The following comes from a Feb. 12 story by Kenneth Woodward in America magazine. Woodward was the religion editor for Newsweek for 38 years.
Reading Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Times op-ed in defense of New York State’s new and perversely titled Reproductive Health Act, I was reminded of his father Mario Cuomo’s own tendentious arguments explaining why he, as a Catholic, could support Roe v. Wade. Andrew Cuomo’s arguments share the same weakness for pious dissembling.
Both Cuomo père et fils approach the issue as political animals, and their support for abortion on demand was and is driven by Democratic party politics. Recall: Mario Cuomo entered the abortion culture wars in 1977 to provide intellectual cover for his friend, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro, who as Walter Mondale’s presidential running mate in 1984 was the first woman, the first Italian-American and first pro-choice Catholic to run for vice president of the United States. The ticket lost both the Catholic and the Italian-American vote.
Both Cuomo père et fils approach the issue of abortion as political animals, and their support for abortion on demand was and is driven by Democratic party politics.
The younger Cuomo’s op-ed is a bumbling political effort to tie the pro-life movement to Trumpism and—astonishingly—to argue that the Catholic Church he claims to identify with is part of evangelicalism’s faded religious right. It is also an attempt to wave away the prominent critiques of his legislation by numerous Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Father John Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame. Unlike his father, the governor is prone to public pratfalls.
Mario Cuomo’s central argument, in his famous speech at the University of Notre Dame, was that while he was personally opposed as a Catholic to abortion on moral grounds—indeed, he averred, he and his wife Matilda would never abort a pregnancy—he had no right to impose his personal religious views on a pluralistic society. His son Andrew’s underlying argument mimics his father’s: that “religious values” should not “drive political decisions.” This both distorts Catholic arguments against abortion, which are based in common human dignity rather than specifically Christian revelation, and draws an incoherent line between values and politics—one that Andrew Cuomo rightly stepped over when he recently stated that the death penalty was “a stain on our conscience” and that he stood “in solidarity with Pope Francis” in opposing it.
Mario’s “personally-opposed-but” argument proved serviceable for a time for other Catholics running as Democrats for public office. But it did not prevent Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the first Catholic since the Kennedys to capture the Democratic nomination for president, from becoming the first Catholic presidential nominee to lose the Catholic vote, in 2004. That is because by then Mario’s argument had become transparently untenable….
When Mario was mulling a run for president himself, he welcomed jousting about abortion with reporters like myself. During one of several extended interviews, he told me that the whole issue was about personal liberty and quoted from a speech of his to solidify his point: “Only when liberty intrudes on another’s right, only when it does damage to another human being, only when it takes or hurts or deprives or invades may it be limited.”
“But surely abortion damages another human being,” I responded. His reply was typically coy: “Not everyone agrees when human life begins.”
Some weekends later, the governor called me at home with a proposition: The two of us would gather a panel of theologians to discuss ensoulment. His notion was that if we do not know when soul joins body, we cannot say that abortion destroys a human life.
“Come on Mario,” I said. “All you have to do is wait 266 days and see what you get. A human embryo does not become a dog or a cat.”
….Andrew Cuomo is more straightforward. His Reproductive Health Act removed even the few protections Roe allowed unborn human beings. After gleefully celebrating this legislative achievement, his only response to legitimate criticism can be that on this issue, he suspended his Catholic values in order to pursue his political goals. He seems to think that is an act of courage, but it is a dodge as transparently self-serving as his father’s “personal opposition” to abortion.
Read entire story here.