The Dispatch: More from CWR...

New York, abortion, and a short route to chaos

In a single generation, we have moved from reluctant toleration to unbridled celebration, from struggling Mario to exultant Andrew.

A file photograph dated February 29, 2004 shows former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo (right) and his son Andrew responding to questions following a debate between Democratic Presidential Candidates at the CBS Studios in New York, New York, USA. (CNS photo/Peter Foley, EPA)

It was the celebration that was particularly galling.

On the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law a protocol that gives practically unrestricted access to abortion, permitting the killing of an unborn child up until the moment of delivery. In the wake of the ratification, the legislators and their supporters whooped, hollered, and cheered, a display depressingly similar to the jubilation that broke out in Ireland when a referendum legalizing abortion passed last year.

Of course, all of the rhetoric about women’s rights and reproductive health and empowerment was trotted out, but who can fail to see what was at stake? If an infant, lying peacefully in a bassinet in his parents’ home, were brutally killed and dismembered, the entire country would rightfully be outraged and call for an investigation of the murder. But now the law of New York confirms that that same child, moments before his birth, resting peacefully in his mother’s womb, can be, with utter impunity, pulled apart with forceps. And the police won’t be summoned; rather, it appears, the killing should be a matter of celebration.

An ideology, taken in the negative sense, is a conceptual framework that blinds one to reality. The purpose of any ideational system, obviously, is to shed light, to bring us closer to the truth of things, but an ideology does the reverse, effectively obfuscating reality, distancing us from truth. All of the buzz terms I mentioned above are ideological markers, smokescreens. Or if I can borrow the terminology of Jordan Peterson, they are the chattering of demons, the distracting hubbub of the father of lies.

I recall that during the presidential campaign of 2016, Hillary Clinton was asked several times whether the child in the womb, within minutes of birth, has constitutional rights, and this extremely intelligent, experienced, and canny politician said, over and over again, “That’s what our law dictates.” Therefore, by a sheer accident of location, the unborn baby can be butchered, and the same baby, moments later and in the arms of his mother, must be protected by full force of law. That many of our political leaders can’t or won’t see how utterly ludicrous this is can only be the result of ideological indoctrination.

As I watched film of Andrew Cuomo signing this repulsive bill into law, my mind drifted back to 1984 and an auditorium at the University of Notre Dame where Cuomo’s father, Mario—also Governor of New York at the time—delivered a famous address. In his lengthy and intellectually substantive speech, Gov. Cuomo presented himself, convincingly, as a faithful Catholic, thoroughly convinced in conscience that abortion is morally outrageous.

But he also made a fateful distinction that has been exploited by liberal Catholic politicians for the past thirty-five years. He explained that though he was personally opposed to abortion, he was not willing to pursue legal action to abolish it or even to limit it, since he was the representative of all the people, and not just of those who shared his Catholic convictions. Now this distinction is an illegitimate one, which is evident the moment we draw an analogy to other public matters of great moral import: “I’m personally opposed to slavery, but I’ll take no action to outlaw it or limit its spread”; “I personally find Jim Crow laws repugnant, but I will pursue no legal strategy to undo them”; etc. But at the very least, Mario Cuomo could declare himself deeply conflicted, anguished, willing to support abortion law only as a regrettable political necessity in a pluralistic democracy.

But in a single generation, we have moved from reluctant toleration to unbridled celebration, from struggling Mario to exultant Andrew. And there is a simple reason for this. A privatized religion, one that never incarnates itself in gesture, behavior, and moral commitment, rapidly evanesces. Once-powerful convictions, never concretely expressed, devolve, practically overnight, into pious velleities—and finally disappear altogether.

In Robert Bolt’s magnificent play regarding St. Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons, we find a telling exchange between Cardinal Wolsey, a hard-bitten, largely amoral politico, and the saintly More. Wolsey laments, “You’re a constant regret to me, Thomas. If you could just see facts flat on, without that horrible moral squint, with just a little common sense, you could have been a statesman.” To which More responds, “Well…I believe when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties…they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”

Abandoning the convictions of one’s conscience in the exercise of one’s public duties is precisely equivalent to “I’m personally opposed but unwilling to take concrete action to instantiate my opposition.”

