The Dispatch: More from CWR...

On excommunicating Andrew Cuomo for heresy

The kind of truth that Cuomo must be proven to have doubted-denied is, quite specifically, a truth that is proposed as being divinely revealed and which must be believed by divine and Catholic faith.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seen during a Midnight Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral Dec. 25, 2014, in the Manhattan borough of New York City. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

Apologies for a long post. I don’t have time to write a short one.

Canonist Edward Condon has an essay at First Things wherein he calls for the excommunication of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, not on the ground of abortion (c. 1398) or cooperation therein (c. 1329)—theories I think Condon rightly regards as insufficient under canon law, however popular they might be among long-frustrated faithful—but rather, in light of Cuomo’s “consistent and vocal support for [New York’s latest abortion] legislation, his unique role in enacting it, and his flouting of the clear and public admonitions of two bishops”, on the ground of heresy (c. 1364). This sanction is feasible, says Condon, by a “straightforward application” of canon law.

Now as soon as anyone claims that under the 1983 Code the application of a sanction, let alone of excommunication, indeed a latae sententiae excommunication, is available by a “straightforward application” of the law, canonical warning bells should go off. Sharing, nevertheless, Condon’s conclusion that Cuomo is an egregiously offending Catholic public figure and his confidence that canon law should equip Catholic bishops to defend, among other things, good order in the Church by, among other ways, punishing egregiously offending Catholics, I think Condon’s theory of a heresy prosecution deserves a closer look, closer than I can manage in a blog post, of course, but close enough to suggest where some issues might be.

Canon 1364 threatens an automatic excommunication for those committing, among other things, heresy. Granting the gravity of heresy and the appropriateness of excommunication for it, all ecclesiastical penal law is nevertheless subject to strict (i.e., narrow) interpretation (c. 18) and Church penalties may be applied only in accord with canon law (c. 221). These requirements generally go to the validity of a sanction, meaning that attempts to impose or declare penalties in disregard of these conditions are of no force; worse, failed prosecutions embarrass the Church’s efforts to enforce her own discipline.

Heresy is defined in Canon 751 as “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith”. Regarding the first of these three elements of this crime (post-baptismal, doubt-denial, of certain truths), Cuomo is of course baptized. Now, casting Condon as the promoter of justice prosecuting this case, he needs to prove (a) canonical doubt-denial (the distinction between those two acts is not crucial in this case) which is (b) directed against a certain kind of truth. Let’s look at the second point first.

Preliminary scholion: I can only allude here to at least three, very important points that any canonical prosecution for heresy must respect. First, ‘objects of belief’ and ‘objects to be definitely held’ differ in kind and in consequence. Denying the first goes to heresy (cc. 750 § 1751, and 1364) but denying the second goes only to anthistemia (my term for stands that are opposed to the secondary doctrines treated in cc. 750 § 2, and 1371 n. 1). Next, because the charism of infallibility protects both ‘objects of belief’ and ‘objects to be definitely held’, merely showing that the Church teaches something infallibly does not suffice to show that said something is an ‘object of belief’ (a point necessary for a heresy charge). Finally, assertions about the moral quality of certain acts, while capable of being made infallibly, do not necessarily involve assertions about belief, meaning that demonstrating whether a claim about the morality of an act is also a claim about belief (as required for a heresy prosecution) must be done.

An object of belief

The kind of truth that Cuomo must be proven to have doubted-denied is not just any sort of true statement, nor an important truth of natural law, nor even, strictly speaking, just any truth infallibly proclaimed by the Church, but, quite specifically, a truth that is proposed as being divinely revealed (see c. 750 § 1) and which must be believed by divine and Catholic faith. That definition of an ‘objectum credendum‘ (an assertion that must be believed) is, and is meant to be, very specific, lest the awesome power that Christ left to the Church to inform right faith be used to steer the believers toward some matters not part of divine revelation. Objecta credenda almost always turn on assertions of the intellect (not exercises of the will), but Condon’s describing these assertions as belonging mostly to “the rarified world of academic theology” does not do justice either to their importance in pastoral life nor to the considerable number of objecta credenda out there. (See, e.g., many passages in Ott’s Fundamentals or in Denzinger’s Enchiridion.)

Condon knows he must, and thinks he can, show that “the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being” is divinely revealed as an object of belief. Now notice! It is not sufficient that he show that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is gravely wrong (no right-minded person thinks otherwise), nor does it suffice for him to show that the Church teaches that the direct and voluntary of an innocent human being is gravely wrong (no literate Catholic thinks otherwise), nor even that the Church teaches as she does here infallibly (which I think she does); but rather, and quite specifically, Condon must show that the Church proclaims, with certitude, that it is a divinely revealed object of beliefthat the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is gravely wrong. That represents a significant burden for anyone wanting to prosecute a heresy case.

