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The Archbishop and the Governor

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan is greatly relieved that the pesky matter of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s unCatholic (at least for now) lifestyle is finally behind us.  The divorced Catholic governor has been very publicly living with his girlfriend and taking her to official events.  An advisor to the Vatican’s highest court, Edward Peters, had called for the denial of communion to Cuomo on the ground of his “public concubinage”—a perfectly reasonable interpretation of Catholic doctrine.  

The New York hierarchy, however, immediately closed ranks around Cuomo and brushed off this pesky Vatican busy-body.  The leader of the Albany diocese, Bishop Howard Hubbard, assured Cuomo and the world that the Church fathers would not dream of judging Cuomo’s domestic arrangements:

“There are norms for all Catholics about receiving communion and we have to be sensitive pastorally to every person in their [sic] own particular situation,” Bishop Hubbard said. 

Bishop Hubbard’s logic here is puzzling.  The very existence of  universal “norms for all Catholics” means that they apply to “every person” regardless of his “own particular situation.”    Not any more, it seems:

“When it comes to judging worthiness for communion, . . . it’s not something we comment on,” said Hubbard. 

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was even more dismissive of the silly idea of stigmatizing Cuomo for his out-of-wedlock relationship.  Cuomo had threatened to cancel a scheduled lunch with Dolan, possibly out of pique at the criticism of his “concubinage” emanating from distant Catholic redoubts. But then Cuomo magnanimously found time in his busy schedule for lunch with the assorted New York priests.  Dolan later reported that Cuomo’s living arrangements never came up, adding:

“Thank God it didn’t, because it was a bit of a tempest in a teapot . . . . We were just happy to be there, and he obviously was, too.”

Lots of jolliness all around, obviously.  Dolan joked that the best part of the fact that Cuomo rescheduled their meeting was that “We got lunch out of it.” 

(How the once fearsome power of the Church has shrunk!  King Phillip in Verdi’s Don Carlo complains that the “throne must always bow to the altar.”  Now the altar creeps up to the throne and is grateful for a few table scraps.) 

One of the core purposes of the “secular conservative” construct, in my view, is to show that traditional morality can be justified on secular grounds alone.   Divine revelation is not needed to argue for obedience to the law and respect for the rights of others.  (more…)


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