The National Catholic Review

With the nation still reeling over the revelations of infanticide and assorted grotesqueries that emerged during the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia last month and bucking a national trend of legislative encroachments against broad abortion rights, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced the Women’s Equality Act on June 4, new state legislation he championed as a measure to ensure that New York remains “the equality capital of the nation.”

“We passed marriage equality,” said Cuomo. “Let’s make history again and let’s pass a women’s equality act in the state of New York.” The act’s 10-point plan toward women’s equality includes measures, among others, to equalize pay between men and women and combat sexual harassment, human trafficking and housing and pregnancy discrimination. But it also includes a measure to “protect a women’s freedom of choice” because “it’s her body, it’s her choice,” the governor repeated three times, introducing that component of the act.

The governor is now set on a course toward an epic confrontation with the state’s leading Catholic prelate, N.Y. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who previously promised Cuomo that he would do all in his power to prevent an expansion of abortion rights in New York. Last month Dolan said the N.Y. church would be as "vociferous and rigorous as possible" in its opposition to broadened abortion rights in the state. “I am in a bit of consternation as to why in a time when there seems to be kind of a sobering up about these horrors of the unfettered access to abortion, why in New York we are talking about even expanding it further,” Dolan said

Proponents say the measure is warranted to codify existing Supreme Court law to protect a woman’s right to obtain an abortion “prior to viability, or when necessary to protect her life or health,” ensuring that “New York’s laws are consistent with the law of the land.” The changes include a guarantee of the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks gestation and beyond in the case of fetal nonviability or threats to a woman’s health, including, controversially, her “emotional health.” Right to life groups worry that extention could make New York the go-to state for late-term abortions, procedures which the Gosnell case brought to national attention. Critics of late-term abortion point out the only difference between Gosnell's infanticide and a legal late-term abortion is the location of the fetus—in-utero or ex-utero—when it is terminated by the attending physician.

In a statement issued soon after Governor Cuomo’s presentation of the act, the bishops of New York expressed their support for nine components “that enhance the true dignity of women.” But they described themselves “profoundly distressed” by the act’s 10th point on freedom of choice, a measure they charge “would ease restrictions in state law on late-term abortion and runs the serious risk of broadly expanding abortion access at all stages of gestation.”

“This legislation,” the bishops wrote, “would add a broad and undefined ‘health’ exception for late-term abortion and would repeal the portion of the penal law that governs abortion policy, opening the door for non-doctors to perform abortions and potentially decriminalizing even forced or coerced abortions. In addition, we find the conscience protection in the bill to be vague and insufficient, and we are concerned about the religious liberty of our health facilities.”

During a press conference after the act’s introduction, Cuomo said, “I understand and respect the opinion of people who disagree with this bill," but he insisted that the "codifying" of Roe v. Wade did not extend the state's abortion rights, but merely "affirms a right to an abortion."

The governor said, "I have total respect for the Catholic Church and I have total respect for their position. I’ve spoken to them about it at length. I’ve also been informed that the Catholic Church supports nine out of ten of the provisions of the Women's Equality Act, which is pretty good. When we get 90 percent on most of the initiatives, I’d be very happy. I understand the disagreement on one of the items, but I respect and appreciate the support on nine out of ten."

And that 10th point is already under attack by GOP members of the Republican-controlled state senate, who suggest that it be withdrawn and the other nine “equality” points put to vote. The act is likely to pass unaltered in the state’s assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, but even among some Democrats, the abortion measure was drawing fire.

“Governor Cuomo stated that he is looking for consensus, and we have that on the first nine points of his proposal,” said Kristen Day, the executive director of Democrats for Life of America. “The abortion language is divisive, controversial, and unnecessary. The only purpose it serves is to scuttle passage of a bill to advance women’s rights. The governor should not put the demands of the abortion industry above good legislation to promote, protect, and support women.” According to Day, the abortion clause could thwart the act's passage, just as similar pro-choice language doomed the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

Day added that there is little to suggest that New York suffers from too narrow an appreciation of abortion rights. She noted that New York rates are almost double the national average, that 33 percent of pregnancies in New York end in abortion, and that nationally, one of out of every ten abortions are performed in New York. “Further,” she writes, “93 percent of New York women already have an abortion facility in their county.”

She charged that the current abortion proposal “contains measures that are directly antithetical to the goals and values of many of the groups who have announced their support for the Women’s Equality Act.

“Supporters and clients of battered women’s shelters and other anti-violence groups may be surprised or even shocked to know that the current draft of the [Reproductive Health Act] would eliminate heightened penalties for an assault against a pregnant woman that results in the death of her unborn child,” she wrote. “Advocates against human trafficking may not be aware that the current version of the RHA virtually eliminates the possibility of requiring parental notification and regulating the transport of minors across state lines to obtain an abortion, which makes it more difficult to identify and prosecute pimps and other sex traffickers.”

Cardinal Dolan promised Cuomo months ago when the “freedom of choice” measure was initially proposed that the archdiocese would do its utmost to prevent its passage in the state legislature. In a January letter, he appealed to Cuomo to reconsider his support of that specific element of the act: “As we have discussed in the past, we obviously disagree on the question of the legality of abortion, but surely we are in equally strong agreement that the abortion rate in New York is tragically high. There was a time when abortion supporters claimed they wanted to make abortion ‘safe, legal, and rare.’ Yet this measure is specifically designed to expand access to abortion, and therefore to increase the abortion rate. I am hard pressed to think of a piece of legislation that is less needed or more harmful than this one.”

But Cuomo defended the necessity of the measure in an op-ed piece. He wrote: “In 1970, New York was one of the first states to decriminalize abortion. Three years later, in Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court held that the United States Constitution protects the right of a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy prior to fetal viability or throughout pregnancy when it is necessary to preserve her life or health. This has been the nation’s law established by the Supreme Court for the last 40 years.