Toward this burden Condon points to the 1998 CDF “Doctrinal Commentary” on the Profession of Faith as evidence that the Church holds the immorality of the killing of the innocent to be divinely revealed (with Cdl. Ratzinger using the term “primary object” of infallibility in this regard, which is another way of describing what we are looking at here). Condon says that with this statement, CDF “has made it clear” that the grave immorality of abortion, the deliberate killing of an innocent human being, is divinely revealed as an object of belief. I agree CDF does this. Until it seems not to.

Just a bit later in that same CDF document, Ratzinger, treating of euthanasia, seems to place the Church’s sure condemnation of that example of the deliberate killing of an innocent human being in the category of a “secondary object” of infallibility and not a “primary object”. Now, opposition to a “secondary object” assertion surely brands one as being in serious conflict with Church teaching (see cc. 750 § 2 and 1371 n. 1), but it is not, theologically or canonically, heresy—and it is heresy that Condon must prove in a heresy case. The mixed signals here, especially in light of other complications associated with assessing (even infallible) assertions on morals as also being objects of belief, raise serious questions as to whether heresy is even at issue in Cuomo-like facts.

Of course, CDF’s 1998 enumeration of examples of primary and secondary objects of infallibility, while counting for much among faithful theologians and canonists, is not itself infallible, meaning that some assertions and examples therein are subject to revision (if only by way of clarification) over time. And, mind, we are still just talking theology at this point; applying these tests in a criminal prosecution(recall Canon 18!) is more demanding still.

Doubt or denial

Assuming that one could prove (with the ‘moral certitude’ required in a penal prosecution per cc. 18, 223, 1608, etc.) that the grave immorality of intentionally killing the innocent is a divinely-revealed object of belief, Condon must also prove that Cuomo has, in the eyes of the law, doubted-denied that truth.

It does not suffice to show that Cuomo disregards this assertion or that his words or actions are inconsistent with it (though of course they surely are). Rather Condon must show that Cuomo’s words and/or actions canonically suffice to prove his doubt or denial of an object of belief.

Now consider, people say and do all sorts of despicable things without necessarily doubting or denying the principles against which they act. Has a murderer ever said “I knew it was wrong to kill my wife but she made me so angry I just had to shoot her”? If so, we see how people can violate laws they admit to be right. Or again, a Catholic who deliberately kills a bank teller during a robbery could be canonically prosecuted under Canon 1397 for murder, but would anyone think that heresy charges were in order? And if a Catholic politico says “I accept the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life, but in hard cases abortion is the only answer”, then we see how pro-abortion actions do not necessarily involve a doubt-denial about the underlying truth so much as they show a reprehensible disregard for it.

Condon alleges Cuomo’s “consistent and vocal support for [New York’s latest abortion] legislation, his unique role in enacting it, and his flouting of the clear and public admonitions of two bishops” as evidence of Cuomo’s heresy (i.e., his doubt-denial of some truth that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith). But is it not patent that none of these activities suffices on its face to show heresy? Such deeds are, beyond dispute, evil, scandalous, and canonically criminal (at least in regard to Canon 1369). They far exceed what is required to bar Cuomo from holy Communion per Canon 915. But do they prove heresy?

Which brings us to Condon’s view that sometimes actions can be used to prove heresy. I generally agree, but would note that actions, to be taken as assertions of heresy, almost always require a context for their proper interpretation. Consider a Catholic man who takes Hosts from the tabernacle and throws them on the floor. Is such an act heresy (undertaken to show that he does not believe in the Real Presence) or is it aggravated sacrilege (because he does believe in the Real Presence but is angry at Jesus)? Without a context tying bad actions to a heretical assertion, it is very difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to prove heresy by deeds. Aside: Condon’s invocation of the 1949 Holy Office reply that Catholics joining the Communist party were liable to excommunication under then 1917 CIC 2314 works to some degree as an example of assertions being ascertainable through deeds, but, if only because the canonical crime in question there was not heresy but apostasy, and because joining the Communist party required certain recitals that would have obviously counted as heresy, I would be cautious about applying this dated reply on apostasy too easily to modern heresy cases.

These things being said, I suppose one with access to all of Cuomo’s speeches on this matter might be able to find him expressing some doubt or denial regarding what Condon must have already proven is a divinely-revealed object of belief in this area, but that project hardly lends itself to being described as a “straightforward application” of the law. In short, prosecution for heresy vis-a-vis moral (instead of doctrinal) assertions is not a simple matter, all less so to the extent it depends on actions for proof and not just words.

Beyond even all this, one must also prove that Cuomo’s doubt-denial was made obstinately. While I agree with Condon that some evidence along those lines is at hand, given the serious doctrinal questions about whether the assertion of the illiceity of deliberately killing the innocent even is an ‘object of belief’ to begin with, making a penal case for obstinacy in effectively denying that categorization to the point of committing heresy is, well, problematic.

