Bishop Commends ‘Courage’ of Catholic College Student Attacked for Display of Church Teaching on Marriage

Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin speaks to a reporter in Riverside, R.I., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009. Tobin said Sunday that he asked U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy in a 2007 letter to stop receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, because of the congressman's public stance on moral issues. (AP …
AP/Josh Reynolds

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, is praising a Catholic college student for his “courage” in speaking out about the Church’s teaching on marriage in the face of open hostility and bullying from others at the school.

Tobin condemned the treatment received by Michael Smalanskas — a resident adviser (RA) at Providence College — as “reprehensible” after the student constructed a bulletin board in the residence hall that depicted the Catholic Church’s teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman.

“I admire and commend your courage in stepping forward to proclaim the teachings of the Church about Holy Matrimony,” Tobin wrote in a letter to Smalanskas that was released at the Ocean State Current on Wednesday. “It is so sad that, in response to your bulletin board posting, you have experienced ridicule and personal attacks, especially on a Catholic campus.”

Providence College is operated by the Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph and is within Tobin’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

As LifeSiteNews reports, after he created the bulletin board display that conveyed the Church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and woman, Smalanskas had to be moved to “an undisclosed location in the middle of the night after other RAs began congregating outside his door in a threatening manner.”

According to the report, Smalanskas’s bulletin board was vandalized repeatedly, and a cartoon depicting the student being anally raped was posted to the bathroom mirror in his residence hall. Subsequently, Kristine Goodwin, vice president of student affairs, scheduled an “anti-homophobia” march for student leaders.

According to the LifeSiteNews report, neither Father Brian Shanley, OP, president of Providence College, nor any other administrator denounced the rape cartoon.

Smalanskas wrote to Tobin about what had happened to him several weeks ago.

Shanley released a letter Monday at the Ocean State Current that said the Church’s teaching on marriage “ought to be explored intellectually, especially in the classroom, and proclaimed from the pulpit.”

“Additionally, it belongs to a Catholic college to consider the views of those who disagree with the Church’s teaching in the spirit of the disputed question,” the Providence president continued.

Shanley added that “those of us who profess what the Church teaches need to do so in a charitable way that recognizes the human dignity of every person as created in the image and likeness of God and in a way that does not foster the exclusion or marginalization of members of our community, like LGBTQ people.”

In Tobin’s letter to Smalanskas — a copy of which was sent to Shanley — he noted that, while Catholics must exercise “prudence” in “expressing our Catholic beliefs in a secular, hostile world,” his billboard “expresses so clearly” that “marriage is designed by God to be a union of one man and one woman; it is the ‘way God intended it.’”

“This teaching of the Church is most certainly not arbitrary, nor is it homophobic or bigoted, but, in fact, is based on the Word of God and reflects the immutable teaching of Christ,” the bishop observed, adding that, while Catholics must also be charitable to those of different beliefs and opinions, “we do them no favors, and we fail to fulfill our Christian vocation, if we hesitate to present and explain the divinely revealed truth about faith and morals.”

On its website, the college attempts to answer the question, “What does it mean to be Catholic?”

“This is not an easy question to answer,” the website states, adding:

On the one hand, it means that one is a member of the Catholic Church, believes what the Church teaches, and does what Catholics do. On the other hand, to be catholic — and here the lowercase is intentional — is to be open, tolerant, and universal in one’s interests and sympathies. Both definitions are right and both apply to Providence College.

“It is truly unfortunate that in explaining our Faith, you have received such a negative and even reprehensible response, particularly at a Catholic college, one that is publicly committed to professing Catholic and Dominican values,” Tobin wrote to Smalanskas. “As I have stated previously, I think we have the right to presume that those who teach or study at a Catholic school should accept, or at least respect, the stated identity, mission and fundamental teachings of the Faith.”

In 2016, Breitbart News reported on the case of former Providence College professor and noted scholar, Anthony Esolen, who was also attacked for speaking openly about the teachings of the Catholic faith at the school. Esolen, now a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire, writes extensively at Crisis Magazine about Smalanskas, identified as “Dominic,” in his piece titled, “Providence College Bullies Its Faithful Students.”

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