PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Speaking out on political issues is not only a right, but a duty, for religious leaders, said Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., in a recent interview.
“What we try and do is take the Gospel, the basis of our faith, and apply it to the issues of the day,” Bishop Tobin told the Providence Journal in an article published April 17.
“Now, some people will like it, some people won’t like it; some will agree, some will not. I think we have not just a right but the need to be involved in these public conversations.”
Bishop Tobin said that when he speaks about issues such as immigration and gun control, he draws criticism from conservatives, who say, “Stay out of it; it’s not your business.” When speaking about abortion or same-sex “marriage,” he said, he gets the same response from liberals.
“So sometimes I’m accused of being too conservative, and sometimes I’m accused of being a raging liberal.”
However, he said, it is important to preach the Gospel no matter how people respond.
One tool the bishop has been using to weigh in on political and moral debates is Twitter. In February, the prelate opened an account, @bishoptjt, which now has more than 1,300 followers.
Because he alone controls the subject of his tweets, he said “there’s no filter there,” unlike his Facebook account, which is managed by someone in his office.
“I thought, if the president can do it and the Pope can do it, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.
Bishops Tobin uses his Twitter account to discuss both serious topics — such as liturgy and politics — and lighthearted, personal interests.
“I’ve done some devotional things, some spiritual things — and some liturgical things and some prayerful things,” the bishop said. “I’ve also put some things up about the Steelers and about my dog and about some political things and about the weather and April Fools Day.”
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin. Credit: Jim Forest via Flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0.