A bishop in the US has received widespread criticism after urging Catholics to not support LGBT events because they are “especially harmful for children”.
Thomas Tobin, a Roman Catholic bishop from Rhode Island, made the comments in a tweet on Saturday, where he specifically told his Catholic followers not “support or attend” LGBT events that were scheduled to mark Pride this month.
In his tweet, he wrote: “They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.”
“They are especially harmful for children,” he concluded.
Bishop Tobin has since defended the comments, saying it was his obligation to teach the faith “clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues”.
A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.
— Bishop Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) June 1, 2019
It came after his tweet went viral with 60,000 replies in just over 24 hours.
A number of responses from celebrities were among the replies, including Golden Globe-winning Mia Farrow, who said the comments were evidence of “pure ignorance and bigotry”.
Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette said Mr Tobin’s “poisonous thinking” was exactly what led to LGBT children being abandoned.
Stephen Fry wrote: “Wow. Quite simply wow.”
Shame on you. LGBT kids are thrown out on the streets and abandoned because of poisonous thinking like yours.
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) June 2, 2019
Meanwhile, many social media users pointed to sexual abuse scandals involving children in the church while referring to the bishop saying LGBT events were “harmful for children”.
The Pope has in the past vowed to take action, and last month issued a new Church law that forces the Roman Catholic clergy to report cases of abuse.
In his statement on Sunday, Bishop Tobin said: “I regret that my comments yesterday about Pride month have turned out to be so controversial in our community, and offensive to some, especially the gay community.
“That certainly was not my intention, but I understand why a good number of individuals have taken offence. I also acknowledge and appreciate the widespread support I have received on this matter.”
He also said he and the Catholic Church had “respect and love for members of the gay community”.
And added: “As a Catholic bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues.”