Cuomo's Abortion Politics
While former Gov. Mario Cuomo seemed at least to struggle to balance his moral convictions and his political positions regarding abortion, his son, New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seems much more at home within the Democratic Party’s pro-choice encampment. That was never more clear than on June 4, when he introduced his Women’s Equality Act, a 10-point plan he championed as legislation to ensure that New York remains “the equality capital of the nation,” which he introduced with a spirited thrice-repeated incantation: “It’s her body; it’s her choice.”
Nine of the 10 measures are necessary and proper and have been endorsed by New York’s Catholic bishops. The 10th measure, the Reproductive Health Act, however, is morally indefensible and politically unnecessary. It offers a guarantee of unfettered access to an abortion until fetal viability, at 24 weeks—and beyond, depending on fetal and maternal health concerns, including emotional health. The measure sets Governor Cuomo on a collision course with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who has rightly promised to devote the church’s resources to resisting any expansion of abortion in the state. Mr. Cuomo argues that the measure clarifies state abortion rights, in case the 40-year-old Roe v. Wade decision is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But if it is passed, the measure promises to make New York the nation’s go-to state for late-term abortion procedures. New York, where nearly 40 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, is hardly troubled by too restrictive an abortion regime, so why the urgency? Local politicos propose that Governor Cuomo is deliberately seeking a confrontation with the church over abortion, even one he is likely to lose in the State Legislature, because it will get his name and pro-choice credentials in national circulation in plenty of time for the 2016 presidential election. We hope and pray that the pundits are wrong.
A Pope Without a Plan
Pope Francis’ recent address to several thousand children from Jesuit schools did not go quite as his audience expected. And that was fine with Francis. In fact, the change of plan was his idea. After greeting the crowd, Pope Francis ignored his five pages of prepared text in favor of taking impromptu questions from students and teachers.
In a world in which church leaders are sometimes seen as guarded or resistant to debate, the pope’s frank and open approach in this talk and in general has been widely welcomed. His comments from that day ricocheted throughout social media in a way that excerpts from lengthy, pre-written remarks rarely do. Perhaps he was following the very advice he gave to the school children: “We need to be magnanimous, with big hearts and without fear.” Francis is not afraid of being questioned, and this tendency is very much in line with a properly Catholic spirit of openness.
In speaking without notes, Pope Francis conveys an easy sense of authenticity. He is speaking from the heart about matters close to his heart. Through his open and encouraging nature, he embodies the way in which all of us are encouraged to let go of our own desires and embrace the freedom that comes with turning one’s entire self over to God, even when that means facing an uncertain future. Through his candor, Pope Francis has set an example for all Catholics to listen lovingly to questions and respond with charity and open, generous hearts.
Boulevard of Faith
Disneyland Paris is only two train stops away from Bussy-Saint-Georges, so it was inevitable that the new “Esplanade of Religions” in that suburb would draw comparisons with the tourist monolith. And on the surface, at least, the project seems rather like an Epcot of faith. When the project is completed, the town’s 100-year-old Catholic church will stand alongside a mosque, a synagogue and two Buddhist temples. The town’s mayor, Hugues Rondeau, hopes that the new city will be a “laboratory of dialogue.” Yet some town residents are skeptical, worried that their city will become a “religious supermarket.”
One might dismiss the project as a gimmick except for two important facts. First, the planned esplanade will represent the religious diversity of the town itself, which has grown from just a few hundred people to over 25,000, thanks to a new tide of immigration from China, Laos, North Africa and elsewhere. The project would also help create a home for the town’s small Jewish community, which began moving to Bussy-Saint-Georges in the 1990s.
A second reason for optimism is Mr. Rondeau, who is unusually articulate about the role his community could play in a country that is deeply skeptical of public displays of religion. “The ‘Esplanade of the Religions’ comes from my intuition that the state should not stand in the way of faith because of intransigent secularization,” Mr. Rondeau said. “The state must accompany religion to enable a kind of social peace.” The mayor fought to allow religious groups to purchase land in the planned city, which had been owned by the French government. It was a bold and refreshing move, given France’s own sacred devotion to laïcité.