than mere political matters.

    3. Re: “Aside from the fact that the GOP is not perfect, how can any cleric be a member of a political party that is so clearly pro-abortion? How can a cleric be a member of a party that actively, openly undermines the true definition of marriage?” That is a big ‘aside’! Whether a party is a ‘little bit’ or ‘clearly’ pro-abortion or a ‘little bit’ or ‘clearly’ undermines the true definition of marriage then surely no clergyman or laity can be part of it.

  16. RobW says:

    Democrats are the party of death, repubs are the party of wimps…Ill stick with independent conservative. Obama won again…the toothpaste cant be put back in the tube. Jesus I trust in You and not in ANY politicians.

  17. PA mom says:

    Here it is not only politicians but judges too who are elected at primaries. How does it help build a Christian culture by insisting that serious Christians (priests and bishops) should not participate? How does it harm one to choose a Party to join (no dues are necessary)?
    There are certainly limits, and I disagree that clergy should be politicians or directly involved in campaigns (some priest was helping run Sistak’s campaign), but this forfeiting of our duty to society seems over scrupulous.

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    I’m glad Bishop Tobin left the Dark Side. I don’t understand how it took this long either, but, I don’t understand much of what people do anymore. It is a Bizarro World in so many ways now. I know it’s pointless to lament but I can’t help but wonder what difference it might have made in our lost culture if our Bishops had led the way on these fronts for the last 20 years.
    Rhode Island media is predictably horrible to the church. Connecticut as well, and I’m sure every other liberal state. To not throw a shoe at your tv sometimes takes much restraint. Do other states get anything other than constant criticism of priests, bishops, the church, etc? I can’t remember anything but that. It’s all we know, in the Northeast.
    I’m going to send Bishop Tobin an encouraging email tonight. I hope things don’t get uglier.

  19. Ben Kenobi says:

    “B as in B. S as in S. We don’t have to choose between the unborn and the poor. We can’t choose between them. We have to choose both”

    Absolutely fantastic Father Z!

  20. All this raises a somewhat airy question, but a legitimate one: in what sense does voting in a party primary make you a member of a political party?

    Consider that primaries are only one way that political parties in this country nominate candidates. They also use caucuses and conventions. In these latter events, it’s not unusual for a participant to (1) pay a fee to the party; and (2) sign a pledge committing oneself to supporting the party’s entire slate of candidates, or the platform, etc.

    Do these things happen when you vote in a primary? In Ohio, it used to be that if you switched, in the course of two consecutive elections, from one party to the other, you had to sign something about whether you had, past tense, voted for candidates belonging to the party you were now affiliating with. I know, because many years ago I voted in a primary of a party different from that in which I vote now. But that was 30 years ago.

    In Ohio, this is the only “registration” one makes with a party: you show up on primary day and ask for the ballot of one of the parties. In theory, you could ask for the ballot of a third party–if they were to have a contested primary. They don’t, however.

    By voting in either party primary, one has the opportunity to give a small but real nudge to better candidates. If on primary day, the GOP primary ballot was all uncontested races, while the Democratic primary had some contests between comparatively better or worse candidates, would one be justified in voting in that primary, with the purpose of restraining evil? After all, one is only voting for a nomination; one is not voting to put that person in office. This seems an especially pertinent question in those places (such as my home town, among others) where the only real contest takes place in a primary election.

    So I ask again: is voting in a party’s primary becoming a member in a meaningful sense?

  21. Salvelinus says:

    Yet I’m still a bad catholic because I don’t support total open borders and amnesty being pushed by the us bishops. And the progressives

  22. Pingback: Various and Sundry, 8/14/13 | The American Catholic

  23. Elizabeth D says:

    I also tend to think priests and religious should not be members of political parties (and religious should not be obliged to vote). I don’t consider myself a member of a political party. But, I think this bishop’s actions and explanation are so instructive.

  24. Phil_NL says:

    I must say that this is one of those points where the US electoral system frays at the edges.

    For starters, it is undesirable for clergy to openly associate with a political party, as it will give the impression they support that party on all matters, those which are contingent moral judgments, those which are not and those which aren’t moral judgements at all – lock, stock and barrel. We’ve seen this mistake waaaay to often with the Dems, so I can see why a leftie would be uncomfortable with a situation where the entire episcopate registers R. Even though there is the material and crucial difference that the D platform is unsupportable under any circumstances due to its support for abortion, and the Republican one isn’t; that only means clergy shouldn’t be affiliated with the Ds (and I echo Back pew sitter: great that the bishop has seen the light, but why did it take so long? Said problems have been there for decades).