“The law in New York, however, was not amended after Roe, making it outdated and inconsistent with federal law. The Women’s Equality Act codifies in state law the reproductive rights afforded by Roe….Contrary to the opposition’s assertion, this language in no way expands abortion rights but only codifies federal law. This is important because the Supreme Court could change in compositions, or opinion, and New York works to protect women’s right to choose.”

It is perhaps worth noting that while Cuomo argues that New York needs to update its laws to reflect changes that have occurred since Roe vs. Wade was issued, what he has not updated is the general understanding of fetal viability. The plan retains the 24-week cutoff included in Roe despite decades of advances in neonatal care that have lowered the viability threshold. Day, of Democrats for Life, reported in March that Cuomo was informed of such advances by physicians who visited him to lobby on behalf of the rights of “preemies.” Doctors told Cuomo then that in a politics-aside consideration of fetal viability, if a mother’s health is at risk at 24 weeks and beyond, “doctors can and should deliver her baby instead of aborting it,” wrote Day. She added that the doctors told Cuomo “after 24 weeks, nothing — and especially not terms as broadly permissive as emotional and psychological health — should justify ending a preemie’s life.”


Michael Barberi | 6/13/2013 - 6:51pm

J Cosgrove,

Anyone who has the mindset of Pelosi, where abortion for any reason and at any time is a decision of an individual Catholic conscience is an extreme position and is one of the problems when it comes to voting for politicians. In should be noted that People like Nancy Pelosi often have similar positions on a host of other social and sissues. As a Catholic, I would not vote for a Nancy Pelosi because of her position on a host of issues, including abortion. However, she gets elected based on a majority of her electorate which includes Catholics and people of different faiths.

Catholic social ethics teaches us that as long as a Catholic does not agree with the politician's position on abortion which is in tension with the Church's teaching, they can vote for the politician based on a host of other important issues. The Church does not provide explicit guidelines in its social teachings just principles and general guidelines allowing Catholics to make a decision of conscience..

Certainly, this means that some politicians who only support abortion to save the life of the mother is much different from a politician that supports abortion for any reason. Unless there are good and proportionate reasons to vote for a politician, weighting all issues that are important to the voter, should a Catholic vote for a politician, in particular politicians who favor abortion for any reason. Some Catholic will not vote for a politician if their position on abortion is in tension with Catholic teachings. For others, it may mean that they will vote only for politicians that limit abortion to save the life of the mother because of other issues are both important and proportionate.While other Catholics will weigh other important issues and vote for a politician regardless of the politician's position on abortion.

If you question why there are negative injunctions and prohibitions for sexual ethical issues, but only general guidelines and principles for social ethical issues, then you hit on the problematic between the moral method utilized for social and sexual ethics in Catholic teachings. For many Catholics, theologians and clergy certain sexual ethical teachings should be balanced with guidelines and general principles and leave the decision to the informed conscience of Catholics. The justification is that we are individuals who live in community and are in relations with others. We are social beings and we give meaning to our actions in relationships. Actions have no meaning by themselves. The agent gives his/her action meaning by his/her motivation, goal and intention. Thus, there is a profound disagreement within the RCC over deontology (absolute norms regardless of circumstances) and a virtue ethics grounded in the person integrally and adequately considered. There is room for both and this is the issue that devices the Church.

To emphasize, voting is not the same thing as endorsing abortion for any reason, nor does it mean that the Catholic is anti-life for voting based on proportionate reasons. To ignore these distinctions is to misrepresent the Church's social ethical teachings.

J Cosgrove | 6/13/2013 - 9:19pm


Thank you for your remarks. Actually for me abortion is not the deciding factor between one party and the other and I rarely comment on it. I came across Pelosi's comments today and they were so outrageous, that I posted the link. I was one of the first commenters on this thread mainly because I live in New York and have followed what the Democrats have been building for Cuomo.

It seems that for many here, abortion is paramount. It certainly something that my wife and I discuss a lot, mainly the hypocrisy of those who defend the Democrats somehow on the issue. Rather than get into specifics for myself, just say I can find no reason to support the Democratic party on anything they espouse which means that anyone running as a Democrat is ethically challenged at best. A lot of Republicans are seriously challenged too but less so on policy.

I find the morals of the Democratic Party at best amoral, they are openly hostile to religion, their supposed interest in the little guy or the poor just posturing, their economic programs counter productive for nearly everyone except some favored groups (and they are not the poor) and dangerous on national defense issues. In all these issues the greater good drives my attitudes. I am sure that a large majority here will think I am deluded but I have no trouble defending any of my positions.

So divorcing the politician from the party is not feasible to me because by choosing a political party, the politician has made a choice and we are determined by our choices. I understand your argument about separating the person from a party's particular policy except that there is no way it can apply to the Democratic Party which is amoral on several fronts. I am trying to be honest on this and I realize that this will get some of the troops riled up.

Michael Barberi | 6/13/2013 - 10:32pm

J Cosgrove,

Thanks for your further comments, they are helpful.

Just to be clear, I have always been an conservative Republican, then became a moderate Republican. Today, I am an Independent because I think the Republican party has drifted away from its core values while some values have not changed with the times. I don't the Republican party is paying enough attention to the poor and many Republicans are far too right for me.

I was never a Democrat but I do endorse some Democratic ideas albeit with modifications. There are some politicians in each party that are closer to the so-called "middle". I did like the movement of Clinton in his second term to a "centrist position". He accomplished a lot of good things despite his moral imperfections (e.g., the Luinski affair...spelling?). He is not perfect, but he balanced the budget, created a surplus, instituted welfare reform, among other things.

