How pro-abortion Catholic politicians think

From a reader:

Father Z,
I’m not sure if you saw it, but there’s an interesting quote from Mario Cuomo in an article of fox news.
"In 1984, former Democratic New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, a Catholic who supported abortion rights and was at the time a potential presidential candidate, delivered a speech at the University of Notre Dame explaining that Catholic lawmakers shouldn’t be pressured by church leaders to work for anti-abortion legislation. He said Sunday it’s dangerous for the church to pressure politicians because of the potential for unintended consequences.                                      

‘If you’re required (by the church) to make everybody follow your Catholic role, then nobody would vote for Catholics because it’s clear that when you get the authority, you’re going to be guided by your faith,’ the former governor told the AP."                                                                                       

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. wanda says:

    Forgive me Lord for I am about to say “DUH!”

    Mr. Cuomo should have said and known that Catholics don’t ‘try to make everybody follow your role’ (whatever that means).

    Mr. Cuomo, we are Catholic all the time and everywhere, home, work, school, public square and in the political arena. Wherever there are un-just laws (those against the natural law and against God’s Law) we are to speak and to work for justice and truth as faithful Catholics in the truest sense of the word.

    It’s about our Catholic identity.

  2. DavidJ says:

    You’re not required to “make everybody follow your Catholic role” by any means. No one’s suggesting not selling meals with meat in them on Friday.

  3. Wow….I don’t know if Cuomo realizes how telling a quote this is. Of course, a good Catholic politician is not going to require all their constituents to kiss the Pope’s ring or to sign some sort of loyalty oath to the bishops. But why is it so hard for Democratic/liberal Catholics to stand up and fight for an end to a clearly evil practice like abortion. Is it maybe because some of them don’t believe it’s evil?

    Essentially, he admitted what we all know….it’s not about Truth, it’s not about good vs. evil….it’s about votes and how they think they can get the most votes (and how they think they can get the most money/campaign contributions to help them get those votes….from NARAL/Emily’s List/George Soros/NOW/etc.)

    At least he admitted it….rather than trying to explain it away in a confusing/misleading manner like Speaker Pelosi (when she tried to argue the Church has changed its position on abortion over the centuries)

  4. CarpeNoctem says:

    Wow! That is the exact antithesis of my homily yesterday.

    When we see Pilate with the coercive power of the state and Jesus with the redeeming power of love pitted against each other, we know who will win. If our nation is to have any hope, we need to choose our sides (and by extension, our political leaders and policies) carefully. Free religious practice? Yes. Non-establisment? Yes. Freedom from religion? At our peril.

    Mr. Cuomo, what exactly is the lowest common denominator, if we surrender our faith as being unfit for the public square? How beastly? hedonistic? de-humanizing? unconscious? un-American? violent? cowardly? unprincipled? unimaginative? slavish? unredeemed? dark and mean?

    Blessed Miguel Pro, martyred by a godless totalitarian regime 82 years ago today, pray for us.

  5. EXCHIEF says:

    Wanda has it right. We are Catholics first and anything else second. If voting consistent with Catholic teaching (based upon Natural Law) will not get one re-elected then the politician has a choice. Find another line of work or abandon their faith to get elected. Tragically too many CINO politicians put their political survival first.

  6. Mark01 says:

    First of all, I want to say how proud I am that something I sent in actually got posted on Father Z’s website. This truly is an honor. :o) Second, I want to reiterate what I also said in my e-mail to Father Z, “Heaven forbid anyone think that you would be guided by your faith”. How incredibly dense.

  7. JohnE says:

    “make everybody follow your Catholic role”

    What does that mean?! Does Mr. Cuomo even know? I don’t care about making people follow my “Catholic role”, but I do care about laws and policies that make sense. I don’t know what “role” he’s following when he supports laws that allow the murder of unborn children, but it’s not a common sense one.

    He seems to be saying that he can’t protect unborn children because that’s an exclusively Catholic teaching not based on reason but on blind faith.

  8. ‘We need to make sure that Catholic politicians don’t look like the dissident jerks they are. It’s okay if they lose their souls, as long as they don’t lose the Morally Reprehensible Minority.”

