Of Benedict XVI and Andrew Cuomo

So there, side by side in two top-of-the-fold articles in the Sunday New York Times the other day, were two stories that are seemingly unrelated, but are totally of a piece. A few days later now, they demand attention.

One was ‘Papal Electors Are Sizing Up A Field of Peers’ by Laurie Goodstein, which revealed a good deal more homework preparation than her piece right after Pope Benedict’s resignation announcement. The one next to it was ‘Cuomo Bucks Tide With Bill To Ease Abortion Limits.’

What to say…

Start with Goodstein’s article about the conclave, although I’d prefer to focus on Benedict while he’s still in office. I will do that in the days to come, and probably for years afterward, frankly. He’s that profoundly important to the global mission of peace and brotherhood and the correct understanding of the human person at the center of it all.

She got to speak to Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who is brilliant and practical and right on target with where the church is in the modern world at this moment.

“People are reluctant to speak about themselves,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who voted in the conclave that elected Benedict in 2005. “So you go to a friend and say, Can you tell me about cardinal so-and-so?”

“The questions are usually about the qualities you want to see in a pope. Is he a man of prayer, is he deeply rooted in the apostolic faith, can he govern, is he deeply concerned about the poor?” Cardinal George said in a telephone interview. “It matters far less where he happens to be living or where he’s from.”

Pay attention, media. Because while you’re absorbed in political thinking about ‘constituencies’ and ‘succession battles,’ the electors who will make this transcendent decision are concerned with humanity at its core.

Goodstein cites Vatican expert Sandro Magister, thankfully, because he’s a longtime trustworthy source of truth about the church and faith. Besides handicapping the papabili candidate, she quotes him on something that receives far too little attention for these times.

The other Italians who are more solid candidates, Mr. Magister said, are Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan and a theologian who has often addressed the challenges of secularism and Islam in Europe…

Papal biographer and world renowned Catholic Church expert George Weigel makes a point of those challenges and the need to address them in this tribute to the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, brief as the piece is. Weigel calls Benedict “a hinge man, the pivot on which the turn into the evangelical, mission-driven Church of the third millennium was completed.”…

Why? Because he understood that, for postmoderns uneasy with the notion that anything is “true” or “good,” the experience of beauty can be a unique window into a more open and spacious human world, a world in which it is once again possible to grasp that some things are, in fact, true and good (as others are, in fact, false and wicked).

(more on that in a moment)

He proved an astute analyst of contemporary democracy’s discontents, as he also correctly identified the key twenty-first-century issues between Islam and “the rest”: Can Islam find within itself the religious resources to warrant both religious toleration and the separation of religious and political authority in the state?

There is so much to unpack from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, we will be doing it for decades. Others will for centuries.

But since so much of it is about the ‘new humanism,’ the human person having inestimable dignity and worth, value that pre-exists the State and – because it doesn’t derive from the State cannot be deprived by the State – it relates to all the issues of the day from economics to foreign policy, arms control to sustainable development, digital communications to immigration.

And that relates to the Andrew Cuomo story. Because there’s such a disconnect there involving a Catholic governor using such radical rhetoric to push such an aggressively anti-human agenda, it’s jaw-dropping.

Bucking a trend in which states have been seeking to restrict abortion, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is putting the finishing touches on legislation that would guarantee women in New York the right to late-term abortions when their health is in danger or the fetus is not viable.

Wait…what? Do people in politics and media who talk like this even think about what they’re saying, much less proposing and enforcing? We need to re-set the conversation about what abortion is. Every abortion is the termination of the life of an already existing human being in its mother’s womb.

“Late-term abortions” are acts of infanticide. What qualifies as ‘health in danger’ is so elastic these days, it is not defined or definable in current law. And talking about a “late-term abortion” when “the fetus is not viable” is just incoherent, besides being inhumane. (If it’s “late-term” it’s viable, and it’s a baby no matter how much the term fetus is used to distract from that fact.)

Mr. Cuomo, seeking to deliver on a promise he made in his recent State of the State address, would rewrite a law that currently allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy only if the pregnant woman’s life is at risk. The law is not enforced, because it is superseded by federal court rulings that allow late-term abortions to protect a woman’s health, even if her life is not in jeopardy. But abortion rights advocates say the existence of the more restrictive state law has a chilling effect on some doctors and prompts some women to leave the state for late-term abortions.

