Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Speech that Enshrined "I'm Personally Opposed, But": Mario Cuomo's "Religious Belief & Public Morality"

In 1984, New York Governor Mario Cuomo delivered "Religious Belief and Publlic Morality: A Catholic Governor's Perspective" at Notre Dame. The following excerpts constitute the crux of his arguments:


  • "the Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy, a Catholic who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims and atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics, bears special responsibility. He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones, sometimes even contradictory to them; where the laws protect people's right to divorce, their right to use birth control devices, and even to choose abortion...
  • "Catholic public officials take an oath to preserve the Constitution that guarantees this freedom. And they do so gladly, not because they love what others do with their freedom, but because they realize that in guaranteeing freedom for all, they guarantee our right to be Catholics: our right to pray, our right to use the sacraments, to refuse birth control devices, to reject abortion, not to divorce and remarry if we believe it to be wrong....
  • "We know that the price of seeking to force our belief on others is that they might someday force their belief on us [Why on earth would any intelligent adult consider this a masterpiece of intellectual oratory? Cuomo completely ignores the Natural Law & intimates that issues of human life & marriage/family are just peculiar Catholic peccadillos.]....
  • "surely I can, if I am so inclined, demand some kind of law against abortion, not because my bishops say it is wrong, but because I think that the whole community, regardless of its religious beliefs, should agree on the importance of protecting life -- including life in the womb, which is at the very least potentially human & should not be extinguished casually [Take note of his "potentially human" heresy against science.]....
  • "I believe I have a salvific mission as a Catholic. Does that mean I am in conscience required to do everything I can as governor to translate all of my religious values into the laws and regulations of the State of New York or of the United States? Or be branded a hypocrite if I don’t? As a Catholic, I respect the teaching authority of my bishops. But must I agree with everything in the bishops' pastoral letter on peace and fight to include it in party platforms? And will I have to do the same for the forthcoming pastoral on economics even if I am an unrepentant supply-sider? Must I, having heard the pope once again renew the Church's ban on birth control devices as clearly as it's been done in modern times -- must I as governor veto the funding of contraceptive programs for non-Catholics or dissenting Catholics in my state? I accept the Church's teaching on abortion. Must I insist that you do by denying you Medicaid funding? By a constitutional amendment? And if by a constitutional amendment, which one? Would that be the best way to avoid abortions or to prevent them? [Ahh, the old "mixing of apples and oranges" that went on to become ever more painfully familiar! In Cuomo's defense, he voiced this dribble, before the release of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church", "Veritatis Splendor," and "Evangelium Vitae." Yet, he has never - as far as I know - retracted his words.]....
    "Our public morality, then -- the moral standards we maintain for everyone, not just the ones we insist on in our private lives -- depends on a consensus view of right and wrong. The values derived from religious belief will not -- and should not -- be accepted as part of the public morality unless they are shared by the pluralistic community at large, by consensus. So that the fact that values happen to be religious values does not deny them acceptability as part of this consensus. But it does not require their acceptability, either [Again, we see the game plan laid out for so-called "pro-choice" Catholics. Pretend that questions about human life & marriage/family are just peculiar Catholic peccadillos. Ignore the existence of the Natural Law.]....
  • "On divorce and birth control, without changing its moral teaching, the Church abides the civil law as it now stands, thereby accepting -- without making much of a point of it -- that in our pluralistic society we are not required to insist that all our religious values be the law of the land. The bishops are not demanding a constitutional amendment for birth control or on adultery [Tragically, I believe that Cuomo was misled by errors of prudential judgment by some of the hierarchy. We have certainly come to learn that some of what was & is still passed off as contraceptive is actually abortifacient....
    ]....
  • "while in the past some Catholic theologians may appear to have disagreed on the morality of some abortions -- It wasn’t, I think, until 1869 that excommunication was attached to all abortions without distinction -- and while some theologians may still disagree, I accept the bishops' position that abortion is to be avoided [Remember when Joe Biden & Nancy Pelosi later tried to play this same card?]....
  • "few, if any, Catholic bishops spoke for abolition in the years before the Civil War. And it wasn’t, I believe, that the bishops endorsed the idea of some humans owning and exploiting other humans. Not at all. Pope Gregory XVI, in 1840, had condemned the slave trade. Instead it was a practical political judgment that the bishops made. And they weren’t hypocrites; they were realists. Remember, at the time, the Catholics were a small minority, mostly immigrants, despised by much of the population, often vilified and the object even of sporadic violence. In the face of a public controversy that aroused tremendous passions and threatened to break the country apart, the bishops made a pragmatic decision. They believed their opinion would not change people's minds. Moreover, they knew that there were Southern Catholics, even some priests, who owned slaves. They concluded that under the circumstances arguing for a constitutional amendment against slavery would do more harm than good, so they were silent -- as they have been, generally, in recent years, on the question of birth control, and as the Church has been on even more controversial issues in the past, even ones that dealt with life and death [Personally, I find it an embarassment that antebellum bishops did not come out against slavery. Instead of taking a lesson from this, Cuomo tries to use it to defend his own cowardice!]....
  • "Nor would a denial of Medicaid funding for abortion achieve our objectives. Given Roe against Wade, it would be nothing more than an attempt to do indirectly what the law says cannot be done directly; and worse than that, it would do it in a way that would burden only the already disadvantaged. Removing funding from the Medicaid program would not prevent the rich and middle classes from having abortions. It would not even assure that the disadvantaged wouldn't have them; it would only impose financial burdens on poor women who want abortions [This slight of hand makes it difficult for me to believe that Cuomo is even "personally opposed" to abortion.]....
  • "Are we asking government to make criminal what we believe to be sinful because we ourselves can't stop committing the sin? The failure here is not Caesar's. The failure is our failure, the failure of the entire people of God.
  • "Nobody has expressed this better than a bishop in my own state, Bishop Joseph Sullivan, a man who works with the poor in New York City, a man who is resolutely opposed to abortion, and argues, with his fellow bishops, for a change of law. 'The major problem the Church has is internal,' the bishop said last month in reference to abortion. 'How do we teach? As much as I think we're responsible for advocating public policy issues, our primary responsibility is to teach our own people. We have not done that. We are asking politicians to do what we have not done effectively ourselves' [While I cannot recall ever meeting Bishop Sullivan, I grew up playing ball in his mother's driveway. Twenty years later, Bishop Sullivan pushed for naming a new center at a Catholic hospital after another so-called pro-choice "Catholic" politician. I cannot envision Bishop Sullivan's sainted mother agreeing with his stances. The fact that he never went beyond being an auxiliary bishop suggests that the Vatican did not agree, either.]....
  • "It is this duty of the Church to teach through its practice of love that Pope John Paul II has proclaimed so magnificently to all peoples [Pope John Paul II could not have been pleased with Cuomo's misrepresentation. In 1988's "Christifideles Laici," the late Holy Father said: "The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination"]....
  • "it would be tragic if we let this dialogue over abortion become a prolonged, divisive argument that destroys or impairs our ability to practice any part of the morality given to us in the Sermon on the Mount, to touch, to heal, to affirm the human life that surrounds us" [Those certainly do not sound like the words of someone who even has a "personal" opposition to abortion.]

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"

 

Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

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Book & Film Reviews, pt 2

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About Me

I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

And yup, that's me!

And yup, that's me!
(from page 1 of the NY Sun, 3/22/04)

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12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010

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