    Which brings me to US electoral oddities (not that they are unique, just odd): the existence of closed primaries with visible voter registration, and a two-party system. The combination of these make for a dilemma.
    In itself a closed primary isn’t that odd, as you want your own party to decide which candidates it’ll be fielding. It is a tad odd that the registration of which primary you’ll vote in is public; maybe it’s a leftover from a gentler age, but it basically robs your vote of its anonimity, and it isn’t altogether voluntary, as I’ll explain below. In most countries membership rolls of political parties are protected by privacy laws, and the rolls known to that party only, which is a very sensible measure if there is a danger of societal pushback – as there often is.
    But now combine this with the situation that due to the two-party system (and districts with a single seat, rather than proportial representation), many of the primaries are in fact the election itself. Any locality or state with a 60-40 majority either way holds a general election because it must, not because it matters (barring implosion from one of the candidates themselves). In those cases, to avail yourself of your right to vote, you have to vote in the primary, even if it’s closed. And that may mean you’re forced to register if you want to exercise your civic rights in a meaningful way at all.

    And that brings us back to clergy: being ordained doesn’t require you to surrender your right to vote. In fact, some of the must virulent anti-clerical laws of the past (Mexico in much of the 20th century, France for much of the 19th, if memory serves me) robbed them of their right to vote. The law that accords second-class citizenship to priests sets a very poor precedent indeed, and by extention priests should not be seen as voluntarily following that same idea. They should be seen to vote, especially in cases where so much is riding on these votes. It must only not be seen who they vote for, as that would be unseemly. An in the US, someone with the slightest education about party platforms and church teaching can work it out anyway (or should be, it think it’s scandalous to have D-registered clergy to begin with given the pro-abort status of that party; possible exception would be if there were D-candidates who’d go against the party line on that, but that dilemma is by and large solved by the utter extinction of that type of Ds)

    So I’d say that, thanks to some quant features of electoral procedure – it’s a hard balancing act for clergy if they should register with a party-affiliation at all – in fact, much much harder than deciding what to vote for. Let’s hope the rest of the bishops come to that very conclusion…

  25. Chrissin says:

    Uhhh…what took him so long? Am I left to infer that prior to 2012 he most probably voted once for Obama, for Kerry, for Gore, twice for Clinton….Oh! It’s too awful to contemplate. I would prefer blissful ignorance as to the voting of priests, bishops, nuns etc. That way I can pretend they are true to the tenets of our faith, something I always want to believe.

  26. Bonomo says:

    Indeed, what took him so long? I don’t know about the RI Democrat party, but the national party was pretty much lost by 1976. That was the last year (that I recall) that pro-life democrats were allowed to speak at the convention — and the speaker was treated quite rudely, even then.

  27. OrthodoxChick says:

    For those who are knocking Bishop Tobin for not “seeing the Light” sooner, I would like to give some background as to what it is to be a Democrat in RI. I can’t recall off-hand where Bishop Tobin was born and raised. I seem to remember that it wasn’t RI. Nevertheless, if I put myself in his shoes, it makes sense to me that he would retain his party affiliation upon his first few years in that state. However, one has to understand something of the environment there in order to do this.

    I’m in my mid 40’s. People of my age are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of immigrants. The ethnic landscape is rapidly changing in RI at the moment and this has been happening since probably the late 1980’s. Since then, we have been seeing an increasing influx of Asian, African, and Hispanic immigrants. This is still a fairly recent change in RI. Most of the residents of my generation and those before it were descendants of European and Scandinavian immigrants; the Scandinavians (particularly Swedish) to a lesser extent than the Europeans. The Scandinavians tend not to be Catholic anyway. Of the Europeans, the immigrant population was predominantly French, Irish, Italian, and Portuguese in RI.