  9. Jason Keener says:

    Catholic leadership really has to do a better job explaining the natural moral law to Catholic politicians. When the Church opposes abortion, She does so not just because abortion is a Catholic matter of religious faith. Rather, human reason alone can demonstrate with certainty that abortion is radically contrary to the common good in any society. You don’t need to be a Catholic or a Christian to understand that abortion is gravely wrong just like you don’t have to be a Catholic or a Christian to understand that stealing and lying are wrong. Abortion is not just a Catholic issue, just like stealing and lying are not just Catholic issues. When Catholic politicians condemn abortion, these politicians are not forcing their Catholic Faith on their constituents. These politicians are merely upholding the natural moral law and basic human reason. No society can ignore the natural moral law and expect to survive or flourish. (On the other hand, it would be wrong for a Catholic politician to support legistlation that all citizens must believe in uniquely Catholic teachings like the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception or the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Those are unique matters of religion and Divine Revelation, not matters of the natural moral law and basic human morality.)

    It should also be pointed out that the Catholic Church has the task of confirming what is true and can be discovered through human reason alone in the natural moral law. When the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him declare that abortion is wrong, we can be perfectly certain that abortion is indeed wrong because Christ’s appointed teachers on Earth have confirmed by the data of Divine Revelation what has already been discovered through reason in the natural moral law. Christ left us a True Church with divinely-appointed teachers for the very reason that mankind not be left in any doubt about such serious matters of the natural moral law like abortion. Also, we trust the Catholic Church is the True Church not only through the Gift of Faith but also because of the external proofs God has provided in the miracles of Christ and the saints and the miracle of Mother Church Who has remained most vigorous throughout all these centuries of tumultuous history.

  10. MichaelJ says:

    “you’re going to be guided by your faith”? Oh the horrors!. Honestly, what does Mr. Cuomo think should guide a politician (or anyone else for that matter)?

    Wouldn’t it be refreshingly appropriate if everybody knew exactly how a particular politician would vote on any given issue before they pulled the lever in the voting booth?

  11. PatrickV says:

    Let’s see, the City of God, or the World. What are we taught to do to attain Salvation? Seek the City of God, or Mammon?

    If Cuomo spent a bit of time on seeking the City of God and Catholic Social Justice, people would be beating the doors down to vote for him. His pursuit of a watered down Catholicism and accomodation with the secular Humanists are the problem, not adherence to the tenets of The Faith and Magisterium.

    A thousand years from now people will still be speaking and honoring Saint Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Cuomo and his ilk will be in the dustheap with Marx.

  12. john 654 says:

    How do these folks think the final judgement is going to work? We don’t get a do over, and we have no chance if we don’t repent and follow Christ.

  13. Ferde Rombola says:

    For a former prosecutor, Cuomo has mixed up his perceptions of faith and law. Abortion is the deliberate, premeditated taking of a human life. That used to be the working definition of murder until the abortion mongers got hold of it. Yes, it’s Catholic teaching, but so is the proscription against stealing. Does Cuomo want to make stealing legal because the Catholic Church says it’s a sin? Also, how is it conservative politicians have no trouble voting their moral position against abortion? There used to be a time when Cuomo could think. That’s is in the rear view mirror now.

  14. irishgirl says:

    Wanda and EXCHIEF-you both have it right!

    We are supposed to be ‘Catholics’ first, then ‘Americans’-not the other way ’round!

    And you too, PatrickV!

    We have not here a lasting city…

  15. irishgirl says:

    Er-I meant, Patrick V, that I also agree with your comment-that’s what happens when brain gets ahead of fingers…

  16. ipadre says:

    Those are words of a spineless man with no conscience! I wonder what the saints would think of a man who would prefer being elected to influencing his society with good, solid morals!

  17. The last time I checked, the right to life is an inalienable right, above and beyond the Constitution, but also mentioned by it explicitly. But it seems Cuomo believes that anyone who fights to protect that right is pushing a Catholic agenda.

  18. RC2 says:

    Allow me to play devil’s advocate here: not because I cotton to any caviling in defense of the right to life, but because it’s not good apologetics to simply denounce opponents as spineless morons.

    Gov. Cuomo has an important point, and it is important for Catholics to understand it, because it illustrates further how corrupting of not only the moral but the civil order Roe v. Wade is, and it also points to a political tension that few faithful Catholics have thought through. (Archbishop Chaput in Render to Caesar being a noteworthy exception.)

    It is currently the law of the United States that abortion is a woman’s right. That word “right” is important because anything which is a right it is WRONG and illegal to oppose or inhibit. A politician swears an oath to uphold and defend the rights of the citizens he represents. How does a politician swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States with integrity if he cannot in conscience recognize a right guaranteed by the Constitution?

