In 1984, Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York, famously
declared in a speech before fawning Catholic intellectuals at Notre Dame that
he was personally opposed to abortion but publicly supportive of a right to it.
This formula has provided cover to Catholic politicians who favor abortion
rights ever since.
But even that sophistical formula has proven too strict for
some of them as they now advance other fashionable violations of the natural
law. Notice that Mario Cuomo’s son, Andrew Cuomo, the current governor of New York, didn’t bother
to feign personal “religious” opposition to gay marriage as he signed it into
law in June. He made his personal and public support for it clear as he
steamrolled over the ineffectual opposition of New York’s bishops. Passing a
gay marriage law was a matter of “conscience” for him, he said.
Andrew Cuomo has managed to make his father’s fallacy look
almost quaint. He has taken the declaration of independence from the Church and
natural law contained in his father’s stance and made it much more explicit
through unapologetic personal and public heterodoxy.
Future historians who wish to chronicle the extent to which
the Church in America bred her own destroyers will find a powerful image for
that phenomenon in the destructive work of Mario and Andrew Cuomo, both
products of Catholic schools. Mario Cuomo, they’ll note, made it safe for
Catholics to support abortion rights while his son popularized gay ones.
It is grimly comic that both consider themselves lawyers and
politicians of high principle in the mold of St. Thomas More. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd
relayed this remarkable conversation with Andrew Cuomo:
“I have a portrait of Saint Thomas
More in my office,” the governor said, calling from the statehouse in Albany.
It is a picture Mario Cuomo once kept in his office. He gave it to Andrew as a
present when he graduated from Albany
and the younger Cuomo has kept it with him for 30 years as he moved from job to
job and city to city. “It’s not the first time there is a tension between the
teachings of the church and the administration of the law, for my father and for
myself.” Dryly, he adds: “I haven’t lost my head yet.”
The comment suggests a staggering level of delusion. Fresh
from instituting an invented definition of marriage over the protests of
bishops, Andrew Cuomo was comparing himself to a saint beheaded for orthodoxy
by a head of state who demanded that the Church accept his willful view of
marriage. Likening himself to King Henry VIII would have been more apt.
In the coming years there will be many aspiring Thomas Mores
in America as states with gay marriage suppress the freedom of Americans who
reject it. The implication of states elevating homosexual relationships to the
most privileged level of society is that critics of gay marriage will be
treated as enemies of the state.
In Andrew Cuomo’s New York, glimpses of this can already be
seen. As the Washington Times reports:
To date, the most public religious
impact of the Marriage Equality Act is the case of Barbara MacEwen, the
longtime town clerk in Volney, N.Y.
Citing religious and moral
objections, Ms. MacEwen asked to have the town’s deputy clerk sign gay marriage
licenses instead of herself. A state senator from another district responded by
suggesting that Ms. MacEwen quit her job if she couldn’t carry out her duties
under the new law. She quickly agreed to sign all licenses.
This is the very state of affairs that Mario Cuomo claimed acceptance
of his Notre Dame speech would avert. He urged Catholic public figures to adopt
his “personally opposed, but” formula in the name of safeguarding tolerance for
The Catholic public official lives
the political truth most Catholics through most of American history have
accepted and insisted on: the truth that to assure our freedom we must allow
others the same freedom, even if occasionally it produces conduct by them which
we would hold to be sinful.
I protect my right to be a Catholic
by preserving your right to believe as a Jew, a Protestant or non-believer, or
as anything else you choose.
We know that the price of seeking
to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us.
That day has come, not because Catholic public figures
fought tenaciously to preserve the natural law in public life, but because they
didn’t. The “pluralism” truce Cuomo proposed and many Catholic bishops obeyed
just guaranteed that secularists would win crucial battles in the war, with the
added insult of Catholics like his son serving as secularism’s victorious