I am totally against Cuomo his expanded abortion legislation. I understand and respect the decisions of Catholic as long as they are for proportionate reasons for voting for one politician or another even if I would never vote for some of them. Both political parties and their extreme left and right factions, make decision-making difficult and complicated. However, I am against calling a Catholic, explicitly or by implication, who votes for "any Democrat" an anti-life person because he/she is not fighting for the unborn. They are neither unfaithful or seriously mislead if they abide by the Church's social ethical teachings. I think it is being somewhat contradictory to say that voting for any Republic is a being a good Catholic because most Republicans endorse abortion to save the life of the mother. Are we talking of the lesser of two evils here? Where is the lesser evil? Does not the Church believe that terminating a pregnancy for any reason or to save the life of the mother equally immoral?

I will vote for a politician who is pro-life or in favor of abortion to save the life of mother provided that his/her position on other important issues are within reason my social ethical beliefs. In other words, I am comfortable to have reached an informed and sound philosophical and theological decision of conscience on most issues, while I remain open to further education and change of heart. Nevertheless, I find very few politicians who agree with all Catholic teachings. Additionally, very few politicians have positions that are in complete agreement with all of my social ethical positions as well. It is important to be clear about what I am saying: there are many politicians that I would never vote for. As mentioned, one of them is Pelosi and the other is Cuomo.

I can divorce many politicians from the party because many politicians don't follow the party platform. Many of them have varying positions on abortion especially many of the moderate/conservative Democrats. If you are living in NY, I can understand how a Catholic might never vote Democratic. However, what is happening in NY is not universal across the U.S.

Frankly, I don't like what I see in U.S. politics today. Fortunately, I can vote. But with religious pluralism in this country, it is naive to believe that abortion per se (e.g., Roe versus Wade) will be reversed anytime soon. In the meantime, most Catholics don't believe that abortion to save the life of the mother i(e.g. the Phoenix case) is unethical and immoral. That is an issue dividing the Church.

I hope my comments have been helpful. Catholic social teachings provide some latitude for Catholics who vote for politicians who are pro-choice as long as they are not voting for a politician because they believe in abortion for any reason and they have proportionate reasons for making voting decisions.

J Cosgrove | 6/14/2013 - 10:58am


This is not the place to go into a long discussion of the two political parties. I assume that you and I share a lot in common in terms of what we believe and what we hope for in terms of our families and society. I also assume that is true for many here who support the Democratic party (but certainly not all from reading this site for the last 2/12 years.)

Basically, the Democratic party's policies are based on an incongruent set of goals. And because they are incongruent they advocate policies that will not work because they violate basic human nature/natural law. This eventually leads to very dysfunctional outcomes when the policies are implemented. Interesting, the Jesuits who have been big on the natural law have abandoned it in their policy proposals. That is why I sometimes say that the left wants to repeal the law of gravity in their recommendations.

On another OP where it is appropriate we can continue this discussion if you are interested.

Michael Barberi | 6/14/2013 - 2:04pm

J Cosgrove,

I think we have exhausted the discussion for this article, but have made good points. Indeed we both agree on many things and our hopes are likely similar for the Church and society. Both parties are imperfect and have been growing more incongruent for some time. In other words there is wide diversity and different views on many issues. Sometimes there is exaggeration and extreme views. As far as natural law is concerned, the truth is not out there to be read off from something intrinsic to the world. Aquinas's view of natural law was not the nonviolation or normativity of natural ends. Signing off until the next time.

Tim O'Leary | 6/10/2013 - 10:12am

For those who would like to get a feel of how the Democratic Party supported slavery at the time of the birth of the Republican party, here is a link Note the Republican party platform stated the following: "It is the duty of Congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery."

The Democrats used "pro-choice" words even then, but it was for the states, described as "popular sovereignty" and they vowed to resist the anti-slavery agitation. They held political rallies in Philadelphia when the Republican convention was going on there. There was certainly no consensus on the injustice of holding other human beings as disposable property, but the radical abolitionists (mostly religiously motivated) were on the side of the angels. A rallying cry was "Free Speech. Free Press. Free Soil. Free Men." Lincoln came in second this year but won 4 years later. In 1856, the Irish immigrants were mostly for slavery (very sad to say) and were uniformly Democrat as they didn't want labor competition (they put economic benefit over the human dignity of others). The bishops and priests mostly stayed out of the controversy.

History is repeating itself, with a geographical reversal. The pre-born are now treated as property that can be disposed of, for any reason. If all prolifers joined one party, and kept this the defining issue, we would see change in our lifetimes. But, as in 1856, appeasement and accommodation are the enemy of justice. At least the clergy are doing a better job now (but still not enough, in my opinion).

Michael Barberi | 6/10/2013 - 4:41pm

Tim -- This will be my final comment (note my reply to you today below as well).

Your example that the Democratic party in the 19th century was for slavery, and now in the 21st century the Democratic party is for abortion exaggerates the issue about voting for individual political candidates. The Church does not teach that Catholics should never vote for a Democratic politician regardless of his pro-choice position because of the Democratic party's platform position on abortion. I will not repeat my reply to you today, but the issues I mentioned refute any blanket condemnation of anyone who would vote for a Democrat. It is wrong-headed and not nuanced by careful distinctions and definitions and the use of proportionate reasons which must be understood.

For that matter Tim, the Church supported slavery for centuries and only in 1891 did the pope finally condemn the practice per se, (e.g., just and unjust slavery). Today we have many teachings proclaimed as truth that will be hopefully reformed in the future, God willing. However, to call for all Catholics to restrict their voting to only Republican candidates because the Democratic party "platform" is pro-choice is absurd and not in line with Catholic social ethics.

Tim O'Leary | 6/11/2013 - 12:02am

Michael - you seem determined to exonerate anyone for voting for a pro-abortion Democrat. That has been the emphasis of your many comments below. You never suggest how to defend the unborn, just the supporters of pro-abortion Democrats. Cuomo will gets lots of "Catholics" to vote for him, no matter how anti-life he rules. Especially if he sends Government money their way. And he knows it. I bet there were many people who said they abhored slavery but never lifted a finger to stop it too.