And this abandonment—evident in Mario Cuomo’s 1984 address—has indeed led by a short road to chaos, evident in Andrew Cuomo’s joyful celebration of a law permitting the murder of children.

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About Bishop Robert Barron 203 Articles
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, "Catholicism" and "Catholicism:The New Evangelization." Learn more at


  1. The Church made a catastrophic error when the authorities in the Vatican did nothing to punish the dissenters from “Humanae Vitae”. It has been all downhill since. The people concluded that the Church no longer believed that its beliefs were worth defending, or that the Church no longer held the beliefs it once had, but was unwilling to admit that a change in its beliefs had taken place.

    Both Andrew Cuomo and Nancy Pelosi should get one of these ceremonies. I am not sure whether they can be done together:

  2. This will continue as long as bishops fail to excommunicate the Catholic politicians who support abortion on demand? So, what are you going to do about this?

  3. The former New York Governor Mario Cuomo could not see the difference between the universal natural law and ANY defense that might be offered by either one church or another–or by elementary reason alone…

    (“The Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this [moral] norm . . . [she] proposes it to all people of good will. . . .”; Pope St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor).

    Instead, to defend the truth about humanity, the governor myopically argued (in 1984), would be to impose his Church’s morality on all of society and would constitute a sectarian “Catholic theocracy.”

    The now-generation Governor Andrew Cuomo, a carefully weaned modern-day mouthpiece of a Secular Humanist Theocracy, issued his own trendy fatwa even before this latest barbarism, when he announced in 2014 that those who oppose abortion and gay “marriage” “are not welcome in New York.”

    Not welcome in New York! Off with their heads! In 1789 the witless spectators at the Place de la Concorde also celebrated and cheered.

    • “Not welcome in New York.” I guarantee the same authorities signing the latest abortion bill will look to literally rid New York of those not welcome. We are at the beginning of a far worse time. With the Church in shambles, with our culture a waste land, our only hope is the direct hand of God.

    • In other words those who affirm Genesis and thus affirm that it Is God, The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, not Caesar, King John, or John Locke, Who Has Endowed us with our unalienable Right to Life, to Liberty, and to The Pursuit of Happiness, from the moment every human person is created, which is not the same moment we were born, is not welcomed in New York.
      On whose authority does Mr.Cuomo speak? Certainly not on the authority of The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, Who necessarily would be The Author of our unalienable Rights.

  4. The “Seamless Garment” ideology inaugurated by the late Chicago Archbishop (and reported sex abuse coverup artist) Cardinal Joseph Bernardin is to blame for the current crisis. It puts absolute non-negotiable issues such as opposing abortion, euthanasia, and redifining marriage alongside issues Catholics can legitimately debate such as capital punishment, whether a particular war is just, health insurance, immigration, and gun control, and reduces them all to a checklist where a politician agrees with “eight out of ten” issues on this list can not only claim to be a Catholic in good standing, but a “superior” one to another Catholic who does not agree with all the issues on the checklist (never mind if the
    few” issues he/she does happen to agree with just happen to be the absolute non-negotiables such as opposing destruction of innocent life at all stages).

    The time has come to consign the seamless garment to the dustbin of history.

    • Hard to do when the current Pope and his hand-picked bishops seem to enthusiastically embrace it. He has a “bigger agenda,” as Cardinal Cupich reminded us.

  5. A thought to ponder is this: Judas was very close to Jesus and was steeped in sin and we can presume he received holy communion, yet Jesus did not excommunicate Judas. He bestowed immense privileges and graces upon Judas, yet he did not correspond to those graces. Still, Jesus did not excommunicate him. This is a stance that some Bishops take as far I can see….right or wrong?

