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Wednesday, May 5

The right to life doesn’t end at the moment of birth

John Kerry has been getting some flack from a few Catholic Bishops regarding his pro-choice stance on abortion. I feel that John Kerry ought to speak to Mario Cuomo.

Mario Cuomo was a Catholic Governor of New York State for 12 years. He gave an amazing speech about Religion and Public Policy back in 1984. Read it. He argued that as a politician in a pluralistic society where he is sworn to uphold the constitution, that he does have the right to advocate for certain Catholic values that the Church holds. He questions,
"But should I?  Is it helpful?  Is it essential to human dignity?  Does it promote harmony and understanding?  Or does it divide us so fundamentally that it threatens our ability to function as a pluralistic community?... When should I argue to make my religious value your morality"
Cuomo argues that we must press on to make abortions a rare occurrence through proper health, education and welfare. From his speech:

"Are we asking government to make criminal what we believe to be sinful because we ourselves can’t stop committing the sin?

"The failure here is not Caesar’s. This failure is our failure, the failure of the entire people of God.

  ..."That [Christian Responsibility] it doesn’t end with abortion.  Because it involves life and death, abortion will always be a central concern of Catholics.  But so will nuclear weapons.  And hunger and homelessness and joblessness, all the forces diminishing human life and threatening to destroy it. 

..."We should understand that whether abortion is outlawed or not, our work has barely begun: the work of creating a society where the right to life doesn’t end at the moment of birth, where an infant isn’t helped into a world that doesn’t care if it’s fed properly, housed decently, educated adequately, where the blind or retarded child isn’t condemned to exist rather than empowered to live."
Rock on Mario Cuomo. In April of this year, Mr Cuomo was interviewed by Religion and Ethics regarding the controversy over Kerry's pro-abortion stance by certain Bishops. Cuomo makes it clear that not many bishops are saying anything about the political role of Catholics. It's a very few. My opinion is that the loud mouths are getting all the press but there is a lot more to being a Catholic politician than the abortion issue. We are still a pluralistic society. Cuomo explains, and I believe I made the point many times, that if one were to try to legislate all Catholic dogma, we'd have to live in a Catholic Theocracy. I always thought we'd have to be like the Amish if we stuck to pure Catholic dogma in daily life. Cuomo, like myself, doesn't believe that Kerry will be denied communion except by that St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke. In all honesty, around here, you can go to one Catholic parish where they are very strict and dogma abiding, then pop over to the next town and find a very loving forgiving pastor who welcomes everyone to share in the Mass as Jesus would surely do.

They [Catholic Church] did not oppose slavery in 1865 and in the late nineteenth century, although the pope had spoken against it. They do not bring the same ardor to insisting on their position against the death penalty today. Nobody knows that better than I. I was badly mauled by people in New York State for being against the death penalty for 12 years. In all that period, the Church never spoke against it. Now they have spoken and said it's wrong except in very few emergent situations...
Cuomo is asked if he feels the Church's stance against Kerry will hurt his chances in states with large Catholic populations?
"If it is a political issue, I suspect that it will not hurt John Kerry, but it may hurt the Church. And that troubles me....

"One of the reasons the country was created was for me to be free to be a Catholic and you to be whatever you wish to be. In order to protect that freedom of religion, you must be careful not to intrude upon other people's freedom of religion. For me to be protected in my right to be against abortion and against contraceptives, I have to make sure not to tread upon your right not to believe in those things, because if I can impose my religion on you, you can impose your religion on me. And so the best way to preserve the freedom of religion in this country is for government to stay away from making rules that are basically religious in nature."

..."They [Catholics] will make a judgment as to whether they think it's correct for the Church to punish John Kerry for not taking the position they wish him to take on abortion, while at the same time they're not saying the same thing about the death penalty, they're not saying the same thing about the war in Iraq, which the bishops said was not a just war."
Mr Cuomo talks about what made him give his speech in 1984. He said then Cardinal O'Connor of NY said that Catholic politicians were on the verge of losing their [Catholic] rights to this or that if they didn't toe the line.
"It went through me like a blade. That's when I sat down and did something that no Catholic had done before. I said, "We have to discuss this, discuss the theology of it. And we have to do it in a place where there are Catholics who know. And we have to let people witness it and make a determination: is this theology, as I see it, correct or isn't it?" I said that in 1984. It was discussed by theologians. It was written [about] by theologians. If you look at the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CATHOLICISM that's put out by Notre Dame, it's referred to. It's referred to as a proper statement. So it's a very big, very important subject. "
When I attended a Catholic seminary for my MA in Theology, we studied Cuomo's speech. I had to write a paper opposed to it or defending it with sound theology. I supported the speech and explained how a ban on abortion in this secular society would be unfeasible at this time. First you would have to change societal values. Catholic women have just as many abortions as any other women in this country. How can a politician argue for a principle that the rest of the Church doesn't live up to?

Cuomo comments on how to reduce the number of abortions at length and says teaching about abstinence is important and birth control should also be available for those who believe in it. If a woman should become pregnant:
"Try to convince her, "Look, you don't need an abortion here if you think you're not ready for this child, if you think you're not in a position to do the child justice. Let's work toward an adoption." Let's make it easier to have an adoption. "And we'll pay for your going to term. We'll give you a good doctor. We'll deliver the child and we will arrange the adoption." I think if we worked aggressively at all those things, we could reduce significantly the number of abortions, without ever offending anybody, without ever denying a woman choice, and without ever breaking any religious rules."
This is exactly where the Republican right wing Christians fail. They offer no alternatives. You can't force a woman to have a baby and then not help her. If you are against abortion based on Christian theology, you can't ignore the living from the womb to the grave.

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