Here I must pause lest I give the impression that heresy trials are basically impossible. That is not true and I do not hold that position. Heresy trials are quite feasible for cases of intelligible assertions of doubt or denial regarding objects of belief. But, making heresy trials turn on matters of immoral conduct (rather than on doctrinal assertions), and having to rely on evidence based significantly on actions rather than words, render heresy cases much more difficult.

Criminal defense

Most of the above discussion focuses on a promoter of justice making a prima facie case regarding the three main elements of a heresy charge. One may expect all the weaknesses of such pleadings to be argued by a good defense advocate. But beyond a lawyer’s poking proverbial holes in the prosecution’s case itself, various ‘affirmative defenses’ against a heresy charge are also available to Cuomo, many located in Canon 1324 which I frankly thinks reads too leniently. Here I underscore only one implication of Canon 1324 for Cuomo, namely, that if even one of the circumstances described in the first section of Canon 1324 can be found present in Cuomo’s case, he is, per the third section of Canon 1324, expressly not bound by the latae sententiae penalty set forth in Canon 1364—yet another reason whyautomatic penalties are a needlessly complicating anachronism that should be dropped from modern canon law. By the way, nearly all of these procedural complications go away if Cuomo is prosecuted under Canon 1369, a less exciting case than heresy, I grant, but, under the law as it stands now, one more likely to result in a sanction, I think. Aside: Condon’s discussion of the former difference between excommuncati vitandi and excommuncati tolerati adds nothing to his discussion of today’s canon law; that distinction, dead-letter almost from the time the 1917 Code was promulgated, was dropped from the 1983 Code. Why get into it?

The wider picture

Heresy is a grievous offense and canonical prosecutions for heresy have been too few, in my view, over the last fifty years. But, while in some unusual cases heresy can overlap with other forms of criminal behavior (such as apostasy), heresy has not been used as the vehicle to punish offensive behavior in the Church, no matter how egregious such behavior is, unless that behavior involved a notably clear denial of some assertion that the Church sets forth for belief. I have seen in recent years, for example, demands that clerical pedophiles be excommunicated for heresy. Those demands are non-starters; pedophilia is not heresy any more than arson is heresy or embezzlement is heresy. The rule of law, so battered in the Church during my lifetime, will not be served by trying to frame as heresy all sorts of evil conduct that ecclesiastical negligence has allowed to take root in the ranks of Catholic public figures. Use heresy trials to go after heresy. There is work enough to be done on that front.

For that matter, while the Cuomo case seems rather simple in this regard (the content of his legislation was very specific), most political acts by legislators and governors are not made in the context of a single topic allowing a sole issue to be debated. What do we do, then, with legislators who vote to fund abortion as part of a complex appropriations bill that mixes dozens of projects, or with governors signing multi-faceted legislation, only some of which is immoral? Pointing out such real world complications is not to discourage the use of Church teaching to illuminate public life or even applying canon law to assess at least some acts by Catholic politicos, but rather, it goes to show that casting moral matters as heresy issues is fraught with problems that should not be lightly introduced into an already complex world.

Moreover—and strictly speaking this not something Condon-qua-prosecutor need concern himself with, though it would certainly be of concern to bishops authorizing such cases and judges hearing them—framing seriously evil political activity re abortion as heresy will inevitably force the question as to what other seriously evil political activity must needs be heresy—promotion of euthanasia? contraception? “same-sex marriage”? funded sterilizations? orchestrated regime changes?, exploitative monetary policy?, discriminatory policies in a host of areas? The list is almost endless if one admits the principle that promotion of abortion is not just evil, not just scandalous, not just criminally damaging to good morals (c. 1369), but is heresy.

Final thoughts

1. Andrew Cuomo apparently refrains from holy Communion. If he were to approach, he should be denied the sacrament, per Canon 915, based on, among other things, his living arrangements (discussed at length in 2011) and his rabid support for this ghoulish abortion law. The bishops of New York may wish to reiterate that ban publicly, but on the facts now obtaining, they are not required to do so.

2. A prosecution of Cuomo based on heresy would face numerous canonical obstacles (though perhaps fewer than were the obstacles presented in a similar case I treated back in 2004 regarding John Kerry). If such a prosecution were tried and failed (or even if it succeeded but under conditions that made it appear to have been ‘rigged’) the damage to the Church’s efforts to enforce her own discipline would be considerable. That said, though, most of the reasons I have heard for not trying to excommunicate Cuomo (he would not heed the ruling, it would make him a martyr, he would use it as PR against the Church) are speculative and irrelevant. In my view, the only reason not to excommunicate Cuomo is that no canon law seems to authorize an excommunication against him on the facts as they stand today.

