By Judie Brown
In all areas of life, people need to look to the actions of a strong moral leader. This is especially true within the Catholic Church, where a growing number of people are ignorant of what the faith actually teaches. This is why those who lead the Church must publicly stand for the faith and live and teach according to the laws of God. Today’s commentary addresses this and reminds us of the necessity of a good leader.
I am having a difficult time discerning exactly what it is that has Cardinal Timothy Dolan so hot under the collar when it comes to the pro-abortion inclinations of his friend, Catholic New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
We recall with sadness how CBS’ 60 Minutes showed the pomp and circumstance of a Mass presided over by the cardinal who, as he walked out of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, made it a point to smile and wave at the governor.
Prior to that, we noted that even though Cuomo should be denied the body of Christ in Holy Communion because of his public actions—which are to this day in contradiction to Catholic teaching—his own bishop, Howard Hubbard, said on the matter, “Quite frankly, there is a disagreement among bishops about using the communion line as a place for a confrontation. And I don’t think that the bishops of New York state feel that’s appropriate.”
On this question, then-Archbishop Dolan concurred!
Fast forward to today and the news headline “Cardinal Dolan Decries Proposal to Expand Abortion Access.” Now we learn that the cardinal is astounded by the governor’s plan to increase New York’s abortion rate. In fact, he defined this outrage as “scandalous.”
But the question remains: What will the cardinal and his fellow New York bishops do about this?
When the governor came out in support of homosexual marriage, canon law expert Edward Peters responded to the position of the New York bishops and their reticence about obeying canon 915 in Cuomo’s case, saying,
“The governor, with complete freedom, is publicly acting in violation of a fundamental moral expectation of the Church. On these facts alone, his taking holy Communion is objectively sacrilegious and produces grave scandal within the faith community.”
“As long as he persists in such conduct, he should refrain from taking holy Communion in accord with Canon 916. If he approaches for holy Communion, he should be denied the august sacrament in accord with Canon 915.”
Further, CNS reported that Peters stated,
“Canon 915 requires the demonstration of certain facts in order for the obligation to withhold holy Communion from a member of the faithful to apply. Among the facts that need demonstration are that the action be objectively ‘gravely sinful’ and that the conduct be ‘obstinate.’”
“As for the objective wrongness of policies that treat homosexual unions as if they were the same thing as ‘marriage’ (whether natural or sacramental marriage, it doesn’t matter), that depends on the actual wording of the policies of course, but, in general, such policies tend to distort the character of a basic human institution and therefore damage society. . . . It is, of course, wrong for public officials to lend support to programs that damage the foundations of the very societies they govern.”
“As for whether Cuomo’s conduct is ‘obstinate,’ again, it depends on the degree of real understanding that the governor has regarding the scope of his policies—and never underestimate how little adult Catholics today know about natural law or Church teaching—but ascribing to homosexual unions the same characteristics that have long been associated only with ‘marriage’ is a pretty basic error. . . . In any case, if the governor wants a reliable refresher session on what human history and Church teaching regard as ‘marriage,’ he can easily secure one.”
The case is closed. There is no question that Cuomo should be denied the body of Christ and perhaps excommunicated. Excommunication is the separation of an individual from the Church and requires first that the individual in question is fully aware that he or she is acting against Church teaching, and in fact has probably already separated himself from the Church. Perhaps someone needs to explain these facts to Cuomo and act on them as well.
But that requires courageous leadership. We pray that Cardinal Dolan will take this step, in communion with his fellow bishops, forever clarifying the fact that defending Christ from sacrilege is far more important than appearing to tolerate the scandalous behavior of a friend. Having said that, I have my doubts based on the cardinal’s previous actions with the likes of Chris Matthews and other pro-abort Catholics. Cardinal Dolan needs to set aside the politics as well as his love affair with the media and begin being the apostle he is called to be. I realize that takes guts, but it’s time.
Judie Brown is president and cofounder of American Life League and a three-time appointee to the Pontifical Academy for Life.