Bill Freeman | 6/9/2013 - 11:23pm

Cuomo vs Dolan. Hands down, Cuomo. He speaks for current day catholic.

Michael Barberi | 6/9/2013 - 4:02pm

Tim O'Leary,

Abortion is a human rights issue, a moral issue and a civil issue. However, you seem to be narrowing the discussion of abortion to voting for a political party instead of voting for a politician.

As a human rights issue, there is no consensus when human life begins and has rights.

Any decision of the Supreme Court, by necessity, must not take religious arguments into consideration. They cannot favor one religious point of view over another. Granted Tim, the right to an abortion for any reason is horrific. I believe that the law should change. However, we are talking about Catholic guidelines for voting for a politician whose position on abortion is in tension with the Church's teaching. Even if we narrowing define abortion as a human rights issue, and not a religious or moral issue, then we must deal with the civil issue in a pluralistic U.S. society.

Keep in mind that not all Democrats are Catholic and not all Catholics believe in the interpretation of abortion that the Church teaches. In other words, non-Catholic Christian and Jewish politicians and many Catholics believe that terminating a pregnancy in certain circumstances is not immoral. This is existential reality.

Cardinal Ratzinger has already given Catholics guidelines for voting for politicians whose positions on abortion are in tension with Church teachings. In no uncertain terms does the Church profess that Catholics should not vote for a Democratic candidate because their party has a certain platform on abortion, or for a specific Democrat who has a position in tension with the Church's teachings. I will not repeat my previous explanations of this issue.

As to your reference to slavery, I agree that some laws should be changed including abortion. However, even if the law is eventually changed to allow abortion only if the mother's life is threatened or in cases on rape and incest, the law would continue to be in tension with Catholic teachings. However, this would be unrealistic because the majority of U.S. citizens (at the moment) have different points of view, some religious and non-relgious, where abortion is plagued by the fact that most people believe that a human life with rights does not start with fertilization. The other contentious issue is one of free will, sometimes called a woman's right to choose. Many women believe that they have free will and a right to choose, or not, to have an abortion. The question is not a moral one, but a civil or legal one: does the US Constitution deny women the right to an abortion regardless of the reasons. So far, abortion is constitutional within certain guidelines. However, Cuomo is seeking to expand the guidelines to permit abortion if the mother's health is at risk, which could mean anything.

I hope we can both agree that the abortion law should change. However, I hope you can also see that calling for Catholics not to vote for any Democratic candidate solely because his party's platform on abortion is in tension with the Church's teaching is unreasonable and unrealistic from a human rights, moral or civil law point of view.

Tim O'Leary | 6/10/2013 - 9:31am

Michael - As to the guidance from the CDF, the letter you site is about the circumstances for refusing Holy Communion to publically pro-abortion politicians (notably saying that support of abortion and euthanasia are self-excommunicating whereas support for capital punishment is not - an evident hierarchy). However, in the note at the bottom, it still says that voting for a pro-abortion candidate "is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons." Note the word "can", which depends on what the proportionate means are. One had better have very serious reasons for voting for an abortion candidate! Could economic issues or other civil rights issues outweigh the killing of millions?

As regards the "no consensus" on when human life begins, there was no consensus on the slavery issue in the 1800s either. That does not free one from following one's conscience and opposing an injustice now. Millions are dying while many Catholics use "proportionate means" (when they even bother to think about it) to vote for Kerry, Pelosi, Cuomo etc. - all who support partial birth abortion!

Michael Barberi | 6/10/2013 - 4:04pm

Tim -- I am happy you noticed that voting for a politician candidate who is pro-choice is considered remote material cooperation and for proportionate reasons voting for such a candidate is not sinful. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a specific article in the 1990s on voting, material cooperation and the use of proportionality. He did not give explicit guidelines concerning proportionality as in the merits of other issues that define the candidate (e.g., a host of issues). When it comes to social ethics, the Church provides guidelines and principles and leaves the agent free to apply them. They rarely provide specifics because of the infinite number of circumstances associated with social issues and human experience.

Clearly, some Catholics will not vote for a candidate who is pro-choice (even if abortion is defined to save the life of the mother, not for any reason). Others will look to a host of other issues that define the candidate, and apply proportionate reasons to make a decision of conscience (emphasis-added). The moral method the Church uses for its social ethics, is very different from the deontological method it uses for sexual ethics. Voting is a social ethical issue.

What your comments imply is that any definition of abortion is immoral in your opinion (which is also the Church's position). However, the majority of Catholics don't think terminating a pregnancy in certain circumstances (e.g., to save the life of the mother) is immoral. I gave you the example of the Phoenix case because that was a great example where even the most orthodox of theologians and clergy disagree with the Church's moral position about what constitutes "direct and indirect" abortion. Given these circumstances, for many Catholics there are legitimate philosophical and theological reasons that support a right judgment of conscience. I would caution against a "we versus them" mentality, meaning that a Catholic is either "for or against abortion" without adequate clarification.

My point is this Tim: When it comes to voting, your informed decision of conscience using proportionate reasons, will not be someone else's informed decision of conscience using proportionate reasons. Therefore, to imply, even inadvertently, that somehow your decision is the right one and someone else's decision is not, is wrong-headed and not what the Church is teaching. Nevertheless, you are entitled to your opinion.

Rick Fueyo | 6/9/2013 - 12:20pm

Thaddeus Stevens, the original Tea Partier (although he is truly a Founding Father, but I digress). The twain shall meet - North is South,and South is North. A historical (ahistorical?) argument the equivalent of citing Jonah Golberg!

Bill Mazzella | 6/8/2013 - 10:15pm

Again, mostly Catholic men, who cannot become pregnant pontificating on a subject which has no backing in science. Just an obsession by clerics who denied that children were being abuses for over twenty years when the evidence was clear. They denied while certain priests group masturbated while a child was being abused. Except for fund raising practically the only time you hear from the archdioceses is to demand that one vote Republican because of abortion. Meanwhile the hypocrisy is flagrant. W Bush admitted that he would allow his child to have an abortion and Laura Bush is clear on her support for abortion. Hypocrisy is all over the place on this fraud issue. But don't forget to pitch in and make sacrifices to repair St Pats for 187 million bucks. We know where your hearts are.