    Now, you have to be mindful of the world that these immigrants found when settling here. RI was dominated by factories and mills and those factories were powered by the sweat of our parents and grandparents. These people lived, breathed, and died by two sounds that dictated their daily routine: the sound of the church bell ringing, and the sound of the factory whistle blowing. These two sounds told the people when to pray and when to work – and that’s all they knew. Life was like the movie “Ground Hod Day” sans the humor. Every day was a repeat of the day before. And it was HARD. The hours were long, generally 16-18 hour days, the pay was meager, and nearly the only refuge from work was the hour at Mass and the Sunday dinner that followed. My grandfather’s sister was born in 1893 in Providence and when I was in grade school, I remember that I whined to her about how hard school was and how tough I had it in life. My whining earned me a sharp lecture about not knowing how good I had it and how it was a sin that I was not appreciative of the sacrifices made on my behalf so that I could have the kind of life that she only dreamed of as a child. She had to leave school in the fourth grade and go to work in the textile mill to help her parents feed her younger siblings.

    You see, all of this background is so very important to know. Why? Because it was the Democrats who freed us and our parents and grandparents from the slavery of the mills and the jewelry factories. The Democratic party literally set us free from the slavery of immigrancy and the bondage of poverty. And to this day in RI and Mass., the Democrats of our parents are revered.

    It is unthinkable that one of my generation and those before me would not become a Democrat; would not vote the party line in every election. It simply isn’t done. A month before I turned 18, I started asking my parents what I had to do in order to be able to vote. I received the answer that was so typical in RI households. I was told to go down to the city hall and ask the clerk for a card to vote. Then just sign my name and check the box next to Democrat. When I dared to ask questions about why I should automatically be a Democrat, why not a Republican, why anything at all, I quickly realized how such questions struck fear in my parents. My mother was terrified and horrified all at once and told me that “in this state”, you HAVE to be a Democrat or you’ll never amount to anything. They hire their own. They promote their own. They control the state and everyone knows that government jobs are the best paying and offer the most job security. “What kind of life will you have? What will become of you if you aren’t a Democrat? Besides, if it weren’t for them, we’d still be down in the mills kicking a press.”

    And this brings me to my point. If I’m Bishop Tobin, an outsider, a stranger in charge of a place in which he has no roots, then before anyone will listen to me, I have to find a way to relate to them; to get to know them; to get them to at least listen to what I have to say. “What do I have in common with them”, I ask myself? “Well, everyone here is a Democrat and at least I can say that I am too”. Something like that might be very insignificant in other parts of the country, but not in RI. And I think it’s also important to remember that it is only within my generation that the Democratic party on a national level has turned on Catholics. On the local level, there have been pro-life Democrats active in the party and still winning office until fairly recently. This means that it is entirely possible for Bishop Tobin to be surrounded by Monsignors and other priests and lay people on his staff who are all predominatly Democratic and Catholic. Under these circumstances, it might take something earth-shattering to force him to stop and consider changing his party affiliation. Knowing how outspoken he has been in support of Church teaching, I feel safe in assuming that he has not voted for Democrats nationally for years, but just never stopped to think about officially changing parties. He spoke out publicly against the same sex marriage bill in RI and he took a lot of flac for it. That bill passed only recently so in my mind, it is entirely possible that that bill was what caused him to stop now and give serious reconsideration as to his political affiliation, rather than continue on autopilot, as so many of those around him continue to do.

  28. Phil_NL says:


    “They hire their own. They promote their own. They control the state and everyone knows that government jobs are the best paying and offer the most job security. “What kind of life will you have? What will become of you if you aren’t a Democrat? Besides, if it weren’t for them, we’d still be down in the mills kicking a press.””

    I find it particularly ironic that all the ills of patronage, political inbreeding and social pressure are acknowledged, but that one still doesn’t dare conclude that the last line might be a falsehood as well.
    And while it may be understandable for the bishop to recognize that there is a lot of pressure, that does not in the least bit excuse him or anyone else from applying sound judgement. Moreover, if the good bishop is a transplant, than the question really should be: why was he a Democrat before he came to RI?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the good bishop had the guts to take this step, but the question why it hasn’t been taken before and by a vast majority of his collegues remains, and while there are ample explanations for that, I still fail to see how they’re good excuses.

  29. David Zampino says:

    God bless Bishop Tobin, and thank you, Father Z., for posting this.

    Many posters have made excellent points: Fr. Martin Fox, Phil_NL, and OrthodoxChick to name a few. I have just a couple of thoughts to offer.

