The Legacy of Mario Cuomo


It was Cuomo who laid out the intellectual case for the “personally opposed, but…” position of pro-abortion Catholics. The claim was that he personally agreed that abortion was killing but, as a governor in a pluralistic society, he could not do anything about it because that would amount to imposing his own Catholic belief on others.

Never mind that the humanity of the unborn is a matter of embryology, not faith. Never mind that the Church does not seek to criminalize many immoral things but that abortion is different because it is homicide. Never mind that Cuomo was essentially saying that he knows abortion is killing but he does not want to interfere with anyone else’s right to kill because of his supposed reverence for the Constitution. Never mind that Cuomo threw all that logic overboard when it came to opposing the death penalty.

Never mind any of those objections because they are all so very 80’s. No, what burns me up the most about Cuomoism thirty years later is not what a lie it was. What kills me is that we would be in better shape today if liberals still acted as if they believed in it.
The purpose of 80’s-style liberal philosophy, of Cuomoism, was to define a seemingly neutral public square that wrote pro-lifers out of the American Experiment. Live and let live. Don’t want an abortion? Don’t have one. See? It’s only those darn right-to-lifers pushing their religion on other people that brings harm to the country, not the legal killing of 4,000 pre-born children a day.

Except that when the 21st Century arrives and same-sex marriage surpasses even abortion as the Left’s greatest-thing-ever, the one thing you must never oppose, MARIO Cuomo’s “live and let live” feint goes right out the window. It’s ANDREW Cuomo’s world now: a world where you damn well better express your assent to same-sex marriage, host it, officiate at it, bake it a cake, photograph it, whatever, or there will be legal, social and financial hell to pay. (Oh, and fund abortion too, while you’re at it.) Pluralism? What’s that? Never heard of it. Get with the program or get out of my state.

Did Mario ever pull Andrew aside and say, “Son, all these things you’re doing, it violates that speech I gave at Notre Dame in the 80’s”? Of course not. The purpose of Mario Cuomoism was to calm the restless natives until the country was ready for Andrew Cuomoism. And whatever promises they are making to us now serves the same purpose, softening up the country to accept the next bad thing they spring on us.

Rest in peace, Governor. Your fellow Catholics know what you did and we will do our best to undo it.

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About Author


Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut Action, a Hartford-based advocacy organization whose mission is to encourage and strengthen the family as the foundation of society. His work has appeared in The Hartford Courant, the Waterbury Republican-American, Crisis Magazine, Columbia Magazine, the National Catholic Register, The Stream, CatholicVote, and Ethika Politika. He lives in Waterbury, Conn., with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed here are his own.

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