Abortion the political football. The fraud issue. Usury anyone?

Tim O'Leary | 6/9/2013 - 11:44am

Bill - you just offer a bunch of excuses to avoid ending the atrocity.
"no backing in science" as if science had done a study to disprove the humanity of the unborn. In fact, science has shown that the adult human being is the same continuous being that existed pre-birth, with the same DNA all the way back to conception. Science is on the pro-life side. It is the pro-abortionists who fool themselves (when they bother to think about it at all) that personhood miraculously appears upon "quickening" or cutting of the umbilical cord, or even later (Princeton's Peter Singer).

"Catholic men...who cannot become pregnant" - are we to suppose that Northerners who weren't negatively impacted by abolishing slavery should have shut up about it and left it to the Southerners. But even your premise is wrong. You should know that many men support abortion as it justifies their increased promiscuity. Don't you know that women are disproportionately more pro-life than men, or that sex-selection abortion overwhelmingly kills girls?

As to hypocrisy, you reach its zenith by complaining about child abuse in the same sentence you defend their murder at an earlier age. Every new commentator on sexual child abuse should first state their position on Kermit Gosnell and Tiller (supported by Sebelius) and Obama's vote against the "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act" - just to make plain they really care about the children and aren't just using them to argue for religious change.

Again, if you go back to the fight to abolish slavery, you will see that many across the religious and political spectrum made similar excuses to avoid dealing with the issue. Many times they complained that the abolitionists wheren't consistent enough, or had other faults, or couldn't understand that slavery was a necessary evil. But it was the Democrats who actively promoted slavery, in their speeches and in their laws, and in their political platforms. Evil from the beginning.

Michael Barberi | 6/8/2013 - 5:01pm

Tim O'Leary,

This supplements my reply today to you. Below is an article about Ratzinger's guidelines for voting. Note specifically what he says, namely in paraphrase, that if a voter does not fully agree with a candidate's position on abortion but believes the merits of other issues that the politician hold outweighs his position on abortion, then voting for such candidate would not be sinful.

Cardinal Ratzinger lays out principles on denying Communion, voting for politicians who support abortion, as long as they are voting for that candidate ... Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of ...

Tim O'Leary | 6/9/2013 - 12:23pm

Michael - abortion is a human rights issue rather than a religious issue, just as slavery was. There were many reasons not to oppose slavery head-on in the nineteenth century, to appease the slave-owners, to keep the peace, to avoid economic collapse, to accommodate or excuse the injustice for other reasons, etc. I think you have even lamented that the Church (clerics and especially lay Catholics) was not sufficiently opposed to this great crime at all times. Well, the defining human rights issue of today is abortion, because of the shear magnitude of the killing. Let us not make the same mistake.

The Republican party is pro-life, but certainly not sufficiently so, and there are forces within it that try to weaken that faction. It would be more actively and effectively pro-life if every prolifer in the country joined that party and fought to strengthen the pro-life coalition within the party. In particular, they should keep punishing the Democrats at the polls by voting for the more pro-life candidate in every election. The Democratic Party has become so wedded to abortion that there is no near term hope of reforming it. This injustice will only be overcome if the Democrats are made to pay for their active promotion of abortion killing (in every way they can think of) at the polls. The Democratic party machine is constantly trying to confuse the issue, or distract prolifers, especially among gullible Catholics, and many on this blog have fallen for it. Even clerics have been fooled.

Fifty years from now, in this journal, we will have many dissenters say the Church did not speak out sufficiently while the children were being killed. They will be finding it hard to understand how people so overtly pro-abortion as Nancy Pelosi or Andrew Cuomo were not excommunicated. There will be charges of hypocrisy, or neglect. Will they be right?

Barbara Ricci | 6/8/2013 - 10:07am

Andrew Cuomo Should Be Excommunicated

Andrew Cuomo, should be excommunicated from the Catholic Church, he is a perfect example of what a Catholic/Christian should not be!

* Thou shall not kill, innocent babies.
* Killing American babies is the holocaust of America.
* Marriage is between a man and a woman, and even Catholic gays and homosexuals know that!
* Legalizing Gambling is deceiving New Yorkers and robbing their hard earned cash.

* It's a wonder that Andrew Cuomo's initials are AC, as in, Anti Christ!

* I have observed the Catholic Church excommunicate a woman from receiving the bread in church during mass, it's called the body of Christ! Why? Well, she divorced her husband who abused her and cheated on her with other woman.

* I have observed, on Christmas Eve mass, Timothy Dolan, say, during a packed house, if you are not a Catholic, you cannot receive the Body of Christ, as a young Christian Lutheran man and his Catholic girlfriend were present, and then, they walked out of Saint Patrick's in NYC with there heads down! I have to say, Timothy Dolan, made me see the light, my husband and I walked out with that young "Christian" couple on that cold Christmas Eve, and I never returned.

* I observed a Catholic Church, Our Lady of Victory in Mount Vernon, New York do many evil and shameful things throughout the years of being a Catholic, and now this disgrace.

There should be no conversation with Andrew Cuomo, the Catholic Church should openly and publicly denounce him by publicly excommunicating him from the Catholic Church! But wait, the Catholic Church doesn't even excommunicate priest that fondle little boys, they just move them around from church to church to fondle more little boys.

* I am ashamed of the men and woman behind the Catholic Church, I always thought they had a cold demeaner, and I never understood that because Jesus Christ is so lovingly and compassionate.

* I am a Christian, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, not these dirty priest who spend there weekends in Atlantic City, Gambling, drinking alcolhol, and being homosexuals, they're just so disgusting and perverted.

