Gay marriage and Champagne

Thomas Tobin.jpgWhat do they have in common? As Rhode Island’s Bishop Thomas Tobin explains, nothing. Homosexual marriage is more like Chianti. (Or is it oysters and snails, Antoninus?) In any case, Bishop Tobin seems to be emerging as one of the bullier pulpiteers in the American hierarchy. His “imaginary” interview with Obama about abortion last February generated a good deal of commentary, not all positive.


His latest column, on gay marriage, is especially blistering, and I think is an example of when prophetic denunciation becomes an attack on people themselves, in this case gays and lesbians, whose sexual activities are “offensive to Almighty God,” as Tobin says.

Here let me explain the “champagne principle.” Not every wine is champagne. Champagne has certain very specific, universally recognized characteristics. If someone were to take a bottle of Chianti, label and sell it as champagne, they’d be arrested for fraud. In the same way, those who seek to redefine marriage – with its specific characteristics – and to usurp the title “marriage” for their morally bankrupt relationships, are committing an act of fraud. It’s insulting to those who have entered the authentic, sacred and time-honored institution of marriage over the years.


The gay culture continues to seep into our popular culture, cleverly claiming credibility. Did you see that President Obama issued special invitations to gay families to participate in this year’s Easter Egg Hunt at the White House? Just another not-too-subtle attempt to ignore the objective immorality of the situation and present gay couples as normal and happy as every other couple.

He also lays out the point-by-point critique of gay marriage. But most notable is his withering tone, and his challenge to Rhode Island Catholics to fight against their apathy and defeat gay marriage. Apathetic he is not. Read all about it…

Comments read comments(13)
post a comment

posted April 27, 2009 at 11:41 am

Calling it ‘objective immorality’ allows Tobin to stake his claim without actually bothering to do the work of making the necessary persuasive arguments. It’s not the job of the government to ratify religious claims. In our country, it’s not even allowed.
His rhetoric is sharp, but there is no argument to support it, just the assumption that he and the religious doctrines that he is basing it on, have some right to control civil society. They do not.
Given the track record of the American Conference of Bishops, maybe if they cleaned up their own act people might start to treat them as moral leaders again. Right now, no one has any reason to. Motes and beams.

report abuse

Cautious Man

posted April 27, 2009 at 12:55 pm

If a first marriage is champagne, what’s a second or third marriage after a civil divorce? Cold Duck? Are we supposed to have a different term for a couple when one has previously terminated his or her prior entry into “the authentic, sacred and time-honored institution of marriage”? The Bishop is wasting his time focusing on gay marriage, if he really wants to avoid confusion of other relationships with “the authentic, sacred and time-honored institution of marriage.”
Okay, that was probably too snarky, but that’s my first reaction to that argument.

report abuse


posted April 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm

“If someone were to take a bottle of Chianti, label and sell it as champagne, they’d be arrested for fraud. In the same way, those who seek to redefine marriage – with its specific characteristics – and to usurp the title ‘marriage’ for their morally bankrupt relationships, are committing an act of fraud.”
So can we expect the good Bishop to argue that same-sex couples attempting to marry should be arrested? If that were to happen, it would pretty much lead to victory (morally, at least) for the LGBT rights movement. He was probably too busy enjoying some champagne himself to consider that.

report abuse

Bryan Cones

posted April 27, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Frankly, I’m most disturbed by the bishop’s complete lack of Christian charity. Not sure that rank snarkiness is worthy of an agent of the good news; rather, it diminishes the already-tarnished credibility of the Catholic bishops of this country. It is possible to disagree civilly on matters of public policy without resorting to cheap and meaningless comparisons. Chianti and champagne, eh?

report abuse


posted April 27, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The analogy the bishop is making here is quite frankly, stupid. Add to this, just plain mean. The letter even lacks the usual prosaic boiler plate the bishops usually preface their letters (rants) with describing what great and kind fellows they are, stewards of Christ, etc before dropping the bomb on their intended targets.

report abuse

Jim McCrea

posted April 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm

So much of what is viewed as “orthodox” Catholicism simply highlights one way that the faith has been lived in the past, determines this to be normative, and then dismisses what might depart from it as being somehow less Catholic. This tends to be quite dismissive of the constitutively changing nature of the traditions of such things as marriage.
Sacramental marriage was not part of the Christian religion until 1545 at the Council of Trent. There was no sacrament of matrimony before that. In 1200 there first came the concept of marriage for love. Prior to that, women were given to men as part of a business arrangement between families. Nothing holy about that! If we do not want to redefine marriage, then we should go back to having your father arrange who you should marry.
Let’s try to define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look at Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile?
Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. St. Paul regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered.
Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
I recommend you read John Boswell’s book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 1980), in which he documents legally recognized homosexual marriage in ancient Rome extending into the Christian period, and his Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Villard Books, 1994), in which he discusses Church-blessed same-sex unions and even an ancient Christian same-sex nuptial liturgy.

report abuse

Your Name

posted April 27, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Discretion is the better part of valor. It would have been good if Bishop Tobin could have contained his disdain for and dislike of gay people. Does he realize that many of his priests and many Rhode Island Catholics are gay? Does he have any thought to how his strident tone would cause hurt to people? His comment about having gay families and their children at the Easter egg hunt was mean spirited. What would he have done with these people? Told them that they were evil and disordered and they needed to repent? Would he have kicked the children out too or just the gay parents? Why shouldn’t these children be treated with respect? Reading what Bishop Tobin wrote makes me sad and ashamed.

