The other thing I want to say though, is that I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that. I think it would be very helpful if Pope Francis would address more directly the evil of abortion and to encourage those who are involved in the pro-life movement. It’s one thing for him to reach out and embrace and kiss little children and infants as he has on many occasions. It strikes me that it would also be wonderful if in a spiritual way he would reach out and embrace and kiss unborn children.
This lead NCR reporter Michael Sean Winters to declare Tobin “very brave or very reckless.” Winters writes,
What I could not have imagined is that a bishop would voice such a criticism, not think better about it, and let the thing be published in his own diocesan newspaper.
Tobin, says Winters, “remains stuck in the tired and boring culture wars.”
Certainly the Pope’s reiteration of his view that even Godless atheists who follow their conscience may see salvation flies in the face of Tobin’s consistent equating of atheism with a lack of morality. Suddenly Tobin’s Tea Party Republicanism brand of Catholicism is on the outs in the Catholic hierarchy, revealing him as an irrelevant cultural reactionary.
Winters puts it better when he says:
What the pope has not done is speak in such a way that he is easily turned into a divisive figure in the culture wars, his message exploited for political purposes, the Creed he proclaims reduced first to ethics, then to legalisms, and finally to a political program. He is challenging us all when he speaks about human dignity. The fact that Bishop Tobin does not see this speaks to his own limitations, not to the Holy Father’s.