    It would be my preference that clergy (or anyone not so inclined) not feel the need to affiliate with a political party. However, with the way our government currently functions, we need to deal with the way things are, rather than the way we wish things were. I am fortunate enough to live in an “Open Primary” state (namely, Wisconsin). I don’t have to declare a political party, and I can vote in primary elections. If you live in a “Closed Primary” state which is overwhelmingly “blue” or “red”, there are many occasions where the primary is essentially the general election (as others have pointed out). If you’re not registered — you functionally have no vote at all. In more contested states, it is often the primary where we CAN nudge the vote in the proper direction.

    Kudos to the good bishop!

  30. pmullane says:

    “B as in B. S as in S. We don’t have to choose between the unborn and the poor. We can’t choose between them. We have to choose both”

    Correct! And if it were legal to go around killing inconvenient poor people, or inconvenient black people, or ginger people or fat people or left handed people or Jews, then the same people defending the unborn would be the ones defending them. And the ones who support killing little people in the womb now, or those who equivocate, or those who ‘are personally opposed, but…..’ will be the ones who would aid and abet the legalised murder of the fatties, gingers, left handers and hebrews.

  31. Ed the Roman says:

    Am I left to infer that prior to 2012 he most probably voted once for Obama, for Kerry, for Gore, twice for Clinton

    Maybe not. My Nana was a Democrat at least until 1980, but the last Democratic presidential candidate she voted for was Roosevelt in ’40.

  32. Fr AJ says:

    Good for him. I know plenty of priests who a die hard democrats and I just don’t understand it.

  33. OrthodoxChick says:


    Because the last line, “Besides, if it weren’t for them, we’d still be down in the mills kicking a press” isn’t a falsehood. It was the Democrats, not the Republicans that aligned with the labor unions early on. And it was the advocacy and bargaining power of the labor unions that pressured the mill owners and factory owners into reducing work hours, increasing wages, and introducing child labor laws to make it safer (and eventually illegal) for children like my grand-aunt to be working and living the life of an adult while still only an 8 year old 4th grade drop-out. These things were so crucial and important for immigrants to gain as foreigners in this land. They were the ones being exploited, used up, and then tossed aside when they had become injured or aged, or otherwise had lived out their usefulness to their employers.

    And this is what the Catholic church failed to understand. The Church in America still doesn’t seem to understand it today. They have something in common with the Republicans in this regard. I mean no disrespect to those of you here who may be Republican, but on the National level, they are so incredibly stupid as a party. For the last few decades, they have had and still have the same opportunity before them now that the Democrats had in the 1920’s -1940’s, only they’re too full of themselves to notice it and do something about it. Today’s immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Mexico & South America need just as much of a hand up and real support as the European immigrants did in the mid 1800’s to the turn of the 20th Century. They come here with the same American dream that our ancestors had and they run into brick walls as our ancestors did. The difference? This time there is no party here in the U.S. to advocate for them – but there could be. The Democrats fake advocating for the downtrodden, but give great lip service and the Republicans couldn’t care less. I’m not just talking about sex-trafficking of women and children, illegal immigration, and other typical “social justice” issues. I’m also talking about offering no better solutions than adoption, abortion, or poverty to women in crisis pregnacies. And the Church and the Republicans continue to keep making the same error over and over again. They keep thinking that if they tamp down the talk on matters of faith and social hot button issues like abortion, contraception, and gay marriage, that they will somehow appease, appeal to, and attract the immigrants and otherwise disenfranchised into listening to the message. Yeah, OK. How’s THAT workin’ out for ya?!

    The Church and the Republicans need to take a page or two from the progressive/Democratic play book. How about actually doing material things to really support the people who need help without dumbing down the message at all? Teach people that social issues and social justice are one in the same – not separate issues. Show people that we care for both their pysical AND spiritual needs simultaneously and compassionately. Why, for the last 50 years, has both the Catholic Church and the Republican party been too stupid to figure out how to do both? It actually IS possible to both walk and chew gum at the same time.

