Bp. Thomas Tobin Passes the Buck

by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 22, 2018   

Current RI prelate served under Wuerl in Pittsburgh, knew of abuse claims

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Thomas Tobin is disclaiming responsibility for sex abuse matters during his time in the diocese of Pittsburgh under then-Bishop Donald Wuerl.

Tobin, current bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, was vicar general and general secretary of the Pittsburgh diocese in 1990 and was auxiliary bishop from 1992–96.

The Pennsylvania grand jury released August 14 faulted Wuerl for covering up clerical sex abuse and shuffling predator priests among parishes. Of the 301 priests and religious the report accuses of sexually molesting children, 99 were from Pittsburgh.

In a statement distributed to Rhode Island reporters following the release of the grand jury report, Bp. Tobin said that, in his chancery roles, he "became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported to the diocese."

But Tobin claims "clergy issues" were not part of his job: "My responsibilities as vicar general and general secretary of the diocese did not include clergy assignments or clergy misconduct, but rather other administrative duties such as budgets, property, diocesan staff, working with consultative groups, etc. Even as an auxiliary bishop, I was not primarily responsible for clergy issues."

Bishop Tobin's press statement read, "Issues involving clergy were handled directly by the Diocesan Bishop with the assistance of the clergy office."

"It is in recognition of that reality that I was not contacted by the grand jury, interviewed nor mentioned in their report," the statement added.

Tobin went on to defend the Pittsburgh diocese's handling of priest sex abuse allegations:

"In my experience,″ the bishop wrote, "the Diocese of Pittsburgh has been very responsible and transparent in responding to allegations of sexual abuse, and has been one of the leading dioceses of the country in that regard. That has been true for many years."

Tobin's defense of the Pittsburgh diocese echoes what was said by Pittsburgh's Bp. David Zubik in a press conference Aug. 14, hours after the Pennsylvania grand jury report was published. Zubik insisted the Pittsburgh diocese under Wuerl was a "pioneer" in handling allegations of priestly sex abuse and establishing new policies to protect children, rejecting the notion of cover-up.

Bishop Tobin has mostly had a positive reputation among faithful Catholics. But in recent months, his way of responding to allegations of clerical sex abuse has puzzled many faithful.

After sex abuse allegations against ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick were published in The New York Times in July, Bp. Tobin released a pair of tweets defending the U.S. bishops and the Catholic Church.

One tweet read, "Despite the egregious offenses of a few, and despite the faults and sins we all have, I'm very proud of my brother bishops and I admire and applaud the great work they do everyday for Christ and His Church.

In the other, he wrote: "If you find a perfect church out there somewhere, by all means, join it. But remember, the moment you join it, it will cease being perfect."

After widespread backlash from both Catholics and non-Catholics, Bp. Tobin deleted his Twitter account. He explained that the social media platform had become an "occasion of sin" for him and offered an apology to those he might have "offended."

Roman Manchester is a priest on leave of absence in the diocese of Providence. In a series of articles for Church Militant, Manchester discussed his own encounters with homosexual clergy, as well as what led him to take a leave of absence from the priesthood.

Manchester's pieces note a broad homosexual subculture in the Providence diocese that goes largely unaddressed by Tobin.


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