3. Cuomo could be prosecuted, right now, for violating Canon 1369 (using public shows or speeches to seriously damage good morals) and a “just penalty” (probably not excommunication at first, but that’s just my view) could be imposed. If Cuomo spurned that sanction, it could be augmented, up to and including excommunication.

4. Under canon law as it stands, the best approach for bishops facing these foul acts by Catholic politicos seems to be, besides invoking Canon 915, the preemptive issuance of a particular penal precept enforced by canonical sanctions including, at least by way of augmentation, excommunication. To my knowledge none has been tried in these cases, but nothing else seems to be working.

5. As for possible local legislation being drafted by bishops to address such cases, I am all ears, but as a rule, law is not written to address only one person, while framing law so as to address multiple persons is not as easy as many seem to believe. Still, I am open to suggestions. In the meantime, penal precepts against Cuomo-like acts are the canonically better way to go, I think.

(This essay first appeared on the “In the Light of the Law” site and is reprinted here by kind permission of Dr. Peters.)


If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


About Edward N. Peters 119 Articles
Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD has doctoral degrees in canon and common law. Since 2005 he has held the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. His personal blog on canon law issues in the news may be accessed at the "In the Light of the Law" site.

38 Comments

  1. St. Ambrose (another one of those radical converts!) stopped Theodosius in his tracks at the Milan Cathedral steps, demanding sincere penance from this emperor before he could re-enter. The precedent of King David was cited. And this discipline was in response to the ordered revenge-massacre of a mere 7,000 men, women and children in the hippodrome in Thessalonica. What then of 60 million and counting?

    That historic moment in Milan supplied the first totally clear definition in Western history of the distinction between the Catholic Church and the fading Roman Empire. The first clear declaration of independence of the perennial Church from the State. And, of the sovereignty of the spiritual order over the secular. This, in defense of the reality of the Incarnation and, therefore, of the inviolable dignity of each and every human person without exception.

    Of course, Ambrose acted in the late fourth century, long before manly common sense was immobilized in the amber of necessarily precise, hair-splitting, numbered paragraphs in canon law. But, apparently Cuomo doesn’t visit the communion rail (if there still is a rail)…

    But, what’s to stop someone in a red hat, ANYONE (!), from seizing this opportunity to issue a resounding condemnation, a resounding catechesis and countercultural manifesto (mercifully in not too-many words as we have seen of late), in this still-teachable moment? Carpe deim!

    This uplifting, for a supposedly scientific culture that still whines about the inept (and, from the record, manipulated) treatment of Galileo and his modern telescopic evidence of the expanding universe above–but then shields mothers from the equally-modern ultrasound evidence of the new and expanding universe within.

    • Galileo’s main point – the one point that actually was correct – would not be verified for 175 years.

      This is nuts regarding the Church. Then Canon Law needs to change. On the brink of infanticide and all that is permitted or required is a ‘stern rebuke.’

      • I concur.

        Galileo was subject to two trials. After 13 years, at the second trial, he was found guilty of violating an order to no longer publish his ideas. It appears that this order was slipped into his file after and apart from the first trial. He was unaware and uninformed, and set up. The disciplinary commission, which happened to include the pope, messed up. Disciplinary, not doctrinal.

  2. Very clear analysis of canon law in context of faith, what must believed Objecta credenda and Reason. If “exercises of the will”, such as an act of anger are not differentiated from what is revealed as an Object of Belief the Church can mistakenly obscure what must be believed from “assertions of the intellect”. An assertion of the intellect is refusal to believe. Personally it seems Dr Peters’ suggestion of sanction suffices. With the proviso that if persistent in publicly damaging moral sensibility he Gov Cuomo can be excommunicated. My question in this is the 6th Commandment Thou Shall not Kill. The word Kill as used suggests murder not killing as such. And as a commandment it is divinely revealed, although murder is within the purview of Natural Law. Nonetheless as a First Principle of Natural Law it reflects Eternal Law. “Condon must show that the Church proclaims, with certitude, that it is a divinely revealed object of belief that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is gravely wrong” (Peters). At this stage I perceive merit in both arguments Condon’s and Peters’ although it seems Condon has plausible argument that abortion falls under the canonical category of Objecta Credenda.

    • Addendum: Further consideration regards Objecta Credenda. Condon’s argument is that the Objecta have a wider scope than some presume. For example the first commandment “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me” is irrefutably both revealed and must be believed. The sixth commandment I propose is similar in kind. “The Hebrew verb רצח‬ [r-ṣ-ḥ, also transliterated retzach, ratzákh, ratsakh] is the word in the original text that is translated as ‘murder’ or ‘kill'” (Wiki). Murder, unlawful killing is the traditional interpretation. Dr Peters argues that Ratzinger when Prefect CDF distinguished primary and secondary meaning regards killing the innocent thereby deflating the premise of Objecta Credenda. Although there is good reason to make that distinction as when German Catholic Hierarchy 1941 proclaimed “Never under any circumstances except in war and justified self defense is it permissible to kill an innocent human being” (Friedlander The Origins of Nazi Genocide 1999). Furthermore, it is questionable whether the CDF may not validly cite a wider understanding of Objecta Credenda even if as Peters argues the citation itself is not infallible. Finally one need simply view Graphic Nancy Flanders LifeSite Jan 28 to fully appreciate that abortion is Murder. Emotive as it may be we humans on occasion require the emotive to wake the intellect.

