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 Law School, 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 themselves:
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 generals.
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