    Showing people that you’re on their side and fighting for them and for their family is what wins generations of loyalty from entire families, not appeasement and lip service. And this is the culture that Bishop Tobin walked into. The history of the Catholic Church in Rhode Island IS the history of the immigrants. It was the presence of the immigrants that brought about the need for churches to be built and priests to be ordained. The priests were the product of these immigrant families. They saw first-hand how conditions for their family improved because of the unions and the Democrats. They rose through the ranks of the Democratic party and went from being the low-lifes of the city to policing it, keeping it from burning to the ground, blessing it and finally – running it. And when all of that was taking place, the Democrats and the unions WERE the Catholics. It was all one and the same. Loyalties like that don’t die overnight and as the Democratic party has turned on the Church, unfortunately, so have many sons and daughters of the Church turned their backs to Her. And that’s a terribly painful choice to have to make. It’s like being the child of parents who are divorcing and both parents force you to choose only one of them to live with. This is what is happening now as the permissive parents of the 1960’s-1970’s Church die off. The age of permissive parents in the Church (and in places like RI particularly) told us that we didn’t really have to make such a painful choice. We could still be loyal to the party of our forefathers and remain faithful to the Church. You and I know that this is a lie, of course, but it is a lie that so many people desperately want to be true. Now the age of permissive parents are dying off and the next generation is beginning to revert to the ways of their grandparents rather than their parents in terms of taking a good hard look at what is moral and what is not. This generation does not fear the choice; does not strive to have their cake and eat it too. They are not afraid to make the hard choices. But for that generation of us who are stuck in the middle, who were not well catechized by the Church’s permissive parents, who were raised on the true Democratic fairy tales with happy endings of our friends and loved ones, you have to give us the time and space to sort through it all and let God lead us on our journey – in His own way, and on God’s timetable. It’s a lot easier to do that when one is not being judged during the process.

    Can we maybe lay off the people like Bishop Tobin who are getting there via the path laid out for them? Can’t we just be grateful that another bishop gets it at all? The Church has been brought to the brink for nearly the last 100 hundred years. It’s going to take some time to reverse course. But I think we’re finally starting on our way back. Things would go better if those of us who have already been led back to the roots of Church history and tradition could stick together.

    There are plenty of legitmate excuses to explain how this individual priest or bishop dealt with whatever circumstance they found themself in. You are free to agree or disagree with their choice. But at this crucial time in Church history, we need to be supporting the few bishops like Bishop Tobin when they do dare to step out of line in a state where everyone will notice and take them to task for it. Why he didn’t do it sooner is a matter for him to work out with the Lord. Why other bishops and priests haven’t had to the courage to change parties or go independent before now? A few have. This bishop has. And maybe all it will take is for a few more bishops to do the same, or better yet, one cardinal to do it. That could be enough to actually create the sort of socio-cultural reform that the Church so desperately needs. The reform of the liturgy is well underway and will continue as more of the Church’s youth discover it.

    I apologize for such a lengthy post for the second time today but I am just trying to encourage people to try to understand. We need to support the few bishops like Bishop Tobin and be grateful to have them.

  34. veritasmeister says:

    If we’re going to take people to task for belonging to the Democratic party, why don’t we apply some strong strict standards to those who belong to or are considering joining the Republican party?

    How could anybody be a member of a party that supports legalized artificial contraception? Legalized privately based, privately funded embryonic stem cell research? Homosexual civil unions? Increasingly, homosexual adoptions? Legalized divorce/remarriage for Christians? Separation of Church and State?

  35. Lori Pieper says:

    Don’t be quick to judge, people. Many people are registered in a party without voting for that party. I should know, because I’ve been a registered Democrat since 1976, and haven’t voted even once for a Democrat on that party’s ticket since then. My family are immigrants and workers and Democrats from way back. But I swore in 1973 that I’d never vote for a single pro-abortion candidate, and I never will. I felt distinctly disappointed, and at the same time almost a traitor as I pushed down that lever for Gerald Ford. . . Sometimes that has meant not voting. Twice a write-in vote for the brave Penn. Governor Casey – a Democrat, but not on the ticket.

    Why even keep the party affiliation? I guess I have done it in honor of my parents and grandparents and what the Democrats used to be. Plus, I always had the hope that the party would notice how the number of registered Dems didn’t exactly match up with the numbers voting for Dems at the polls and take a good hard look at themselves. No such luck.

    But now, as has Bishop Tobin, the stench is just getting too bad. I will jettison the membership as soon as I can.