      • Also can.1436 &1 of the code of canons of the Eastern Churches, included in the Ad Tuendam Fides of St. Pope John Paul II(1998),says :”whoever denies a truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or who calls into doubt, or who totally repudiates the Christian faith,and does not retract after having been legitimately warned, is to be punished as a heretic or an apostate with a major excommunication; a cleric moreover can be punished with other penalties, not excluding deposition.

      • Do you hear what I hear? A child, a child, shivers in the cold, I will bring HIM silver and gold. Or wait, I will sell his parts for silver and gold! 60 million of them….. We are living in far more Mercy than we know. God have Mercy on us and the poor weakened bishops. IF a shepherd wont correct a foul sheep, who is he asking to do it???

  3. While I am no expert, I believe Cardinal Burke said that one could be excommunicated beyond what is written in Cannon Law. He is a pretty good Cannon Lawyer, I am told. One other point related to Cuomo. I am dumfounded Cardinal Dolan said on the Fox interview, he doesn’t want to give him any more ammo! What!?? Too late on that point. Thousands of covered up sex abuse cases did that already! Dear Cardinal, it is way beyond time to worry about giving ammo to them. It is time to fight back with whatever peaceful means we have available to us. They are not our friends, they never will agree with us. We have just crossed a new departure point in this battle for Christianity and for Life! The old strategies have not worked, look at the Ted Kennedy. Did he convert from his abortion beliefs before he died? Did Cuomo’s dad change? Please name one conversion brought about by this current strategy of the bishops like Dolan, Wuerl, McCarrick, etc…. It does not work!

  4. If something as vilely evil as Cuomo’s actions isn’t sufficient to incur excommunication under Canon Law, then Canon Law needs to be fixed.

    Meanwhile, I can pray that God will treat him as He treated Saul, so that he can be converted. Or would it take the fate of Ananias and Saphira?

  5. Taking all in consideration, I just say that,as we live not by bread alone, neither we live by canon law alone. We actually live by the Word of God. The law of God is absolute, we must not kill. The Church must act swiftly to use the means She has, to bring to sentence those who publicly deny the teachings of God and incite others to sin gravely.

  6. A Church that places in its Catechism a call for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty for dangerous murderers, but not a call for the abolition of the imposition of the death penalty upon innocent humanity that has, in the last 46 years, taken the lives of as many babies as the entire human population of planet Earth at the beginning of the 20th century, isn’t going to impose any canonical penalties upon a “Catholic” politician who makes of himself the very personification of this evil, the greatest holocaust of innocent human life in the history of the world.

    God help us.

  7. Use condoms, birth control pills, HAVE INTERCOURSE!

    God gave us sexuality USE IT OR LOSE IT!

    A MAN AND WOMAN SHOULDN’T BE SUBJECTED TO CHASTITY WHEN MARRIED…SEX IS A STRONG REASON, THAT IS INTIMACY IN THE CLOSEST MANNER…

    • Why yes, we should all take our moral advice from some nitwit who comes on a Catholic webiste and screams IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS that we should ignore the teahcing of God through His Church.

      I pity poor Mrs. Arlotta, if she should ever have a long-term serious illness.

  8. CANON LAW MEANS NOTHING…IT’S THE VATICAN’S LAW…LAW OF MEN WEARING TOO MUCH CLOTH…GOD’S LAW…HE GAVE TO MOSES…NOT THE VATICAN!

    • I’m willing to bet you’re ignoring most of the laws God gave to Moses, too.

      Shorten your argument to “NON SERVIAM!” It’s what you mean.

  9. Cuomo is no more Catholic than his fellow fake Catholic politicians Nicolas Maduro and Robert Mugabe. Corrupt ideologues who no only sacrificed their religious beliefs and values, but actual innocent lives, on the altars of their political ideologies and power lust.

  10. “Condon must show that the Church proclaims, with certitude, that it is a divinely revealed object of belief that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is gravely wrong.” When God, in both the Old Testament and New condemns this act repeatedly and in the strongest terms, not to mention among many other such articulations, Pope St. John Paul’s condemnation of abortion in Evangelium Vitae, just what does Dr. Peters require for such a “proclamation with certitude”?