    To illustrate the problem, pretend for a moment (absurdly) that the Church holds that African Americans were inferior and it was morally wrong to affirm their equality. (a repellant idea, I know, but bear with me). Since the United States is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,would a practicing Catholic not disqualify himself from holding office? Would freedom-loving citizens not rightly eschew voting for Catholics?

    Of course abortion is NOT a right in any integral sense of the word, but we currently pretend it is, and thus we see that Roe is not only anti-life, but anti-democratic. It is the intellectual force behind the rising hostility against pro-life people of any or no religion, and the frightening willingness to disenfranchise them (even as the movement gains numbers). Ideas have consequences.

    On a related note, a variation on this problem arises when the bishops (as a body –of course any bishop has a right to his private views) take positions on matters of prudential judgment and try to hold politicians to their view. A voting citizen has the right to ask whether a Catholic politician is actually going to be a proxy vote for, say, the USCCB secretariat on peace & justice.

    Understand: I in no way defend Cuomo. But Catholics need to help Catholic politicians articulate constitutional reasons for their decisions. It’s really not good enough to say “we’re Catholic first,” though of course we are. That only makes Cuomo’s point.

    What needs to be said is that Roe is the direct opposite of the promise of the Declaration that all men are created equal and creates a moral logic undermining the sacred rights of the First Amendment, and therefore any person who loves his country will oppose it.

  19. Cuomo Notre Dame 1984 abortion
    Obama Notre Dame 2009 abortion
    Bernardin Fordham 1984 abortion (wrapped in a Seamless Garment)

    There are many avenues for corrupt Catholics to pursue criminal enterprises.
    They don’t have to commit murder.

    “What doth it profit a man if he gaineth the whole world and suffers to loss of his Soul?”

    Better an honest mailman than a corrupt politician.

  20. RC2: You make some good points. We must remember that up until the 1950s, a doctor who performed an abortion went to prison. That is why one hears of abortions being performed in back alleys. With the dissent against Humanae Vitae and its reiteration of the teaching against contraception and the acceptance of contraception among Catholics, including Catholic priests and politicians, the best form of “contraception” was determined to be abortion.
    It was the most efficacious. So the politician cannot have it both ways. He/she cannot say I supported contraception which led to abortion, but I cannot be responsible for the abortion which became the law of the land to rid the U.S. of peoples it was felt would be deleterious to our national existence. The old chestnut is that abortion is the lesser of two evils, e.g., the child is better off dead than raised in a broken home.

  21. ssoldie says:

    Cuomo and so many catholics who think like him(48%-52%) which I believe to be much higher, is in part of what the crisis in the Church has been in the last forty-five years, the dumbing down of catholics (and thier children), or as I like to call it the protestantising of the many.(pro multis) The most ridiculous thing in my opinion is the children’s Mass, most people know children emulate adults, so why do we think we should have a childrens N.O. mass. Dumbing down. It is so much like the lutheran church I went to as a child, Sunday service(same music also).I wonder how the young saints, like St. John Bosco, St.Theresa,St. Goretti, St. Savio, St.Bernadette,Blessed Jucinta, Blessed Franciso Sister Licia, ever got to be, for all they had was the T.L.M. and we all know how hard to understand (and with no active particpation either)Yea Know, shall we gather round the table. It is something else to see a young man of 8 or 9 yrs serve Father at the T.L.M., and when not serving, fellows the T.L.M. where he sits in the pew taking part in the Sacrifice of the Mass along with Father. Could one say he is and has been been recieving catechesis. As also our young woman, who are proud to wear thier veils, also catholic tradition, and a wonderful part of our Catholic culture and who mother’s and Father’s havent bought into the feminist crap about the veils being sub-servient, that so many of our (shepherds) have. Amazing, the one woman they(USCCB) should have listened to “Angelica” they did’nt she had more sense in her pinky then all of them combined(USCCB).

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    You’re assuming they think. I think they just emote.

  23. bookworm says:

    “But Catholics need to help Catholic politicians articulate constitutional reasons for their decisions. It’s really not good enough to say “we’re Catholic first,” though of course we are.”

    You hit the nail on the head. The inalienable right to life from conception to natural death, the true nature of marriage, the principles of just war, the concept of subsidarity — all these are not just “Catholic” ideas, they are GOOD ideas which can stand on their own apart from any religious doctrine, and which can be harmonized with or supported by the Constitution. Not just Catholic politicians but politicians of ALL faiths ought to be putting forth these ideas and explaining how they benefit all of society.

  24. adt6247 says:

    ‘If you’re required (by the church) to make everybody follow your Catholic role, then nobody would vote for Catholics because it’s clear that when you get the authority, you’re going to be guided by your faith,’

    Exactly why religious pluralism is a bad idea. We need a return to the relationship between the altar and throne.