    • Steeped in what kind of sin? The only one that’s mentioned, until his betrayal, was stealing from the purse, and for all we know he may have repented of that sin, even confessed it. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus hadn’t happened yet when he received Holy Communion.

      The article on Judas in the old Catholic Encyclopedia says, “But, apart from this consideration, it may be urged that in exaggerating the original malice of Judas, or denying that there was even any good in him, we minimize or miss the lesson of this fall. The examples of the saints are lost on us if we think of them as being of another order without our human weaknesses. And in the same way it is a grave mistake to think of Judas as a demon without any elements of goodness and grace. In his fall is left a warning that even the great grace of the Apostolate and the familiar friendship of Jesus may be of no avail to one who is unfaithful.”

    • St. Paul recommends excommunication.

      9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men;
      10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
      11 But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality? or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one.
      12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the Church whom you are to judge?
      13 God judges those outside. ” Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

    • Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Andrew Cuomo is automatically excommunicated as: Accomplices who were needed to commit an action that has an automatic excommunication penalty (can. 1329). Cuomo would love nothing more than for Dolan and the bishops to publicly excoriate him. That would make him a hero in the eyes of his supporters. We catholics are well aware of his religious malfeasance and should pray for his immortal soul.

  6. A columnist on Townhall wrote this:

    “Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, told “Fox & Friends” Monday morning that excommunication would merely be “ammunition” for pro-abortion opponents. Dolan believes they would dismiss the issue as a Catholic one, instead of an issue related to human rights in general. But he said he gets “wheelbarrows” full of letters a day asking about it.

    “He’s not going to be moved by this, so what’s the use?” Dolan remarked.”

    Now there’s a brilliant argument. Never mind canon law, just “he won’t be moved.” First of all, how do you know? Maybe he would. Secondly, it would demonstrate that this is a serious matter and others might be jarred into realizing it.

    “The New York archbishop did admit that excommunication for anyone who performed abortions or supported the practice was the norm until roughly 50 years ago, when he says the church began to focus more on mercy.” (

    I don’t think that allowing people to wallow in evil and still pretend to be “good Catholics,” supporting killing babies and setting a terrible example which might influence others to evil as well, is merciful.

    What kind of sniveling moral coward *is* Cardinal Dolan???

  7. Gov Andrew Cuomo justifiably deserves excommunication from the Church. Our unfortunate issue our current Canon Laws as Dr Edward Peters shows does not provide such sanction based on the given circumstances [although that’s contested]. Many believe the Canons weakened under John Paul II must be revised. Given teeth. Similarly bishops must be held to the highest standards for defense of the faith. Fox News’ interview of Cardinal Dolan is indication of that. As said by author Mainwaring on LifeSite he comes across as “cagey’, sidestepping direct response regarding penalty and serious sin. The Church is no longer Catholic if a Bishop mandated to address serious sin truthfully instead responds when asked, “How would you respond Cardinal Dolan to a woman seeking an abortion?” His response, “The Church may disagree with your decision but…”. That response by Cardinal Dolan implies her choice for killing her infant is open to conditions and is manifest dereliction. When such an evil is manifest the Church must react. He deserves some form of rebuke, at least from his peers [not in reference to Bishop Barron rather by Ordinaries]. However under this Pontificate his obtuse response will probably be considered praiseworthy. Cardinal Dolan when asked about being a Democrat, a Party that strongly promotes, seeks to enforce Abortion, provision of abortifacients, contraceptives, transgender choice by minors, Homosexuality in all its deviate forms, radical socialism and deems anyone whether for religious reasons or not opposed intolerant and subject to lawful punishment responded “My Grandfather said there are two places we must not question, the Confessional and the voting booth. I will not answer that question!”. Although I viewed a portion of the interview what I observed was “cagey”. Not fully committed. Perhaps I’m being unfair to the Cardinal. Nonetheless that was my impression and likely reason why Laity like Gov Cuomo abandon faithful practice. Bishop Barron Chaos doesn’t erupt spontaneously. Most of us contribute either by compliance or moral frailty. Yes we need more Laity like Thomas More. And more Hierarchy like Cardinal John Fisher.