    Peters goes on to state, “Condon’s view that sometimes actions can be used to prove heresy. I generally agree, but would note that actions, to be taken as assertions of heresy, almost always require a context for their proper interpretation,” ignoring his own observation in his previous paragraph, “…Cuomo’s ‘consistent and vocal support for [New York’s latest abortion] legislation, his unique role in enacting it, and his flouting of the clear and public admonitions of two bishops…'” Again, what does Peters need for his context?

    He also states, “If such a prosecution were tried and failed (or even if it succeeded but under conditions that made it appear to have been ‘rigged’) the damage to the Church’s efforts to enforce her own discipline would be considerable.” As a retired law enforcement officer I have a deep appreciation for the lack of personal integrity in a prosecutor who declines to charge an accessory to mass homicide because he/she lacks mathematical certitude of winning the case–or, if the defendant was convicted, the defense and/or some sectors of the public might accuse the prosecution of having “rigged” it.

    I’m no canonist–which perhaps completely disqualifies any comments I might make in Peters’ eyes–but if a facilitator Sine Qua Non of mass homicide like Cuomo can’t be excommunicated for what he has done it seems incoherent that anyone could be excommunicated for any offense whatsoever. I just don’t think our current Code of Canon Law is that broken.

    At the risk of sounding Ad Hominem, and please understand that such is not my intent, I have to wonder if Peters isn’t stubbornly hanging onto a position (shakily) tenable only in a sterile, academic vacuum for which he has been called out, but which at the end of the day cannot be reasonably held when looking at the overall picture.

  11. (In filling out the fields and clicking “Post Comment” I did not see my comment posted. Is it not being published? I’ll try again:)

    “Condon must show that the Church proclaims, with certitude, that it is a divinely revealed object of belief that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is gravely wrong.” When God, in both the Old Testament and New condemns this act repeatedly and in the strongest terms, not to mention among many other such articulations, Pope St. John Paul’s condemnation of abortion in Evangelium Vitae, just what does Dr. Peters require for such a “proclamation with certitude”?

    Peters goes on to state, “Condon’s view that sometimes actions can be used to prove heresy. I generally agree, but would note that actions, to be taken as assertions of heresy, almost always require a context for their proper interpretation,” ignoring his own observation in his previous paragraph, “…Cuomo’s ‘consistent and vocal support for [New York’s latest abortion] legislation, his unique role in enacting it, and his flouting of the clear and public admonitions of two bishops…'” Again, what does Peters need for his context?

    He also states, “If such a prosecution were tried and failed (or even if it succeeded but under conditions that made it appear to have been ‘rigged’) the damage to the Church’s efforts to enforce her own discipline would be considerable.” As a retired law enforcement officer I have a deep appreciation for the lack of personal integrity in a prosecutor who declines to charge an accessory to mass homicide because he/she lacks mathematical certitude of winning the case–or, if the defendant was convicted, the defense and/or some sectors of the public might accuse the prosecution of having “rigged” it.

    I’m no canonist–which perhaps completely disqualifies any comments I might make in Peters’ eyes–but if a facilitator Sine Qua Non of mass homicide like Cuomo can’t be excommunicated for what he has done it seems incoherent that anyone could be excommunicated for any offense whatsoever. I just don’t think our current Code of Canon Law is that broken.

    At the risk of sounding Ad Hominem, and please understand that such is not my intent, I have to wonder if Peters isn’t stubbornly hanging onto a position (shakily) tenable only in a sterile, academic vacuum for which he has been called out, but which at the end of the day cannot be reasonably held when looking at the overall picture.

  12. Yea I ve been posting your article on many sites. The good Dr. writes so all are never left wondering. Also he often has a delightful humerous approach. Must be living with his children and grands. Grammy of 18
    Have a Mass offered for a anti lifers

  13. Without arguing whether women should be priests or married men should be priests, 14 hours doesn’t go down without the church excommunicating them. Likewise, a divorced Catholics who remarries is automatically ex-communicated. A Roman Catholic who marries outside the Catholic Church is ex-communicated as the marriage is not recognized. A married Catholic couple who practices birth control is considered ex-communicated. So how is infanticide allowed? Cardinal Dolan needs to resign as a leader of the Church. He is the lukewarm leader Jesus would spit out of his mouth. He loves the perks of his leadership position more than the infant. He is not defending life. He is not defending souls. He is not defending Christ ‘the least of our brothers and sisters.’

    • “A Roman Catholic who marries outside the Catholic Church is ex-communicated as the marriage is not recognized.”

      This penalty was removed decades ago. Probably in the Code of 1983, but possibly in the late 1960s. Reception of the Eucharist is another matter.

  14. Until Governor Cuomo realizes that what he is promoting is evil and wrong, I’m afraid even the threat of excommunication won’t affect him in any way. In reality, he has already excommunicated himself from God and all that is holy and good. Perhaps he’ll realize that at the final judgement…although prior to that will save his soul. Continued prayers for an end to this evil among us.

