Bishop Tobin Says Just the Right Thing About Mandela

Bishop Tobin Says Just the Right Thing About Mandela December 9, 2013
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon, has died.

In many ways, he was truly a hero.  He was imprisoned in South Africa for 27 years; yet he felt no malice and spent his remaining years endeavoring to bring about positive societal change.  He was a major force in ending apartheid in South Africa.

And yet, there is another side:  Nelson Mandela supported and implemented his nation’s most liberal abortion policy, making abortion for any reason legal up to 20 weeks, and later if it was deemed necessary.   He did nothing to stem the rising incidence of AIDS.

But in the past few days, I’ve read so many commenters who seem to want either to canonize him, or condemn him.

Men are more complex than that.  My grandmother used to recite a poem which began, “There’s a little bit of good in the worst of us, and a little bit of bad in the best of us.”  That’s true!  This statement released by Bishop Thomas Tobin, bishop of Providence, says it well.


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  • Detroit Catholic
    • Taleisin

      Thank you so much. What Pope Francis said was far more appropriate during this time of mourning. Throwing stones at Nelson before he is even buried, seems to show a meanness of spirit.

    • Jose Rodriguez

      You might want to read what Pope Francis said the very next day and eat he’s continued to say concerning abortion and how it violates the fundamental principal for all other rights.

  • Detroit Catholic Ummm? What part of the Pope’s message are you abd Bishop Tobin just not getting?!?

  • Loyd McIntire

    Nelson Mandela was a communist and was responsible for the death of many White Africans. I refuse to honor him. Obama ordered American flags flown at half mast for Mandela but not for the Americans who were murdered at Bengazi. Holy Mother the Church shows honor to Mandela and wants me to? No.

  • albert pensis

    Shame on you bishop Tobin. You should look into your own backyard before passing judgment on a great leader who turned a country ruled by apartheid into a real democracy!

  • Monica

    I agree with some of the other commenters who recognize that this is not in the spirit of what Pope Francis has directed that Catholics should focus on right now, and what they should de-emphasize so that they don’t keep missing the forest by focusing on a tree.. But then, Bishops and Directors of Publicity and Special Events obviously have far greater wisdom, education and insight that does the current seated Pope….and taking direction apparently only matters when it matches your opinion as to what should be focused on. How divisive to focus on this in direct opposition to what the Pope has suggested we ought all take stock of. I’ll pray for you both.

  • kathyschiffer

    I feel a need to drop in here, since there seems to be some negative feeling on the part of some with regard to Bishop Tobin’s (and my) criticism of the now-departed Nelson Mandela.

    Bishop Tobin gave credit where credit was due. He spoke of Mandela’s many contributions, his courage and his legacy. However, Bishop Tobin’s principal role as shepherd of his flock is to guide them in all truth. He would be remiss in that responsibility if he offered only praise and did not at the same time explain that he did not endorse ALL of Mandela’s actions. It would be a grave scandal and could mislead people to believe that the bishop didn’t think abortion was a very serious matter, if he offered exuberant praise for someone who had advanced the cause of abortion, without at the same time including his disclaimer.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    1) Mandela himself rejected any suggestion that he was without flaws. 2) Regarding the bishop’s statement: When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems are nails. We get that the Catholic Church thinks abortion is murder. 3) His record on AIDS is more nuanced and more interesting, I think, than simple silence. As with other elements of his life, he changed over time.

  • Susan

    Thanks for sharing Bishop Tobin’s comments. I agree with him and stand by you, Kathy!

  • Pastor Ron Budwine

    I have many close friends from S. Africa & have been there just after they received their independance from the Brits in 1961 & was introduced to the many sides of this beautiful country. Frankly speaking, there is no position one might choose that will satisfy all parties but the real truth will always fing its own surface with time. Based upon my knowledge of this man Mandela & his many faces & positions it is my firm belief Bishop Tobin & “Sister” Schiffer both were as close to the truth as one may be under the present circumstances. This is neither an expression of negative or positive facts for time has its own measure of the individual in the end based upon cold, hard evidence. Mandela was both good & evil within the same body & circumstance directed both in & of themselves over time, indeed he was the first to point these faults out to anyone who would listen. Age has its own way of forcing change in all of us in grace or otherwise as each of you will soon experience.
    We are directed to love & forgive our “Brothers & Sisters” of all their faults & sins regardless of their station in life. Jesus told us although it would not be easy, it would be possible through Him in just time as our faith in Him is applied. Pray each of us follows our Lord & Masters teachings to the best of our abilities. Amen
    Pace e Bene

    • Malcolm

      I am a South African living in a country that has emerged
      from 10 days of State mourning. Is the truth that perplexing for Americans?

      To me Bishop Tobin spoke it.

      Here is another truth: your government arms extremist in
      Syria, who murder, kidnap, torture, civilians and intentionally target Christians.
      Your government and media raise no objections. The issue here is, although the
      majority of you do not object, as you find the truth perplexing, those weapons
      and those you empower, will eventually be on your door step creating havoc, it
      will be people like bishop Tobin who will point out the errors of your ways and
      what you need to do in remedy, unfortunately you will not understand it as it
      is perplexing, that all human life is precious and no human world leader,
      government, or individual, is in a position to arbitrary impose their presumptions
      of which life or at what stage a human life has value.

      We are headed for Christmas so I wish you peace, and what we
      celebrate, has given mankind the vision, on how we respond to our neighbor.

  • Jose Rodriguez

    You can’t call your self a civil rights leader while violating the foundational right of all rights, Life it’s very self. What does it matter if Mandela righted a wrongful oppressive system if the very people he struggled to have this benefit arnt alive to enjoy said rights? Mandela also backed gay “marriage” talk about a culture of death advocate.