  25. Gail F says:

    There is such a misunderstanding today about the difference between a religious belief and a religiously informed conscience. We expect all our politicians to tell the truth and not to steal (and even compared to Europe, much less the rest of the world, our politicians are remarkably uncorrupt) because those things are not seen as “religious beliefs” any more but as common sense. But it is far different to believe in the virgin birth than to believe that abortion is murder. The first is a matter of faith, the second is of reason informed by faith — a reasonable belief that it is possible to have without sharing the religion. So there is nothing wrong with expecting Catholic politicians to vote against abortion. That is inconvenient, though, for the politicians — who know that they will not get some people’s votes if they are against abortion. They want to be able to “go both ways,” as it were. But unfortunately, many of them just go the other way.

  26. EXCHIEF says:

    I disagree in part when you say we need to help Catholic legislators find “constitutional reasons” for their positions/votes. Our nation has a good Constitution but it does not address specifically all matters of morality. It may well be that a moral vote cannot be specifically tied to the Constitution. To be a good Catholic politician requires voting according to a well formed conscience not necessarily the Constitution.

  27. Supertradmom says:

    Some of the confusion of the present generation of Catholic politicians has been caused by several ideologies: 1) that democracy as a governmental structure is more important than a hierarchical Church structure; 2) that pragmatism in politics is more important than Catholic morals and ideals; 3) that compromising is the only method political maneuvering; 4) that Americanism is more important than Catholicism as an philosophical position. I was at ND when Cuomo was there and refused to hear him. Many students picked him. Sadly, his politics are tainted by a false view of what it means to be a Catholic politician.

  28. Supertradmom says:

    picketed, not picked–the limits of spellcheck.

  29. bookworm says:

    “How does a politician swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States with integrity if he cannot in conscience recognize a right guaranteed by the Constitution?”

    A good question, but wasn’t this the exact same situation politicians opposed to slavery were in before the Civil War? After all, that was NOT a right that the Supreme Court “found,” it was actually mentioned in the Constitution and some of the Founding Fathers themselves owned slaves.

    One of the most famous 19th century abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison, publicly burned a copy of the Constitution calling it “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell” because it recognized slavery! What if people opposed to slavery had all taken the same tack and decided they couldn’t in good conscience run for any public office — how long would it have taken to free the slaves then, and where would we be today?

    I see nothing wrong with a Catholic politician who RELUCTANTLY accepts the fact that Roe v. Wade is currently the law of the land, but makes it clear that abortion is a bad thing and does what he or she can to enact restrictions the majority of the public believe to be reasonable (parental notification, partial-birth bans, no taxpayer funding, etc.).

    I’m not talking about “personally opposed, but” — I’m thinking of someone who would say “I believe Roe undermines the very foundations of our Constitution and I truly wish it were not the law of the land. But since it is, and we have to live with it for the foreseeable future, here’s what I think we can do to minimize the damage in the meantime.”

    The Catholic politicians who cause real scandal, in my opinion, are the ones who reject ANY restrictions whatsoever on abortion, and who go out of their way to court the endorsement of groups like NOW and Planned Parenthood. It is they who need to be publicly admonished by their bishops if private admonition does not work.

  30. dcs says:

    It’s interesting that with respect to abortion, politicians will feel obligated to follow the opinion of their constituents, but not when it comes to homosexual unions.

  31. RC2 says:

    @bookworm: I agree with you. As I say, I oppose Cuomo’s position, but it is important to see that the problem he raises is real. We really don’t as Catholics want to be in the position of telling politicians it’s perfectly fine to disregard the Constitution and do whatever they please for a greater good.

    @EXCHIEF, that brings me to your objection, which I also agree with. The Constitution is a form. A highly effective form, but a morally neutral one. What makes it great –what attaches it to the natural law, as Jason Keener rightly notes is vital– is its inseparability from the Declaration of Independence, which asserts the equal dignity of persons and the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (blessedness, in the parlance of the day). Inalienable because they are not created by man, but given by “Nature” and “Nature’s God.” It is the Declaration that weds the Constitution to the natural law, such that even an evil –slavery– enshrined in the Constitution by necessary compromise could be later overcome, as the Founders always envisioned and hoped for.
    The Declaration is the “what” of our government; the Constitution is the “how.” Divorce the two, and the Constitution becomes a “living document” for wicked or silly men to use for whatever cause they choose.

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