  36. Phil_NL says:


    All of that doesn’t mean that people would still be in those conditions if the Republicans would have been in power throughout. While I don’t deny that democrats can and did good in some areas, to suggest that without them, nothing would ever have changed is preposterous. It would be akin to saying that without the Republican party, the US would still have slavery. That one group came to a conclusion which time had come earlier and acted upon that, doesn’t mean the rest never would have.

    And for the record, I have no desire to critize the good bishop. I do have some desire to critize his colleagues who haven’t come to this conclusion, if only because they apparently need the nudge (and many other nudges).

    What I am quite allergic to though is the concept of a ‘party of our forefathers’. That kind of loyalty towards a political party is bound to be abused, and abused severly (such is the nature of politics), and detracts profoundly from making your own decisions, following one’s conscience. That blind loyalty, together with the often seriously oversold historical arguments, is something we should rid ourselves of forthwith. It’s the tool used by ruthless politicians to keep the mills of death running.

  37. Phil_NL says:


    You throw a lot of things on one big pile. Some of these, as separation of Church and State, are well within the realm of prudential judgement; if only for the fact that if you don’t separate, you get a protestant state. Others, such as homosexual adoptions, would be an indirect support for evil, but one that might be tolerated to prevent a greater one (i.e. abortion). Most (as far as I can see, all, even) of your points are issues that the Republican party is divided on, and allows that division (contrast that with the near complete extinction of pro-life democratcs). the republican party may not be perfect, but these are the kind of balancing acts politics are made of, alas, and will be until the people are converted. Converting politics will never work, you’re starting at the wrong end.

  38. Gail F says:

    Tradster: I am registered to vote as a Republican and my voter registration doesn’t mean a lot to me. So I figured that’s what +Tobin meant. YMMV. Initially I was an independent, then I was a registered Democrat for many years, mostly to vote in local primaries — but I did not consider myself a Democrat. Eventually I switched to Republican, again to vote in local primaries, as well as because the many letters I wrote to Democratic politicians telling them I was a registered Democrat but did not support abortion, etc., had no affect. Currently there is a lot more I can agree with in the Republican party, and very little at all I can agree with in the Democratic party. If that changed I would switch again. Surely many people do the same??? I can’t see it as alarming or subversive. Now, when politicians switch parties, on the other hand…

  39. OrthodoxChick says:


    I’m not personally suggesting that without the Democrats, the miserable condition for immigrants would not have changed. I am reporting to you and others here, that that is still how the many descendants of immigrants living and voting in RI today feel. And why wouldn’t they? People go by what they can see and feel. The Dems improved the condition of their families. The Republicans did not. From their standpoint, what is there to speculate about? Who cares if the Republicans could have fixed things also? The fact is that they did not do so (during the Depression and war years, primarily) when they had the chance. There are some areas of the country, RI being one of them, where it simply does not matter what the Church teaches – some people will not abandon the Democratic party. And there is no consequence for that. I have family members who say they are pro-life and STILL voted for Obama both times. When you look them in the eye and ask, “How could you?” the answer is that the Democrats represent the working class and that’s what the country needs. No one’s looking out for the little guy and no one will if a Republican is elected. The Republicans only look out for the rich and that’s not us. If I really press about what the Church teaches, sometimes they either change the subject and dodge giving an answer, or they come up with all sorts of rationalizations about social justice issues and the poor as being the biggest priority to make the world a better place. Jesus talked about the poor. He didn’t talk about abortion. That’s the sort of thing that I hear. Few in the Church are challenging them and their guy won – twice. That helps them to feel justified in holding the positions that they do.

    Like it or not, there is a “party of our forefathers”. Saying there shouldn’t be doesn’t make that mindset go away and you can’t fix someone’s attachment to their personal nostalgia of a by-gone era. The Church allows these folks to believe however they like and still receive Communion, and the Republicans aren’t even trying to win these folks over politically, so why should they change their thinking? If they’re so wrong, why isn’t anyone correcting them? Again, that’s not me talking, that’s the mindset I keep hearing.

    And in the midst of this type of thinking persisting over several decades, in walks poor Bishop Tobin. It can’t be easy for him.

  40. Gail F says:

    Orthodoxchick: Hear, hear!

