Catholic Values Column: The Cuomo Quandary


Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill permitting abortion at any point in a pregnancy, including just before birth if it’s deemed in the best interests of the mother.

Now, Cuomo is a lot of things. He’s Italian, he’s a Democrat, he’s the son of a three-term former governor of the state. But most relevant to this discussion is the fact that Andrew Cuomo considers himself a practicing Catholic.

Really, a practicing Catholic? Cuomo has long been an advocate for same-sex marriage and so-called abortion rights that extend up to birth, both positions the Catholic Church categorically opposes. Yet he attaches himself to the Church for its political advantages, even manipulating its teachings to say they justify his actions on abortion.

Cuomo is what we can call a Machiavellian Catholic. Machiavelli, if you recall, began the horrendous downturn of modern political philosophy with his book “The Prince,” where he writes that it is harmful for leaders to observe religion but that it is still a useful tool to control the “vulgar” – his term for the common people; therefore, leaders should appear to have religious conviction and retain a mind “constructed in such a mode that when the need not to be (religious) arises, you can, and know how to, change to the contrary.”

In 1997, as secretary of housing and urban development, Cuomo handed out copies of “The Prince” to his staff and said, “This is my leadership philosophy.” It is no surprise then that he carries his belief in Machiavelli with him into the public sphere but not his alleged Catholic faith.

While it is problematic that one of the country’s most powerful politicians has taken up the so-called “Machiavellian Catholic” approach, it is of greater concern to realize that Cuomo is not the only one, by far.

Whether explicitly or not, politics in the United States has become full of people purporting to be Catholic who wield that label for their political agenda. Politicians such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have weaponized their Catholic faith to fit their agendas on immigration, criminal justice reform and the economy but conveniently thrown it by the wayside when issues pop up like marriage, the family and the protection of life from natural birth to natural death.

This advocacy of grave sin against the church’s central teachings on life and human sexuality puts these politicians in direct contradiction of the Church.

Canon 915 from the Church’s Code of Canon Law says that Catholics “persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion,” obliging ministers of the sacrament to deny it when appropriate. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that Catholic politicians formally cooperating in the “grave sin of abortion or euthanasia” violate Canon 915 because of the politicians’ consistent campaigning and voting for those evils. If they continue to do so after a warning, those politicians like Cuomo should be refused the sacrament.

Unfortunately, too many bishops have refused to follow these guidelines. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has notably refused to deny politicians Communion in the capital and Cuomo’s ordinary, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has dragged his feet in responding to Cuomo’s recent actions.

This inaction must come to an end. What message do we send to other Catholics if antithetical Catholics like Cuomo and Pelosi receive Communion from the princes of the Church?

We are currently in a moment of rebuilding and renewal in the Church. We don’t move past this by allowing fake Catholics to receive what we hold to be most holy; in doing so, we allow them to justify their actions and relativistic beliefs. From there, it’s just a domino effect into the abyss we’ve already fallen into.

Machiavellian Catholics who advocate for abortion and other issues intrinsically opposed to their faith must be reprimanded, especially politicians. They must be refused Holy Communion because their deliberate actions are removing them from communion with the rest of the Body of Christ. If they truly desire to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, they will repent and come back.

Until then, it is clear that Holy Communion is just a part of their superficial identity and not a reflection of their heart. Whether it is a refusal in the Communion line or a declaration of excommunication, our bishops must protect the sacraments. I pray the bishops will take appropriate actions and I pray that one day, Cuomo, Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez and any other Machiavellian Catholic come back in to the welcoming and merciful arms of the Savior and the fullness of communion with our beautiful faith.

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