If the church claims that they represent Jesus Christ, then, they better start representing Him. I've seen and heard enough with these Catholic hippocrates, enough is enough.

We know that the Lobbyist, Politicians, Religions and many bogus Non-Profit Organizations, are controling our freedom and laws, but what they don't know is that Almighty God, is controlling the winds and the waves. I think, we should embrace ourselves for some mighty storms in the near future, I don't think we've seen nothing yet. God is angry, and he is going to wipe us out, very soon. Keep fulling those sand bags, but, they will do you no good! God will show us how to kill babies, not, Cuomo's way, no, God will show us His way!

The Jews are no better than the Catholics, they excommunicate Jews, for having a tatoo on their body, and refuse to bury Jews who have a tatoo in the Jewish Cemetery, but, Jews can pay "big bucks" to the Catholic Church "under the table" to bury their tatooed loved one there. How phony are ALL these religions?

Barbara Ricci, Publisher of The Westchester news

Michael Barberi | 6/7/2013 - 6:18pm

I think it is naive to claim that one political party reflects the teachings of the RCC. A political party may have a "platform" but few politicians inclusive of the President of the U.S., ever completely abide by the platform. If you poll politicians across the spectrum of moral issues of concern to the RCC you will not find one (or maybe only a few) that agree with all the teachings of the Church. This includes abortion.

Most politicians believe that abortion should be permitted to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape of incest. How is this acceptable to the RCC? Are we talking of the lesser of two evils where more egregious proposed legislation must be resisted for a one that is less evil?

The Cuomo bill is serious flawed because it permits abortion at any stage if the mother's "health" is at risk. What does "the mother's health is at risk" mean? Would too much pain satisfy a health risk; what about a necessary C-section because other health issues 'might' accompany it? Another question: What is meant by "abortion" if the mother's life is threatened? Does that mean that a viable fetus can be killed and not delivered and saved?

I admit that I am perplexed how we can link abortion to political parties as if one is superior to the other when it comes to voting for individual politicians whose positions on a host of issues are different from the so-called platform position. I ask: What is the message here when a politician is pro-life but for same-sex marriage? What if a politician is pro-choice but only believes that abortion should be permitted within 24 weeks and only if the mother's life is threatened? What if a politician is pro-life but is for gay and lesbian child adoption?

The above are examples that tell you that not one issue defines a politician and neither should one issue determine how one should vote for a politician. As Cardinal Ratzinger said, one must use proportionality in making these types of decisions. For some, this may boil down to one issue, but this is not normatively.

Tim O'Leary | 6/8/2013 - 12:32pm

Michael - there is a hierarchy of good and evil. The current abortion regime results in over 3,000 babies killed each day in America! That evil far outweighs one's position on many other issues. It is no doubt a far worse evil than slavery, and it is certainly worse to kill a child than have them adopted by an unfit adult. So, no matter how good the Democratic party is on other issues, whether it is the minimum wage, the speed of growth of welfare, or the ease of immigration, none of these issues can come near the absolute horror of abortion.

Party platforms outline the principles of the party. Of course, many in the political party give only lip service to the principles, or even disagree with them in part or whole. To rid evil one must often take allies where one finds them (as the abolitionists took the Whigs onboard to rid the nation of slavery). But, the Democratic platform actually endorses the evil of abortion. It promotes it. It tries to force abolitionists to participate in the evil procedures. It tries to force abolitionists to pay for abortions. It has recently even dropped the pretence that they want abortion to be "safe, legal and rare." So, I cannot see how anyone who believes abortion is killing a human being could ever vote to keep this regime in place. One becomes an accomplice of this great evil by voting for anyone who publically promises to keep the abortion regime in place. But only one party actually promotes this evil. Better never to vote for a Democrat than to soil one's own hands with the blood of the children.

Michael Barberi | 6/8/2013 - 4:09pm

Tim O'Leary -- You said "I cannot see how anyone who believes abortion is killing a human being could ever vote to keep this regime in place. One becomes an accomplice of this great evil by voting for anyone who publically promises to keep the abortion regime in place. But only one party actually promotes this evil. Better never to vote for a Democrat than to soil one's own hands with the blood of the children."

Like so many voters, I vote for the person, what the person has done and is expected to do, not the party for many politicians in each party do not abide by the so-called "platform". IMO, it is naive and wrong never to vote for any Democratic candidate "solely" because his party has a platform that is in tension with the Church teachings on abortion. I ask you Tim: If what you say is true, why is it not the official position of the RCC never to vote Democratic with all its intelligence in spinning words to avoid crossing the line into the politics? This is not what Cardinal Ratzinger said about voting for politicians. One can use proportionality and that means weighting imperfect positions on a host of good and evil issues. Of course, a hierarchy of values and virtues exist, but the application of this concept is not so evident and clear as you seem to think, even when life is at stake.

Consider the issue of safe-guarding your life in the common case where a young mother with existing children is told that another pregnancy will be life-threatening. To exercise her prudential and moral judgment in choosing the most securest means to safe-guard her life (as well as her marriage), namely sterilization, is "immoral" in the eyes of the RCC! To anyone's sense of virtue and values, in this case the Church's position is in contradiction to the hierarchy of values. Most recently I asked by parish priest about this, and he told me it would not be immoral to be sterilized in this case.

Consider the VP debate in the last election. When it came to abortion, each candidate's position was clearly in violation of RCC teachings. Each one had a different position than their party's platform.

I agree that some political candidates have extreme positions on abortions (e.g., abortion for any reason, at any time, regardless of circumstances, etc). In such cases, I would like to believe that most Catholics would not vote for such a candidate despite surveys that say that 40% of Catholics who attend weekly Mass believe that you can be a good Catholic without obeying the Church teaching on abortion. In 2007, the late Dean Hoge of CUA conducted a survey of Catholics by age cohort. The percent of Catholics saying it is always morally wrong to terminate pregnancy by abortion ranged from 34% to 55% based on age cohort. What these surveys mean is that most Catholics believe there are exceptions to terminating a pregnancy, like when the mother's life is threatened. It does not mean that most Catholics believe in abortion on demand for any reason.