  15. In the face of mass infanticide in New York, Mr. Peters is once again straining at gnats and swallowing camels with a blinkered and pedantic analysis of canon law, and I say that as a doctor of canon law and civil law myself. Suffice it for present purposes to paraphrase Dickens in “Oliver Twist”: “If canon law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of canon law, canon law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish canon law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

  16. Oh, give us a break! When a person divorces a spouse and marries another, he commits adultery and cannot receive Communion – plain and simple – and, if he denies the permanence of marriage, he would no longer be a Catholic and would have the good sense/conscience to leave the Church. When a person believes the willful killing another innocent person is not evil, he commits heresy and he no longer holds to the Catholic Faith. Just as effectively as the divorcee/permanence denier, he has taken himself out of the Church. (Henry VIII). Cardinal Dolan should just simply announce that Governor Cuomo has taken himself out of the Church and is no longer entitled to the rights and privileges of Church membership, and furthermore, the public nature of his scandalous beliefs and behavior can only be reversed by public apology and repentance.

  17. “Let he/she who is without sin cast…”. The evidence against Gov. Cuomo seems overwhelming. But the Cannon lawyers must convict at all cost. My real concern is will Cuomo get due process in “court”. I would assume that he would be placed before a Grand Jury to plead his case. If he is deemed guilty would he be granted a hearing? Would the church involve the criminal justice system?

    If Cuomo’s position is abortion on demand then he should be banished. His living arrangements might be examined later, if necessary.

  18. “The bishops of New York may wish to reiterate that ban publicly, but on the facts now obtaining, they are not required to do so.”
    Simply and to the point they are required by common sense and by a concern for the integrity of the faith and the instruction of the faithful TO REITERATE THAT BAN PUBLICLY forcefully and without ambiguity.
    They do not wish to do so because in doing so too many toes would be stepped on and it would inflame atheistic secular materialists who constitute the Demoncrat party who are salivating over the lack of ecclesiastical fortitude in the face of the homosexual crisis and abuse crisis.
    The bishops need call Cuomo and his ilk, as well as the all clergy and laity, to absolute conformity to the Gospel norms of chastity and respect for the human person. They don’t do it out of a lack of faith and fortitude.

  19. Wonder when we die if God will be using the books of Canon Law to judge us? What’s his face, Cuomo, knowingly and whole heartingly supports abortion, which has destroyed more than 63,000,000 million babies before they were born. Like most of the liberal or more accurately leftist so called Catholic politicians, he could care less what the Church thinks about abortion. This discussion of what section of code of Canon Law he violates borders on the ridiculous. It only provides a veil for bishops to support doing nothing.

  20. I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND TO THOSE WHO MAY HAVE MISSED IT ON TV, WATCHING “VIRGINIA GOVERNOR RALPH NORTHAM SHOCKS THE WORLD LATE TERM ABORTION INFANTICIDE” ON YOUTUBE AND FOLLOWING THE VIDEO THROUGH THE Q&A OF A DOCTOR INVOLVED IN FETAL RESEARCH.
    NORTHAM AND OTHER STATES’ OFFICIALS ARE JOINING THE BANDWAGON SET ROLLING BY CUOMO…LIKE A SNOWBALL OF DEATH LANDSLIDING DOWN EVEREST.
    A FEW DAYS AGO, CARDINAL DOLAN SAID OF HIMSELF, “I DON’T HAVE MUCH CLOUT” WHEN SPEAKING ABOUT THE CALL FOR CUOMO’S EXCOMMUNICATION AND ANGRILY BLAMED THE VOTERS WHO ELECTED CUOMO. HOWEVER, THIS SAME CARDINAL ALSO SAYS HE AND CUOMO ARE “POLITICAL ALLIES” IN MATTERS CONCERNING IMMIGRATION AND GUN-CONTROL. NO CLOUT???
    NOW, I PRESENT A SCENARIO, NOW ALLOWED BY LAW AND AS DESCRIBED BY NORTHAM IN THIS VIDEO, THAT I BELIEVE WILL HAPPEN IN THOSE CASES WHEN A BABY IS BORN ALIVE, THEN MURDERED:
    WILL THE HOSPITAL ISSUE A BIRTH CERTIFICATE BECAUSE THE BABY WAS A LIVE BIRTH AND THEN, WHEN THOSE WHO HAVE COMMITTED THEIR SATANIC ACT HAVE CAUSED THAT BABY TO DIE, ISSUE A DEATH CERTIFICATE AS WELL? BOTH EVENTS HAVE TO BE CERTIFIED, NO?
    THE QUESTION THEN REMAINS: WHAT OFFICIAL CAUSE OF DEATH WILL BE STATED ON THE BABY’S CERTIFICATE? “NATURAL CAUSES”? A GOOD GUESS IS THE TRUTH WOULD BE AVOIDED. I WOULD SUGGEST “MURDER BY HELLISH ALLIANCE.”
    JO