report abuse

your name 2

posted April 27, 2009 at 7:06 pm

“For his motto, His Excellency, Bishop Tobin employs the words for three of the virtues that are found in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. These words, STRONG – LOVING – WISE, are used to serve as directions for how The Bishop is to serve Christ in his role as shepherd of God’s Holy People gathered in the diocese entrusted to his care.”
More rants by Bishop Tobin against gay marriage
Why You Should Worry About Gay Marriage
Posted Nov. 1, 2007
Why “Gay Marriage” Is Wrong
Posted Apr. 20, 2006

report abuse


posted April 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Yet ANOTHER enabler of pedophiles speaks out about his “morality” when it comes to a hot button political issue. Perhaps Tobin should go back and repent of his efforts to cover for those priest who were buggering young boys. Even as little as two years ago we find:
“This publicly filed petition by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence provides a new and shocking admission regarding the diocese’s total number of accused priests. Tobin filed the petition in January 2007 to overturn a judge’s order that the diocese release abuse documents in a civil case. To show that the plaintiff’s request for documents (see “List each incident …”) is “unduly burdensome,” Tobin explains in the petition that the diocese has known of 125 accused priests between 1971 and 2006 (see “With respect to the interrogatory…”). After the judge restricted the files to just those involving allegations of child rape and/or intimate sexual contact with a child (see “She did, however, modify …”), Tobin says, he was able to reduce his accused priest tally to 95 (see “By November 1, 2006 when …”). But this modified order would still require him to review and copy 100,000 to 130,000 pages (see “The affidavits and motion …”). Finally, Tobin argues, the documents aren’t even relevant—they won’t support the plaintiff’s attempt to show that when he was abused in 1981, the diocese was routinely mismanaging abusers. That’s because, Tobin says, before 1981, the diocese knew of only one bad priest (see “Analysis of the interrogatory …”). ”
Obstruction, obfuscation, and deliberate blocking of the legitimate judicial process to investigate credible allegations of abuse by Catholic priests. This is the morality demonstrated by this leader of the Church.
Now he comes and says, “The gay culture continues to seep into our popular culture, cleverly claiming credibility. Did you see that President Obama issued special invitations to gay families to participate in this year’s Easter Egg Hunt at the White House? Just another not-too-subtle attempt to ignore the objective immorality of the situation and present gay couples as normal and happy as every other couple.”
Tobin has no grounds to talk about anything moral. He knowingly and intentionally tried to protect monsters within the Church, using his position of authority to try to block the court from investigating the allegations.

report abuse

Iris Alantiel

posted April 28, 2009 at 8:03 am

Drive-thru wedding chapels and Hollywood tabloids are “insulting to those who have entered the authentic, sacred and time-honored institution of marriage over the years”. I’m not insulted in the least by gay people marrying if they’ve got love.

report abuse


posted April 28, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I live in RI, just outside of Providence. Don’t judge the state by the person who represents the RCC in this state. He doesn’t bring good publicity to our little state…which is a great place to live. In fact the mayor of Providenc is a gay man. Wonder what the mighty Tobin thinks of that? Gee! A gay mayor!
IMO he is a sad representative of a “man of God” or whatever. So much for loving thy neighbor, huh?
Also, the RCC wonders why it is losing folks to either no religion or another faith? It would be the Tobins of the RCC…so understanding and loving!! NOT!

report abuse


posted April 29, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Shocker! A bishop upholds the teachings of the Church!

report abuse


posted May 5, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Recently the Catholic Church has finally after all these years managed to push me away. In the last (4) months Bishops and even the Pope’s recent remarks have destroyed a life time commitment in my faith. Raised Catholic, educated in Catholic Schools, and now I’ve chosen to walk away.
I like many priests am gay. While I’m not a priest, I have been in my current relationship for 15 years. We have a home, a business, respect of neighbors family and friends. We frequently went to church, and participated in all fund drives, and we’ve left the Roman Catholic Church recently.
The pope apologizes for a Bishop who said the Holocaust never happened, (after how long?)! The pope arrives in Africa where I worked doing public health for 10 years to announce that the use of Condoms will not stop the spread of AIDs?? What????
The Bishop Lori ralleys 4000 members to the state capital in CT, because someone connected to the church in Darien wrote legislation to be presented which would require a parish to have a financial committee. This was in response to more than 1.5 million dollars being embezzled out of the parish by the local priest. Now instead of realizing that the church needs better controls of the TAX free donations earmarked for Catholic Charities and approved administrative uses, he ralley’s 4000 Catholics to the state capital and attacks a gay senator because it was brought to him to bring to the floor. Men and women dying every day in Aftghanistan, or Iraq and this man of the cloth gets mad and marches on the capital because someone wants to create a set of controls for the money hard working families donate?
How many families lost their homes and could have used that 1.5 million? How many children feel asleep in shelters or their parents care that could have used that money? Estimates of more than a billion dollars spent in settlement money for child molestation charges against priests, and he’s worried about how I would raise a child with my husband.
Read the research Bishop, gay families children have the same level of success and personal development as straight families. More than 1,000,000 children are born to teenage unwed mothers a year in the country, and you’re worried they might end up in stable homes, with good parents, loving environments with the financial resources to support them? You really are not worried about the children, you’re worried about defending your own prejudice. Pull the log out of your eye before you attempt to remove the splinter from mine.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!   ...

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks... recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That ...

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored ...

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, ...

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's ...

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.