Surveys don't mean that a teaching is wrong. Far from it. However, the term abortion must be distinguished and clarified before one makes a blanket statement. If your remarks were focused on the Church's teaching, without exceptions, then one is entering into a very complex moral dilemma and historic dispute (e.g, the morality of the Phoenix case where there is a moral disagreement, even among the most orthodox of theologians and clergy, over the definition of "indirect and direct" abortion). Your remarks do not seem to give any weight to these complex issues.

Make not mistake about what I am saying. I am not for abortion per se. However, I do believe there are circumstances where terminating a pregnancy would not be immoral.

Rick Fueyo | 6/7/2013 - 2:59pm

This is getting beyond abortion, which was the subject of Mr. Clarke’s thread. But this statement reveals bad faith or historical ignorance, given that the racialism basically switched parties this century – witness Strom Thurmond’s switch.

“The Democratic Party is as much pro-abortion now as it was pro-slavery in the nineteenth century. A question to contemplate is why this has happened again. Is there a more fundamental principle that ties these two atrocities together?”

No intellectually honest or serious person would make this argument.

As far as wealth, the holdings of office holders are irrelevant – it is the desire to oppress the masses which is at issue.

Tim O'Leary | 6/7/2013 - 7:40pm

Rick - you seem blind to the history. The reason the Republican party was founded was to gather together an anti-slavery coalition, which consisted of "radical" abolitionists (mostly religiously motivated), the Free Soil Party (no expansion of slavery beyond current states) and the Whigs (against slavery for its negative economic impact on labor). The second moral position the Republican founders took was defense of monogamy (look at the 1856 party platform). Today, the Republican party is a coalition of radical abolitionists on abortion (& defenders of traditional marriage - again mostly religiously motivated), those for limited government, and those for strong law and order (at home and abroad).

My comparison stands. It is ridiculous to think that the Republican party is primarily motivated by a 'desire to oppress the masses." How could that motivate all the pro-lifers to vote for them? Where does the defense of marriage result in economic benefit. Check your own honesty the next time you look in the mirror. It is a convenient self-delusion to think the good guys switched parties, unless you think abortion is a good.

Neither party is without fault, to be sure. But the Democrats (as in the 1800s) have an idea of human welfare that is markedly against a basic human right. And they have been there before. Why is that so?

Tim O'Leary | 6/6/2013 - 6:28pm

It is really no defense to excuse the Democrats by blaming the other party for favoring the rich. Few Democrats leave office poorer than when they were elected. And their political ranks (7 of the top 10 richest in Congress are Democrats) and their most prominent supporting groups (Planned Parenthood, Media, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, even Wall Street) are filled with plutocrats.

The Democratic Party is as much pro-abortion now as it was pro-slavery in the nineteenth century. A question to contemplate is why this has happened again. Is there a more fundamental principle that ties these two atrocities together? And why did so many Catholics, now and then, go along with each atrocity?

Rick Fueyo | 6/6/2013 - 10:25am

Do any of the links contain a substantive analysis as to what precisely the law will change with respect to access to abortion? If not, is anyone aware of any such analysis, especially when it is done as objectively as possible?

Risk of engaging the troll bait that this space has tried to eliminate of late, at least my reading, I do protest the characterization of the Democratic Party as having abortion as a sine qua non. This ground has been plowed before, and he got very plowed, but many of us have equal reservations as to how someone with a Catholic mindset can support the other party, who sine qua non appears to be a preferential option for the wealthy and powerful, and policies intending to establish at the first of the first and the last shall be last

Thomas Rooney OFS | 6/6/2013 - 10:55am

@ Rick, I agree to a point. I am not beholden to the GOP at all; the Republicans would do well to heed the recent words and warnings of Pope Francis regarding the pursuit of wealth, waste and the poor.

However, to pretend an 100% pro-choice position is not a litmus test for advancement as a player within the DNC is naive. Abortion that is "safe, rare, and legal" has been removed from the DNC platform. Groups like Democrats for Life are ostracized, given no voice whatsoever within the party, and are dying out. But neither party has an interest in seeing the abortion issue resolved in any meaningful way. It is a wedge issue, red meat to throw to either party's base.

For a Catholic wishing to vote in accordance with his/her conscience and beliefs, there is no good viable choice in American politics, in my opinion.

Rick Fueyo | 6/7/2013 - 3:31pm

“Other independent ratings include a 29% rating in 2003 from NARAL, the abortion pro-choice group,[11] and a 57% rating from Planned Parenthood in 2006.[12]
Reid has spearheaded several initiatives while in Congress. In 2006, Reid co-sponsored the "Prevention First Amendment" with Hillary Clinton, which would fund abortion prevention efforts, such as giving women broader access to contraception; however the bill faced Republican opposition and failed”
So the record is a bit more mixed than conveyed.
I would submit that some of the extremes from the pro-choice/abortion side that are currently occurring, which may be an appropriate characterization of what Gov. Cuomo is proposing (I have yet to look up the particulars, and I never opine on the effect of the bill without knowing more), may be a predictable if misguided reaction to some of the extremes from the converse that dotted the last election cycle, which unmasked a not insubstantial plurality of the pro-life movement as being more misogynistic and deeply lizard brained about female sexuality than concerned about “life”
I truly think Pope Francis may do more for the Pro-Life cause than seen before. I have often commented that the Church’s moral authority is deeply diminished when it comes across as so authoritarian and concerned with its own power. That tends to drown out the very valid arguments about the life that is a pregnancy, because it gets immersed in the push to define gender roles that leaves women as little more than the proverbial “tokos” or bearer.

