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COMMENTARY

Trump is boring. Thank God for the distraction that is Bishop Tom Tobin

The bishop of Providence seems to relish making provocative statements on Twitter. Hmm. Wonder where he gets that?

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Providence diocese.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Providence diocese.Gretchen Ertl

It’s only been two days since Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, and President Trump’s attacks on her are already boring.

She’s nasty. She’s radical. She’s angry.

Angry Black woman. How original. That should play well with his base.

Trump was talking nonsense on Fox News when it dawned on me that this isn’t even fun anymore. I mean, it used to be kind of amusing to watch pundits predict his candidacy was over after Trump insulted a war hero, a disabled person, a country, a woman, a (fill in the blank).

If we’ve learned anything these past four years it’s that it would be newsworthy only if Trump said something remotely nice about someone other than himself.

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Thank God for Trump’s favorite Roman Catholic bishop, Tom Tobin of Providence. Like his hero in the White House, Tobin is fond of using social media to gin up the crowd and can be regularly depended on for distraction.

Every once in a while, just when you think those who run the Catholic Church have cleaned up their act and learned to confine themselves to the spiritual needs of their flock, Tobin comes out of left field — well, actually, right field, come to think of it — with some gratuitous remark, betraying clericalism in all its well-educated but tone-deaf self-righteousness.

When Patrick Kennedy was a Rhode Island congressman, Tobin said he should be denied Communion because Kennedy supported abortion rights.

When Nelson Mandela died, as the world grieved, Tobin denounced Mandela’s “shameful promotion of abortion” in South Africa.

In 2016, Tobin took to his Facebook page to slap Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine.

“Tim Kaine has been widely identified as a Roman Catholic. It is also reported that he publicly supports ‘freedom of choice’ for abortion, same-sex marriage, gay adoptions, and the ordination of women as priests,” Tobin wrote. “All of these positions are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings; all of them have been opposed by Pope Francis as well. Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do.’ But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life.”

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Last year, Tobin insulted gay people, suggesting it was dangerous to let your kids come under the influence of Pride events. Leave aside for a moment the mind-numbing, medieval ignorance of implying you can catch “gay” like it’s a flu. But the sheer audacity of a bishop whose church presided over the biggest coverup of sexual abuse of children in history, a bishop who has been cited by victims and survivors as one of the least sympathetic, most unresponsive and obstructive, demonizing gay people was breathtaking.

This week, Tobin, who seeks out controversy the way summer moths flock to porch lights, announced on Twitter that he was sad the Democratic ticket didn’t include a Catholic, purposely ignoring that Joe Biden is, in fact, a Catholic. Apparently, Tobin believes Biden is not a “real” Catholic because Biden supports abortion rights.

That’s an easy game to play. Some people don’t believe Tobin is a “real” bishop because he spends so much time denigrating people his own church and his own savior, Jesus Christ, say he’s supposed to love.

Tobin is lucky bishops aren’t elected. Otherwise, he’d have to leave New England and relocate to one of those red states where his views are popular. Then again, those states gave rise to the KKK, which didn’t like Catholics any more than Blacks.

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Years ago, a good priest named Bob Bullock signed a letter asking Cardinal Bernard Law, then the archbishop of Boston, to resign over his handling of the sexual abuse scandal. It was a courageous but obviously difficult decision for him to reach. I asked Father Bullock how he got there. He replied, “WWJD.”

What Would Jesus Do. WWJD is a good philosophy to use navigating a crazy world.

In Bishop Tobin’s case, going forward, he might want to consider WWJT instead: What Would Jesus Tweet.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.