  21. The Doctrinal Commentary on the concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei by Cardinal Ratzinger is very clear , and I believe canon lawyer Condon based his remarks on that reading. Notably par.5 concerning the first paragraph of the Professio. Further down on par.11, Ratzinger gives examples of the truths of the 1st par.of the Professio, and among them is zhe killing of innocent human beings. Truths that require the assent of theological faith by all the faithful.”Thus whoever places them in doubt or denies them, falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated in the respective canons of the codes of canon law (12)”. These canons are 750 and 751;1364- 1; CCEO cann.598; 1436-1.These truths are to be accepted and believed because they are from God revealed in His Word,are to be held definitively in faith, which is a supernatural virtue, de fide credenda.

  22. The Doctrinal Commentary on the concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei by Cardinal Ratzinger is very clear , and I believe canon lawyer Condon based his remarks on that reading. Notably par.5 concerning the first paragraph of the Professio. Further down on par.11, Ratzinger gives examples of the truths of the 1st par.of the Professio, and among them is the killing of innocent human beings. Truths that require the assent of theological faith by all the faithful.”Thus whoever places them in doubt or denies them, falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated in the respective canons of the codes of canon law (12)”. These canons are 750 and 751;1364- 1; CCEO cann.598; 1436-1.These truths are to be accepted and believed because they are from God revealed in His Word,are to be held definitively in faith, which is a supernatural virtue, de fide credenda.

  23. More than this, a Chastisement is imminent… In 1973, David Wilkerson was a well-known Christian minister in New York. He had visions of five calamities, coming to New York and America. He wrote a book called, “The Vision,” describing what was destined for America and New York, if they did not change. Since 1999, he has warned New York about a thousand fires coming to the city. On March 7, 2009, he wrote this, to whoever will hear: “I am compelled by the Holy Spirit, to send out an urgent message to all our mailing list and to friends and to bishops, we have met all over the world. An earth-shattering calamity is about to happen. It is going to be frightening, we are all going to tremble, even the godliest among us. For ten years, I have been warning about a thousand fires, coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities across America will experience riots and blazing fires, such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago. There will be riots and fires in cities, world-wide. There will be looting, including Times Square. We are under God’s Wrath. In Psalm 1: 3 it is written, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” We are clearly seeing this happen today. Many more prophecies are to unfold by other visionaries. A book and web site called, “After The Warning to 2038” contains many events to unfold.

    • Bruce,
      Such theories make the mistake of seeing our timetable as God’s…and our timetable is linked to our wrath. Aquinas said God’s wrath in scripture is an athropopathism that symbolizes His willing of justice. Aquinas said God has no literal wrath because that would mean He is changeable and only sporadically joyful….since joy must alternate with wrath.
      Scripture says “ in Him there is no change or shadow of alteration”… “ I am the Lord and I change not.”. Literal wrath would make Him wrathful 24/7…He’d never be Joyful.
      Ergo He allowed the child killing by the Amorhites to go on for 400 years minimum as He revealed to Abraham in Gen.15:16… “ 15
      You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace; you will be buried at a ripe old age.
      16
      In the fourth generation* your descendants will return here, for the wickedness of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
      He is saying that His test for destruction is not simply wickedness….but wickedness reaching completeness. He endured Jerusalem for 12 centuries until the moment Christ said to Jerusalem’s leaders… “ Now…fill up the sins of your ancestors”. He must have shouted it. Those were totally frightening words to any Jew who knew Gen.15:16 and what the fullness of sin meant. In 70 AD God through the Romans took 600,000 to 1.1 million lives in Jerusalem.
      Short term predictions are likely man’s anger. God kills only after centuries at the macro level…because He tries everything else first in His hidden approaches to humans. Killing is His very last wish…but He does it when He wills. Deut.32:39… “ See now that I, I alone, am he,
      and there is no god besides me.
      It is I who bring both death and life,
      I who inflict wounds and heal them,
      and from my hand no one can deliver.”

  24. I just disagree right from the starting gate. Canon 1398 is sufficient for the bishop to affirm the latae sententiae excommunication of Cuomo. See the case of Sr. Margaret Mary McBride, R.S.M in Phoenix Arizona, 2010.

  25. Recalling here the pronouncement of the Apostle John: No murderer has eternal life. Seems to me that Governor Cuomo and his legislative allies
    who seem to continually advocate the murder of innocent babies are in a heap of trouble in the courts of Heaven! It would be wise to show enough pastoral concern toward Governor Cuomo to call him to genuine repentance and true inner heart reception toward Christ Jesus. To commune in such a state of sinful rebellion would seem to me to be an act of trampling upon the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. On excommunicating Andrew Cuomo for heresy -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.


*