    • In my view you are not being unfair to the Cardinal. You are being most charitable. My charity is being challenged when I consider the Cardinal’s adroit evasiveness in responding to the truth.

  8. What this ultimately shows is that the true abortion mentality is and has always been abortion-on-demand-at-all-times. For years now pro-lifers have had to face arguments about worst case scenarios such as the life of the mother, rape and incest etc. But all along the abortionist has desired it in the best case scenario – whenever convenient even in the best of times. As to “chaos”, the progressive method is controlled chaos, managed evil; and I believe there is much more management in store over the long term.

  9. Sure, excommunicate him, then watch him be re-elected in a landslide. We cannot stop abortion with Church formalities. The voters elect pro-death candidates and policies. Education of voters is harder than excommunication because we have to join in the work.

    • The issue with education on the crime of abortion is the almost complete lack of exhortation on the subject from the pulpits. Priests in general will not touch the issue with a ten foot pull. Just think about this for a second or two that 64,000,000 million plus babies have been aborted since Roe. How many know this? The priest sure don’t say anything. Everyone thinks that being a good Catholic parish is about having food banks, giving poor kids gifts for Christmas, and my all time favorite “Dollars for Deacon” collection for buying cloths for the poor. Of course there is nothing wrong with these, but the complete blindness to abortion is a serious scandal by the Church. Frankly the only way to bring the issue in the open is excommunication of the so called Catholic politicians who support abortion. Of course there will be a severe denunciation of the Church, but that is no excuse to stand around do nothing while babies are butchered. Of course nothing will happen because that what the Catholic Church in America is good for on abortion – doing nothing on this issue.

      • Add to all that you say: PF believes that children need more sex ed. Not more love, not more brothers and sisters, not a mom and a dad in committed sacramental marriage. No. Our children today need sex ed.

  10. Abortion is the eighth sacrament of the American Catholic Church.

    If all those voters who identified as Catholics voted the Church’s teaching on abortion, then no candidate could ever even consider supporting it.

    Abortion would rapidly become the “third rail” of American politics.

    It is because of Catholics that infanticide has come to America — those in the pews as well as those in the pulpits. It’s an undeniable fact: Catholics who vote Democratic are responsible for the murders of more innocent people than were the Nazis in World War II.

    God deserves so much better.

    • Not just Catholics…Protestant evangelicals were silenced as well or lacked the conviction to speak the Truth. All man-made laws are the imposition of the majority’s “morality.” “I’m against murder, but who am I to impose my values?” Also, we can blame American ourselves for our rotten education system – you don’t need to be a Catholic or a Southern Baptist to see the absolute fallacy of such logic…

  11. The state will do as the state is — it is time for Roman Catholics to mistaken believe that the state is just another form of political organization, and that the problems inherent to this form of political organization can be solved by simply voting for the candidate that meets some checklist.

  12. Sen. Ben Sasse is bringing a vote to the Senate on Feb. 4th, requesting all senators to state their support or non support of third term abortion and infanticide. I think a similar vote should be brought before the USCCB. I predict there would be a lot of bishops not answering…

    • The erroneous notion that private morality and public morality can serve in opposition to one another and are not complementary, has led to grievous error in both Faith and reason. It is not Loving or Merciful to desire Salvation for me and not for thee.

  13. I deleted entire article & comments crucifying
    our Holy&MostBeloved Holy Father Pope Francis. I can testify to people who returned /or converted to Holy Mother The Church,Strictly because of HIS Holiness’ .His compassion & Love For The sick,poor,homeless,refugees,immigrants I put I put in my Facebook Complaints Reason was Harrassment .

  14. I recall Andrew Cuomo Father Mario Cuomo struggled when he was asked about the abortion question. Deep down he knew deep in his heart abortion was wrong but he did not give a strong answer. Mario Cuomo seemed like a very good man. He may very well been steps away from the United States Presidency. Strike down ROE versus Wade immediately for a America too be great once again! PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

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