There was shock and outrage at the comments made by Rhode Island Bishop Thomas J. Tobin last week on the eve of Gay Pride month.

Tobin tweeted that Catholics should not support or attend any “Pride Month” (he put scare quotes around the two words) events in June. They are, he concluded, especially harmful to children.

Critics scoffed that a senior figure in the Catholic Church had the gall to mention harm to children after the massive and decades-long international child abuse scandals that have engulfed the entire Catholic Church.

But it turned out it was even worse than that. In 2018, Tobin admitted he “became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported to the diocese” between 1992 and 1996 in Pittsburgh when he was the auxiliary bishop there, according to The Providence Journal.

Tobin failed to report them. Reporting the allegations was not his responsibility, he said. When faced with actual abuse, Tobin shrugged that he was an administrator, not a moral watchdog. It's only Pride parades that activate his Catholic conscience.

Read more: US bishop orders NO support from Catholics for LGBTQ events

His Eminence  Bishop Thomas Tobin with alter boys and prelates

His Eminence Bishop Thomas Tobin with alter boys and prelates

In January, a grand jury investigation released the names of more than 1,000 priests accused of sexually abusing children in Tobin's former state. Too busy criticizing the mote in other people's eyes, he missed the beam in his own.

All of this is completely nauseating, but not surprising. Gay people and their allies are simply not the people Tobin is addressing. This tweet was sent out to his supporters to acknowledge that a brand new front has opened in the relentless war against LGBT people and their rights.

The process that Tobin followed is known as gaslighting. You make a claim that on its face is contradicted by the facts, then you double down and insist that it's really the other person who is deluded.

It's remarkable to see a senior figure in the Catholic Church talk and speak as if the international abuse crisis in the church is not common knowledge, but that is how gaslighting works.

Tobin's Pride Month salvo is part of a wider culture war battlefront, of course. On June 1 Donald Trump also gaslighted the LGBT community by marking Pride Month for the first time in an official Tweet that was obviously written by a staffer.

You can't respect Pride Month whilst simultaneously attacking and removing transgender soldiers from active military service, so again Trump's tweet was sent to reassure his socially liberal supporters who aren't paying attention to what his administration is actually doing to undermine LGBT equality.

The real point behind Tobin and Trump's lamentable comments is to unsettle settled law. The point is to put the LGBT community on the back foot, to destabilize their consensus, the better to pick them off group by group.

The signs are already ominous. Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set up a commission at the State Department to “redefine” human rights based on what the department is describing as “natural law and natural rights.”

That's just a very genteel term for gay bashing, of course. “The Commission will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation's founding principles of natural law and natural rights...”

Read more: Abolish the priesthood to save the Catholic Church urges leading critic

You knew there was an anti-LGBT hate group behind this latest Trump administration attack. https://t.co/qonXebfCt4

— JoeMyGod (@JoeMyGod) June 2, 2019

Fresh thinking? Natural law? Founding principles? Like the right to own slaves? Do we want to return to the human rights practices of 1787? It'll be the same old whines in new bottles, I predict.

Human progress is never assured. Anti-gay forces play the long game and they're relentless. Conservatives know most people are appalled by Tobin's hypocritical comments but we're not his target audience, he's speaking over our heads to inspire fellow far-right conservatives. It's simply a notice that a new arena has been opened in a long war. Batten down the hatches, in other words, a new assault is coming.

Bishop Thomas Tobin I was sexually assaulted by two priests in the month of June 1981. I would have been far much safer at a "Pride" event than in the care of abusive shepard's. Your offensive in every remark you make and a disgrace to your collar. So take it off and resign! https://t.co/QAxHulrkrn

— Mike McDonnell (@mmcd4) June 1, 2019

The reason the clergy could get away with so much abuse for so long (and apparently still believe they can) is that they were given an elevated status by the community's they served.

Abusive priests weaponized that unquestioning respect and used it to intimidate and silence victims. It's about as cruel a gesture as you can think of: no one will believe you, everyone will believe me, it'll be the worst for you.

Think about which organization most demonizes gay people in our social lives: it's the church. Then think of the organization that has pursued the most widespread abuse of our young people for decades: it's also the church. For centuries they have talked out of both sides of their mouths critics contend, hoodwinking one group whilst abusing another.

This strategy is called divide and conquer, it's as old as the Roman Empire. It's still the coin of the realm in Rome.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section, below. 

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Bishop Thomas Toibin. Twitter.com