New York’s Reproductive Health Act, signed into law on Jan. 22, 2019, now permits abortion up to the very moment of birth in some cases, including if the baby is “not viable.”
This law, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) last week, is “a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health.” He also called it an “historic victory for New Yorkers.”
And he ordered that the One World Trade Center’s spire be lit pink overnight last Tuesday “to celebrate” the signing of the law, which permits non-doctors to perform abortions. The law also erases the state’s recognition of preborn babies older than 24 weeks as potential homicide victims.
At age 61, Cuomo’s been governor of the Empire State since 2011. But the state’s Catholic faithful aren’t merely condemning him for his war on the most innocent among us. They’re targeting Archbishop of New York Timothy Cardinal Dolan (shown above left, beside Cuomo) on social media — for what he isn’t doing about this issue.
Vocal critics say he needs to excommunicate the governor who signed this into law.
Less than a week before the law passed, New York’s bishops issued a statement noting “the profound sadness we feel” over the bill then making its way to passage.
They also renewed their pledge to offer “life-affirming choices,” particularly adoption services to any women dealing with unplanned pregnancies.
“With an abortion rate that is already double the national average, New York law is moving in the wrong direction,” the bishops added.
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To many on Facebook and Twitter, however, it’s time to fight back.
Gov. Cuomo professes to be a Catholic. He is a graduate of Fordham University, a Jesuit institution, and he sometimes attends Mass. He’s received the sacrament of Communion in his native town of Mount Kisco, New York (which is not far from Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Chappaqua mansion, by the way).
These things ought to mean something, say the governor’s critics.
You are Correct. But you are positively wrong not to publically condemn Cuomo. This is a Catholic Man, Who signed into law, an incomprehensible evil. SO disappointed in you.
— Marian Cullen R.N. (@mgc0083) January 27, 2019
Even priests have been taking the cardinal to task on the issue, along with scores of everyday lay citizens.
One wrote on Facebook: “Legalizing infanticide? For the sake of the salvation of Gov. Cuomo’s soul and in order to reduce the public scandal caused by the governor’s actions in promoting an evil that is diametrically opposed to church teaching, there must be public redress from the church hierarchy. Please do the right thing, Cardinal, and call on the governor to publicly recant his position. If he refuses, then he should be publicly declared as excommunicated. This public scandal and mockery of church teaching needs to be addressed without delay.”
And Tennessee Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville tweeted last Thursday that if it were up to him, he’d excommunicate Cuomo.
“This vote is so hideous and vile that it warrants the act,” Stika wrote.
Enough is enough. Excommunication is to be not a punishment but to bring the person back into the Church. It's like medicine for them. But this vote is so hideous and vile that it warrants the act. But thankfully I am not in that positon. Very sad.
— Bishop Rick Stika (@BishopStika) January 24, 2019
Some in the media, on the other hand — including Daniel Burke, CNN’s religion editor — came to Cardinal Dolan’s defense.
Burke posted on Twitter a response he received to his question about the calls for excommunication.
I asked @CardinalDolan's spokesman about the calls for Gov. Cuomo to be excommunicated over NY's new abortion bill. While emphasizing that this should not be considered a comment on any specific person, he said excommunication "should not be used as a weapon." Full statement: pic.twitter.com/Ri3p8wRxuv
— Daniel Burke (@BurkeCNN) January 25, 2019
Among the reasons the spokesman gave were that excommunication should not be used as a weapon: “Too often, I fear, those who call for someone’s excommunication do so over anger or frustration.”
Another reason given was that such an act inadvertently might help a politician who would like to show he cannot be “bullied by the church.”
While uncommon, the Decree of Excommunication nevertheless has been used many times, even in the 21st century, and sometimes over abortion.
Sr. Margaret McBride, in 2010 the vice president of mission integration and a member of the ethics committee at the St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, approved the abortion of an 11-week-old fetus in order to save the life of a pregnant woman suffering from pulmonary hypertension.
For this she was excommunicated latae sententiae, or automatically, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Only after she made her confession to a priest and resigned from the hospital was the excommunication lifted.
Watch this video — then share your thoughts on this issue in the comments section below.
Ed Perratore is an editor and writer based in New York.