  41. Phil_NL says:


    You’re probably quite right that that mindset won’t go away. And in a way its an expression of gratitude, so it’s not wholly wrong either, even though in my book, it’s both misplaced and dangerous, as it will be exploited. I can see the point and understand the feelings.

    However, I do think we need to overcome those much more readily than has been done in the past. For the reasons the good bishop here has mentioned, as no feeling can warrant continued support for abortion.
    But also for other reasons: this is an expression of what politics should not be about. Politics should not – even though it often is – be a question of ‘who improves my condition most’. Not even ‘who’s most like me so he best represents me’. The main task of government is not to improve people’s material condition (as Government can only do so at the expense of others, that doesn’t mean some kind of safeguard against excesses shouldn’t be there, but that’s a secondary function). The main task of government is to decide which laws the society will live by, in order that its members can, in good conscience, live their lives to the best of their abilities. And that does not always coincide with one’s own material interests. The question to be answered in the ballotbox is not ‘what’s in it for me’, but ‘what’s best for society’.

    I’d almost add: Blessed are those who, for the greater good, vote against their own private interest.

  42. Pingback: Catholic bishop switches from registered democrat to registered republican - Jill Stanek

  43. Magash says:

    I am afraid that absent a strong moral code, something that is lacking in this bastion of Relativism, “what’s in it for me” is exactly the way most people vote. Any view of political ads make it clear that this is the way politician expect most people to vote. Here in Virginia we are in the midst of a gubernatorial campaign. On the Democratic side all of the ads highlight that the Republican just isn’t one of us. He’s against abortion, and free stuff, and has an ultraconservative agenda because he thinks people should work for what they get and is against gay “marriage.” Its the ultimate vote against this candidate ’cause he will interfere with your immoral lifestyle and ability to get free stuff.
    Naturally they fail to mention he has sued to stop Obamacare, because they’re smart enough to know that stinker is hated by everybody. Amazingly his own campaign has also failed to make an issue of that.
    Every time I see one of the Dem commercials it makes me more sure that I should be voting for the Republican. But I have no doubt that to those who want free birth control, Un-consequential sexual relationships and free stuff these ads are a clarion call to vote “what’s in it for me.”

  44. OrthodoxChick says:


    I agree with you, of course. However as Magash notes above, the Democrats are the party of giving people what they want; catering to their material needs and championing their rejection of living according to a moral code. This is not new, as I’ve noted above. Despite that, the Republicans, in the last 40-50 years, still have not figured out how to do what the Church does when she goes into a new area to evangelize: take care of the people’s physical needs first by giving them access to safe, clean housing, food, and medical care. Then, go about the business of ministering to their spiritual needs. You have to convince people that you are trustworthy and on their side before they will open themselves enough to listen to your preaching about how they should amend their lives and why. But all these decades after the Depression and two world wars, and amidst an ongoing new wave of immigration, and the Republicans STILL have not figured out how to care for society’s cast-asides. Until they figure that out, people in places like RI and Massachusetts aren’t going to give them a chance to get into office and pull the rug out from under them materially when no one else is offering to help them. That’s their top priority, over and above Church teaching. People in traditionally liberal bastions simply don’t trust Republicans. That is partly because of the successful messaging from the Democrats, but it’s mostly because the Republicans do nothing to prove the Democrats’ message wrong in an effort to win over the trust of the disenfranchised and working class poor.

    Add to that the fact that few people are making the case to the rank and file Democrats that the Democratic party has betrayed and turned its back on Catholics; that the party of their forefathers is no more and does not merit their ongoing loyalty. I think it would take some sort of catyclismic event, or series of events, in order for such an awakening to take place. You would basically need to see more defections like Bishop Tobin’s, but from more high profile people so that it could not be ignored by the mainstream media. I think it would literally take someone like a Cardinal Dolan (if he’s even a registered Democrat) to defect from the party. And I keep hoping and praying for a high profile Catholic Democrat, like a Joe Biden, to do the same. As it seems like the Dem. party is already gearing up to pass over him and shun him in favor of Hilary Clinton for the next presidential election, I keep praying that that will be VP Biden’s epiphany that literally knocks him off his horse and makes him realize how his party loyalty has forced him to turn his back on Our Lord – only to have his party turn their back on him. So, what would it all have been worth if that were to happen? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?

    I know these things are not likely, but I keep praying anyway. Nothing is impossible with God.

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