National Catholic Register

Opinion

Andrew Cuomo and St. Thomas More

Editorial

BY The Editors

July 17-30, 2011 Issue | Posted 7/8/11 at 5:12 PM

 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was instrumental in helping his state legalize same-sex “marriage.”

He waged a legislative battle against Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the other New York bishops and won. The question never came to a public vote. If it did, New York voters surely would have defeated the measure, as has been the case in every other state that has allowed the people — not judges or politicians — to decide.

By his decision, Cuomo has contributed to the disintegration of marriage between one man and one woman as a bulwark of society. And yet Maureen Dowd of The New York Times refers to him as a “cherished hero.”

Following in the footsteps of his father, erstwhile presidential hopeful Mario Cuomo, who in a famous speech at the University of Notre Dame popularized the “I’m personally opposed but wouldn’t want to impose my beliefs on anyone else” school of moral stewardship, Andrew Cuomo is being hailed as the latest patron saint of the culture of personal conscience.

Cuomo, a product of Catholic elementary, secondary and university institutions, has set his own course. Dowd, a publicly dissenting Catholic herself, says that he “still goes to church with his three teenage daughters. He received Communion at his inaugural day Mass, but he mostly abstains.”

Perhaps now is the time for the U.S. bishops to reassess their policy of administering Communion to politicians who identify themselves as Catholic and publicly dissent from Church teaching. Currently, it varies from diocese to diocese. The bishops of New York have signaled their discomfort with this approach.

Oddly, Cuomo keeps a picture of the English martyr St. Thomas More in his office. It’s the same portrait his father once kept in his office while serving as governor of New York.

Cuomo told Dowd, “It’s troubling for me as a Catholic to be at odds with the Church.” Then he added, “Having said that, it seems that my entire political life, the tension with the Church has come up again and again.”

Yet Cuomo identifies with More, the English martyr who wore hair shirts and chose the eternal King over the temporal king.

Cuomo took the great saint’s pre-execution assertion that “I die the king’s loyal servant but God’s first” and turned it 180 degrees.

Cuomo laughingly told Dowd that even though he has continually opposed Church teaching, he hasn’t “lost my head yet.”

The irony in Cuomo’s statement shows a genuine lack of what it means to be principled; although, most likely, his curious response reflects a savvy personal judgment that his open defiance of Church authority incurred no loss of political capital or moral credibility. 

Dowd points out that the latest savior of same-sex “marriage” may harbor some ulterior motives: “Just as his father seized a social issue and established himself in opposition to the Church with his Notre Dame speech on abortion, now the son has seized a social issue and established himself in opposition to the Church with gay marriage.”

The notion that political calculation fueled Cuomo’s campaign for same-sex “marriage” brings the reader back to St. Thomas More and the matter of real political and moral courage.

While the Democratic base, who will one day nominate an heir to President Barack Obama, care deeply about “marriage equality,” Cuomo has nothing to lose but his soul when he turns against the leaders of his Church and advocates legislation that will redefine marriage and threaten the religious freedom of his fellow Catholics.

Indeed, Democratic elites turn to self-described “Catholics” like Cuomo to shield their agenda from being labeled “anti-Catholic” or hostile to cherished moral and social values.

Mario Cuomo was among the first to travel this well-worn path, publicly defying his Church. Since then, the spectacle of Catholics “courageously” defending legal abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex “marriage” has become commonplace. 

It’s good to know that a portrait of St. Thomas More, who Blessed John Paul II declared patron of statesmen and politicians, is close at hand for the governor. But there’s no direct evidence that Andrew Cuomo has grappled with the nature of this saint.

As one contemporary of Thomas More remarked upon his execution: “His death was of a piece with his life. There was nothing in it new, forced or affected. He did not look upon the severing of his head from his body as a circumstance that ought to produce any change in the disposition of his mind.”

Almost every media story on the same-sex “marriage” victory in New York was graced with a picture of a radiant Cuomo, leading the “Gay Pride March” in New York City. Among the faithful, however, the bill’s passage — capping weeks of gloomy data on the sharp decline of sacramental marriage in the U.S. — serves as a wake-up call.

Everything is on the table if marriage is legally redefined and sacramental marriage doesn’t matter.

Dowd didn’t intend it, but her column provides all the evidence we need to make critical changes in the transmission of faith and compelling teaching about true political and religious courage in today’s American landscape.

Cuomo, Dowd and all of us would be well served to heed more wise words from St. Thomas More: “What does it avail to know that there is a God, which you not only believe by faith, but also know by reason … if you think little of him?”

Or if you live contrary to his standards?