Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bishop Thomas Tobin versus the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) HateWatch blog had an interesting piece about the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, "a 'radical traditionalist' Catholic religious order founded by Leonard Feeney, an ultraconservative and anti-Semitic priest who was excommunicated in 1953."

Brother André Marie, Prior of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, prevented Jason McCann from attending his nephew's first communion at the Saint Benedict Center (SBC) in Richmond, New Hampshire because McCann is openly gay and is in a homosexual relationship.
In an E-mail to HateWatch, Bro. André Marie stated that the SBC does not have a policy banning opening gay congregants or guests per se, but that McCann is forbidden to worship there because he “caused a scandal when he rebelled against his Catholic Faith and chose to live in a homosexual relationship with another man. His words and actions were harmful to his family, who worship here, and to the peace and concord of this small Catholic community.” Noting that he has offered to hear McCann’s confession, Bro. André Marie continued: “[W]hen he confesses and stops living in homosexual cohabitation, he would be welcome once more to come to any functions we have here at our Center. I made it clear to him that these conditions were imposed because of his actions, not his sinful inclinations, or ‘orientation.’”
McCann grew up a member of this group, and attended high school at the SBC before spending eight months as a novice in the order. McCann, like many gay Catholics, is in the terrible position of being both gay and deeply committed to his Catholic faith. In leaving his family's church, McCann has been cut off from his siblings and his extended family. The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are forcing an impossible choice.

Now the Slaves are a pretty far out group. In addition to their unrepentant anti-Semitism, the group also seems to believe that "the moon landing was fake, that the question of whether Earth is at the center of the universe remains open, and that this planet is just a few thousand years old." They seem to have combined the worst ingredients of Christianity, ignorance and intolerance, into one unhealthy stew. There really can be no comparison between the beliefs and actions of this group and the beliefs and actions of the mainstream Roman Catholic Church.

Yet when I read this piece I couldn't help but think of Bishop Thomas Tobin's pastoral letter to Catholics in Rhode Island following the General Assembly's vote and the Governor's signature to establish marriage equality. Tobin said, "…Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others."

This is the same Bishop Tobin who "instructed" Representative Patrick Kennedy not to take the sacrament of communion in 2007, because Kennedy had the temerity to be pro-choice on the issue of abortion. “In light of the church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions,” said Tobin, “I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving holy communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.”

Now Bishop Tobin should not to be thought of in the same light as extremist anti-Semites like the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tobin, to my knowledge, is not an anti-Semite and does not reject the findings of modern science or engage in ridiculous conspiracy theorizing. His views on contraception and same-sex marriage are within the mainstream of Catholic theology. Occasionally Tobin might stumble politically, as he did when aligning with MassResistance, an unrepentant anti-LGBTQ hate group, but for the most part Tobin tows the company line of confusing anti-LGBTQ bigotry with religious freedom.

But then comes those times when Tobin seems to abuse his authority. He disrespects a person's right of conscience by forcing nearly impossible choices. Renounce your pro-choice position or be denied the sacraments. Think twice before attending the same-sex marriage of a loved one, because the choice to do so threatens your standing with God. How different is this from Brother André Marie's statement to Jason McCann, who must choose between a life of love with partner or the church of his family?


  1. Not very different at all. And the Mass Resistance group, I mean really marriage equality has been reality in Mass for years, why are they still active? And isn't Mass Resistance and SPLC listed hate group?

  2. Yes, MassResistance is still listed as a hate group. Brian Camenker hasn't toned down his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric at all. Now the group works on preventing trans discrination legislation and anti-bullying policies in schools.

  3. There is a recently published book available about the Saint Benedict Center, its deceitful history with the town of Richmond, NH, the "religious discrimination" lawsuit against the town, their homophobia, etc., etc. The title is "Deliver Us. . .a religious cult versus Richmond, New Hampshire." This book retails for $14.95 with all proceeds benefitting the Richmond Historical Society. To order a copy & learn more about a local hate group email