The Day Andrew Cuomo Got Religion

Who could have predicted back in 1928 that Al Smith's successor as governor of New York would be explaining his advancement of legislation by his "solidarity" with the pope?  Back then, poor Governor Smith was defeated in his run for president in part by anti-Catholic fears that he represented a "Romish Peril," not least by way of a transatlantic tunnel between Washington and the Vatican.  A vote for Al Smith would put America under the dictatorship of the pope.

So when Governor Andrew Cuomo, literally on the same day Pope Francis declared that the death penalty is "inadmissible" in all cases, introduced a bill to abolish capital punishment in New York, the left erupted in justifiable outrage at Cuomo's attempt to establish religion. 

Or not.  So far, there have been no actual reports of protesters turning out with signs telling the pope to stay out of our lethal injection chambers.

Francis's declaration didn't change Cuomo's views on the subject; he was already an opponent of capital punishment, as was his father before him, the late Governor Mario Cuomo.  But Andrew sees this new teaching as divine "validation of my father's principled stand against the death penalty."

Speaking of principled stands, you may recall Andrew's father as the originator of the now-ubiquitous moral nonsense that Catholic politicians could be "personally opposed" to abortion, while at the same time, "as servants of the broader public – supporting its availability to those who did not share those beliefs."  With that single phrase, Mario handed pro-abortion Catholic politicians (and their Catholic voters, who by that time were mostly Democrats) the get-out-of Hell-free card they needed to explain their fervent advocacy for an evil practice to which they said they were personally opposed.  The Church had already condemned that position, and  John Paul II clearly reiterated "that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose' any law that attacks human life."

Even the Catholic bishops' conference, which in those days was living up to its nickname of "the Democratic Party at prayer," had to draw the line at Cuomo's twisted logic:

No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life.  [N]o appeal to policy, procedure, majority will or pluralism ever excuses a public official from defending life to the greatest extent possible.

But the Cuomos, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, and God knows how many other Catholic politicians (and just think: he really does know how many!) have gone right on appealing directly to those very things to justify themselves – to those things, and to their unqualified loyalty to the separation of Church and state. 

I learned long ago that if your Christianity leans far enough left, you get a pass from the passionate defenders of the Wall of Separation, the same ones who will tell you that tolerance in the public square of the belief in marriage is tantamount to the establishment of a Christian theocracy.  (I specify a Christian theocracy, because none of these folks seem even slightly concerned at some fairly explicit intentions to establish an Islamic theocracy.) 

This free pass is the reason black ministers can preach the Democratic platform from their pulpits, or lend those pulpits to progressive candidates who describe their activism as the "Lord's work," while never rating so much as a raised eyelid from the ACLU.  As long as the religion you're establishing saves room for the gospel values of abortion, pseudo-marriage, and really big government programs, the Southern Poverty Law Center sees no harm in it. 

You see, they're not politicizing Jesus the way Republicans are when they say He's conservative and try to force the Ten Commandments on everybody.   Instead, liberals just follow Jesus's clear and simple teachings about taking care of the poor (through massive entitlement programs), showing compassion to the stranger (through open-border immigration policies), and stressing the importance of being nonjudgmental (by using Caesar to force stubborn Pharisees to participate in ceremonies claiming to unite same-sex couples and pay for someone else's contraception). 

Even in spite of the double standard, I've never believed that preachers should be barred from mixing faith with politics.  I only wish our side could do it, too.  And I don't believe one bit that Andrew Cuomo taking this political action in compliance with a religious edict is a threat to the constitutional order.  Nor do I necessarily oppose either Francis's or Cuomo's opposition to capital punishment.  I'm agnostic on the subject; it's never been legal in the state where I live, and if there were a vote to legalize it in Michigan, I'd likely vote no. 

But when Andrew Cuomo, quoting his father before him, calls the death penalty "a stain on our conscience," demeaning those "who strive to preserve human life and dignity," it's impossible not to notice how badly out of proportion he's getting things.

Take the fact that the death penalty has been virtually extinct in New York since a state Court of Appeals ruling in 2004.  On a national scale, it's hardly commonplace.  By July 2018, there have been 1,479 executions in this country since 1976.  Of course, I don't mean to imply "only 1,479"; every single one of those was an individual facing the horror of being put to death.  But as stains on our national conscience go, just how big a stain is it?

I'm thinking of how the "stain" of 1,479 executions in 42 years looks beside the stain of 2,537 abortions in the United States per day.  Can you be taken seriously as a defender of "human life and dignity" when you're supporting a regime that's taking a human life every 30 seconds? 

Pope Francis's careful wording that capital punishment is now "inadmissible" posits that the historical practice of executing dangerous criminals to protect society is unnecessary in our time, when the means now exist to effectively incarcerate them.  But the pope's new language stops short – notably – of calling capital punishment "intrinsically evil," a "theological term meaning that an action can never be done in a moral way, regardless of the circumstances."  The new Catechism entry will neither state that the death penalty would always be immoral in other circumstances nor condemn those who have supported its use in the past.   

What the Church does define as intrinsically evil, and always has, is abortion.  If Governor Cuomo's newfound respect for Church teaching so moves him to ban an evil from New York that doesn't even take place there anymore, why not some moves toward ridding our consciences of that larger, darker stain that's spreading more and more every day? 

It's the cynicism that gets me.  Because Governor Cuomo's father was "personally opposed to the death penalty," he vetoed death penalty legislation 12 times.  His stated personal opposition to abortion didn't drive him to lift a finger for the unborn even once.  Andrew Cuomo wasn't claiming any personal opposition to abortion in 2014, when he called pro-life Republicans "extreme conservatives" who have "no place in the state of New York."  Planned Parenthood just endorsed Cuomo for re-election because he's so "personally committed to our issues and other progressive values we believe in."

If the bigots of Al Smith's times could have seen ahead to this future Catholic governor in Smith's old job, they'd see little reason to fear that this guy was digging a tunnel to Rome.

But is he digging a tunnel to somewhere else?  That's another question.

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