J Cosgrove | 6/6/2013 - 1:12pm

Mr. Rooney,

I believe you have a Nook reader. David Carlin's book, "Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?," is now available for the Nook. I have read it a couple times and there is a full discussion of abortion in it but he goes beyond abortion to discuss the secular anti Christian message of the Democratic Party and its effect on American society. However, I believe he misses some other negatives about the Democratic Party. Here is the link for the book and for those with a Kindle, there is a Kindle version:

If you believe that the Democratic Party has been the party that helps the poor then you might want to read "Losing Ground" by Charles Murray which documents all the harm that government policies have done to for the underclass in the US after the Great Society policies were introduced. The book was written in the early 80's and is considered the book that forced welfare reform which Clinton eventually signed. It is also now available for the Nook and the Kindle. Here is the Nook link.

I personally do not find any policy by the Republican party that harms the poor. In fact I believe it is just the opposite. The so called drastic cuts by the Ryan Budget had more social welfare funding in it then the last budget by Bill Clinton who said his budget was more than enough. The Republican party is a champion of the free market and not necessarily big business, a lot of which is rent seeking or crony capitalism. The free market has helped the poor all over the world more than any single economic approach devised by man. I am certain many will disagree with this but many here support the free market as we saw with the recent article by Stacie Beck. Hopefully, the more we can discuss things and examine those critical of the many policies put forward, we can come to a better understanding of what works and doesn't work.

Thomas Rooney OFS | 6/6/2013 - 2:57pm

@JR, good memory, I do indeed have a Nook! I will check out both offerings you mentioned. I 100% agree that discussion is the way to more forward, regardless of political ideology.

Frank Gibbons | 6/6/2013 - 11:44am


I don't think that we can limit the charge of "the pursuit of wealth" and "waste" to Republicans There are many Democrats both in and out of government who live lives of conspicuous consumption.

J Cosgrove | 6/6/2013 - 9:39am

Cuomo has been chosen by the Democratic elite to run for president a long time ago. I know that Hillary is supposedly the choice at the moment as she was in 2007 but Cuomo is who they want as Hillary will be almost 70 in 2016. That is why Governor Paterson was trashed by the NY Times for going to a Yankee game. The blind governor accepted a ticket to a baseball game and was to use the common expression, thrown under the bus to make room for Cuomo. That was the main excuse for him not running again. He also defended one of his aides in something that would ordinarily have been ignored. So this story is best understood in terms of Cuomo's political ambitions and Democratic Party politics.

Abortion is the sine qua non of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has lots of other things wrong with it for Catholics but how Catholics can delude themselves into thinking otherwise is beyond me. My guess is that we will see a litany of complaints about Dolan to minimize the effect on Cuomo from this story. See if they try to turn Dolan into the ogre on this.

Also there is a new expression for our press. It is to Gosnell a story. It means to suppress a story that is inconvenient to the Democrats by not covering it. Could you imagine a similar story connected to Republicans that would be this hidden from the public the way the Gosnell trial was.

Thomas Rooney OFS | 6/6/2013 - 8:56am

The positioning of the abortion "codification" within the Womens' Equality Act was calculated. The discomfort consistent-ethic-of-life supporters from NY like myself feel when confronted with abortion expansion (and come on, know it does) being counted amongst 9 other excellent and needed corrections in NY law towards women is not negligible. By doing so, Mr. Cuomo may characterize those who must oppose the WEA based on the late-term abortion exopansion inclusion as narrowminded partisans who care nothing for womens' rights.

Well played, Mr. Cuomo. Gosnell-esque clinics will be popping up all over the state, over time. You'll likely be running for Senator or President by then, so I guess it really wouldn't be your problem anymore.

Michael Barberi | 6/5/2013 - 9:37pm

I am perplexed. What is the difference between abortion and delivering the fetus when the fetus is viable? Does this mean that doctors can kill the viable fetus and not deliver it into life as we know it?

ron chandonia | 6/5/2013 - 8:24pm

You begin, "With the nation still reeling over the revelations of infanticide and assorted grotesqueries that emerged during the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia last month . . . " But that is demonstrably untrue. The "nation" is not "reeling" over that story at all; in fact, few people even heard tell of it, and abortion supporters made certain whatever details made their way into the mainstream media were described as an aberration from the safe and sanitary practices at the local Planned Parenthood--and a warning of the dangers that would await women if anti-choicers succeed in bringing back the days of back-alley abortion mills.

Prominent among those abortion supporters were Catholics like the NY governor, who here describes the Catholic Church as "them" and our teachings as "their position." Yet the cardinal who is supposedly poised to take him on has already characterized this man as a Catholic "in good standing," so presumably it is sufficiently faithful for Catholics in public life to express "respect" for the position that infanticide is wrong while promoting policies to make it a legally enshrined public benefit.

Joshua DeCuir | 6/5/2013 - 5:05pm

Maybe it's time for a group of prominent Catholic academics/intellectuals to issue a public letter to Cuomo rebutting his proposals as contra-Catholic social teaching.

Gabriel Speciale | 6/14/2013 - 1:56pm

What about all those Catholics in public service who act contrary to CST with regard to the poor and economic issues? Who is going to talk about them? What letter will be issued? I guess more politically conservative minded Catholics just like to ignore that stuff and focus solely on abortion.

Bob Baker | 6/6/2013 - 11:59am

You won't find many in a Jesuit college or university to do it.

Bill Mazzella | 6/10/2013 - 10:33pm

Bob, The Jesuits might teach you something if you were open to listen.

Bob Baker | 6/11/2013 - 11:54am

I taught for a while in a Jesuit school. Not once did I see or hear a defense of the Magisterium, though it was under siege by the non-Catholic staff. A Jesuit priest apologizing for the Gospel reading, ignoring what is required to be worn to say Mass, and a dumbing-down of a curriculum to ensure student "success" are reasons why I left. They sure taught me something....

Jesuit education is a thing of the past.