Maureen Dowd, Andrew Cuomo, and the Public Death of Catholic Conscience

Woody Allen’s brilliant 1989 film Crimes & Misdemeanors is on my mind a great deal these days as I read the statements made by prominent Catholic liberals about their push for same-sex marriage.

The movie is much on my mind because it tells the story of a man who commits a grave crime, but is miraculously spared being caught and punished for it. As the movie concludes, we realize the man has actually been punished, in the worst way: in rationalizing his evil act, and having no earthly justice visited upon him, he is forced to kill his conscience, otherwise he knows he will go mad with guilt and self-hatred.

That’s what I see played out again as I read Maureen Dowd’s triumphalist interview with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who just succeeded in legalizing same-sex “marriage” in that state despite the lobbying and warnings of the Catholic Church:

I FIGURED I’d get straight to it.

“So, Governor,” I asked, “are you afraid you’re going to hell?”

… “It’s troubling for me as a Catholic to be at odds with the church,” he began, before dissolving into a wry laugh. “Having said that, it seems that my entire political life, the tension with the church has come up again and again.”

Maureen editorializes:

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.

“In opposition to the Church.” What a haunting phrase. What an honest phrase. The question I have to respond with is, why on earth do Dowd and Cuomo insist on remaining Catholic, when they happily grasp the mantle of being in “opposition to the Church” on abortion and marriage? Really, why be part of a Church which one has to be in opposition to? There are plenty of denominations that have given up Christ’s teaching on life, marriage and family. Why not be part of one of those churches instead?

It gets worse:

“I have a portrait of Saint Thomas More in my office,” the governor said, calling from the statehouse in Albany. It is a picture Mario Cuomo once kept in his office. He gave it to Andrew as a present when he graduated from Albany Law School, and the younger Cuomo has kept it with him for 30 years as he moved from job to job and city to city. “It’s not the first time there is a tension between the teachings of the church and the administration of the law, for my father and for myself.” Dryly, he adds: “I haven’t lost my head yet.”

… maybe that’s a bad thing. I mean, does Cuomo have the faintest idea about what St. Thomas More’s life (and martyrdom) was all about? If he knows the story, does he see himself in Thomas More’s shoes, or King Henry’s (or Will Roper’s? or Richard Rich’s? or Thomas Cromwell’s?). Does he believe he will die the King’s good servant, but God’s first?

Maureen again:

Far from it. The New York governor says he still goes to church with his three teenage daughters. He received Communion at his Inaugural Day Mass, but mostly abstains. He has managed to stay on good terms with New York’s pugnacious archbishop…

Cuomo is trying to keep the lie up that he’s a faithful Catholic, although his conscience may be somewhat piqued because he “mostly abstains” from Communion. That means he still receives at times, with no public recanting of his public “opposition to the Church.” It’s hard for me to see how Cuomo’s being on “good terms” with Abp. Dolan is true for anyone besides Cuomo.

Now, on to the concubinage:

When I asked if the archbishop would preside over the ceremony if the governor decides to tie the knot with the Food  Network glamour girl Sandra Lee, Cuomo says it couldn’t happen “because I’m divorced.”

He shrugged off the shrill complaint of Vatican adviser Edward Peters that he’s living in “public concubinage” with his girlfriend in their Westchester home.

“He was a blogger, not from my state,” Cuomo  said of Peters. “I didn’t want to give it too much credibility.”

As for whether Lee was hurt by the crude, archaic term, he conceded, “It was not a pleasant conversation for anyone.”

A lot to point out here: a) Dowd seriously thinks +Dolan would celebrate Mass for Cuomo’s wedding? Does she know absolutely nothing about the Church? b) As for Sandree Lee being “hurt” by the “crude, archaic” term, my father responds: “It’s not a likeable word, it’s not a likeable thing.” c) If you read carefully, Cuomo dodges the question about my father’s point. “[He's] not from my state” is no answer at all. My father’s arguments (most recently today) are about the Church, which is very much in Cuomo’s state.

I could go on, but I think the more effective thing would be for me to just say the hard truth: Governor Cuomo needs a wake-up call, in the form of a public rebuke by the bishops of New York, which begins with informing him that his public actions against innocent unborn life, against the institution of marriage and the family (and the Church), and his choice to live in, yes, public concubinage with his girlfriend, prohibit him from presenting himself for the Eucharist in New York until he recants and does penance.

Andrew Cuomo’s soul is at stake. And his interview with Dowd demonstrates that he knows he is in public, personal, profound opposition to the Church, and yet because he has not yet “lost his head” he believes he can continue to present himself as a Catholic in communion with the Church. Cuomo is in danger of becoming the main character of Woody Allen’s movie Crimes & Misdemeanors, who absent earthly punishment, does violence to his conscience and puts his eternal soul in jeopardy thereby.

That’s why Christ came and died for us: to forgive us of the sins He shows us we have. The Church needs to help Cuomo see his sins, for he can no longer see them himself. God have mercy on him.

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61 thoughts on “Maureen Dowd, Andrew Cuomo, and the Public Death of Catholic Conscience

  1. [...] on the topic of Cuomo, this factoid from Maureen Dowd's interview with the governor about his support for New York's gay marriage law is, well, [...]

  2. some guy in Canada says:

    “inaugural day Mass” says it all. What, the Bishop should say Mass for him, and he should refuse communion? The Cuomos, the Pelosis, the Kennedys, have won.

  3. [...] could’t agree more with Thomas Peters on Maureen’s latest column. Especially: “I have a portrait of Saint Thomas More in my [...]

  4. Joan says:

    I think the reason all these people who disagree with the Catholic Church on abortion and Gay marriage don’t leave the Church and find another Church that they agree with is that they know there is only one true Church

  5. enness says:

    Now, now — I am sure he was suffering greatly from this tension when his gubernatorial duty compelled him to participate in their victory parade wearing the emblem of their cause, and to appear smiling in front of AP photographers.

  6. MichaelL says:

    Thomas, you say “Governor Cuomo needs a wake-up call, in the form of a public rebuke by the bishops of New York”. What if the bishops do not respond? (Excepting Bishop DiMarzio.) What will be your response? How should the rest of us faithful Catholics respond? And what sort of message does this send to the “pewsitters”? (And I use that term affectionately.) I ask this because from what I have seen from Archbishop Dolan, there will be no meaningful response. What then? Will you call them out? I hope so. I don’t know what is behind the actions (or lack of actions) of the bishops of New York, but I can tell you that it is very damaging to the Church. High profile Catholics like Cuomo set the example. The rest follow. On one thing I agree with Dowd, Archbishop Dolan “waged a relatively muted battle against gay marriage”. And that just isn’t good enough. Look at how the bishops in the Philippines declare their willingness to go to jail to protect their country from a “reproductive health” bill. The civil rights movement wasn’t won by people writing a blog article or going on 60 minutes. It was won by religious leaders committing their very lives for a cause that they believed in.

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