Wednesday, January 12


Ross Douthat at The American Scene recommends this short essay by Kenneth Woodward on former New York governor Mario Cuomo's ancient sophistry in propounding a Pro-Choice mindset, despite his Catholicism, and seeing in it no moral conflict. Cuomo maintains that adhering to Catholic teachings in his private life, while supporting diametrically opposed viewpoints in his public life, is not a contradiction in terms and that, in point of fact, the oh so tall dividing wall between Church and State must be maintained. In the parlance of the street, this is called sucking and blowing, but Mr. Cuomo has a long-standing reputation for matching sublime eloquence with rankling obfuscation. Read through Woodward's well-thought essay, as well as link to and read, please, Cuomo's address to the students of Notre Dame on "Religious Belief and Public Morality." In the latter, you'l find that Cuomo's position is that a public official is obliged to ensure that the majority point of view be codified through legislation and enforced even if it conflicts with the legislator's or executive's religious beliefs.

In a practical sense, I can think of instances in which Cuomo's argument is compelling. When, years ago, Catholic's were obliged to have meatless Fridays, it would have been absurd for Catholic politicians to endeavor to legislate the Church's religious mandate on non-Catholics. However, there is a higher law that may necessarily transcend the viewpoints of the majority and even the precepts of a particular religion. The imposition of slavery comes to mind, as but one example. Another might be a majority mandate that gunning down people with whom you disagree is acceptable and that one need only be faster on the draw to prevail. Or, that a jihad against the infidels is doing God's work and beheadings are the preferred method of execution.

That's where I take issue with Cuomo. Not in all instances can you, as a Catholic politician, leave the teachings of your Catholic faith in the trunk of your car when you walk into a legislative chamber or executive office, particularly when certain of the teachings of one's faith are consistent with a higher law -- a natural right conferred on man by God. That's how I view abortion. I believe a Catholic politician can not take the easy way out and endorse the taking of human life (God's creation) publicly, while recognizing its illegitimacy in Church law privately.

John F. Kennedy, ironically the author of "Profiles In Courage," may have opted to assure the American people that the Vatican would not dictate to him were he to become President of the United States, but fact is there were conceivable instances in which his faith and nature's laws would have obligated him to do so.

Abortion, except in instances in which the mother's life is at risk, is the devil's handiwork. It is unconscionable morally and it should be unconscionable ethically. I would pose to Mr. Cuomo the following: were the majority viewpoint in all instances absolutely antithetical to the teachings of the Church, would it still be right for you, as a public official, to adhere to the majority view publicly, while condemning it privately? That may be an extreme and unlikely scenario, but it's the only way to draw people like you out into the open.