Read that paragraph again. It’s very revealing of the radical abortion agenda. Right down to the language used for “abortion rights advocates” as opposed to “anti-abortion activists” or other jargon for pro-life advocates.

Mr. Cuomo’s proposal…would also clarify that licensed health care practitioners, and not only physicians, can perform abortions. It would remove abortion from the state’s penal law and regulate it through the state’s public health law.

Okay, two things. Now he proposes going from bad to worse, letting the broad field of “health care practitioners” to perform abortions and “not only physicians.” And states’ public health laws haven’t been equally applied to regulating abortion clinics as they have other medical facilities, in many states. That’s a smokescreen.

There’s so much wrong with this. Which is confirmed by how it’s being received.

Abortion rights advocates have welcomed Mr. Cuomo’s plan, which he outlined in general terms as part of a broader package of women’s rights initiatives in his State of the State address in January.

We need to examine “women’s rights initiatives,” which we will continue to do here.

But the Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups are dismayed; opponents have labeled the legislation the Abortion Expansion Act.

And once again, the Times and other major media outlets revert to their updated, agenda driven style books for reporting that requires pro-life groups to be labeled “anti-abortion groups” and “oppenents,” giving readers the cue to think negatively about…what?…human life? Yes.

I saw a clip from Gov. Cuomo’s press conference in which he firmly declared and then repeated two more times “It’s a woman’s body. It’s a woman’s body. It’s a woman’s body.” And, he said, it’s her choice what to do with it. But the other body, and it may be female as well, is the one inside the woman’s body. It is not her body, she is only carrying that child she conceived. No matter how strongly Cuomo states his refutation of that fact by his single focus on the ‘woman’s right to choose,’ that doesn’t change the reality that the doctor seeing a pregnant woman has two patients. And the abortionist kills one of them.

Pope Benedict has addressed life issues, as Pope John Paul II did, over and over in every message whether spoken or written, on one way or another, because it’s the consistent ethic of life that determines how a society will live. Or not.

In this one, Pope Benedict said “…everyone must be helped to become aware of the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion. In attacking human life in its very first stages, it is also an aggression against society itself. Politicians and legislators, therefore, as servants of the common good, are duty bound to defend the fundamental right to life, the fruit of God’s love.”

And again:

Life is the first good received from God and is fundamental to all others; to guarantee the right to life for all and in an equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of humanity depends.

Weigel says Pope Benedict understood and showed the way to “a more open and spacious human world, a world in which it is once again possible to grasp that some things are, in fact, true and good (as others are, in fact, false and wicked).” Whoever succeeds Benedict will need to continue making that robust affirmation.

‘The orthodoxy of sexual liberation’

Nothing like a blast of clarity in this debate.

Professor Robert George steps up again to provide that, on marriage and ideology and politics and New York.

Devotion to “sexual freedom” had been no part of the liberalism of FDR, George Meaney, Cesar Chavez, Hubert Humphrey, or the leaders and rank-and-file members of the civil-rights movement. Today, however, allegiance to the cause of sexual freedom is the nonnegotiable price of admission to the liberal (or “progressive”) club. It is worth noting that more than a few conservatives have bought into a (more limited) version of it as well, as we see in the debate over redefining marriage…

As Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and I argue in our Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, once one buys into the ideology of sexual liberalism, the reality that has traditionally been denominated as “marriage” loses all intelligibility. That is true whether one regards oneself politically as a liberal or a conservative. For people who have absorbed the central premises of sexual liberation (whether formally and explicitly, as liberals tend to do, or merely implicitly as those conservatives who have gone in for it tend to do), marriage simply cannot function as the central principle or standard of rectitude in sexual conduct, as it has in Western philosophy, theology, and law for centuries.

He’s really just getting started at this point.

Moreover, one will come to regard one’s allegiance to sexual liberalism as a mark of urbanity and sophistication, and will likely find oneself looking down on those “ignorant,” “intolerant,” “bigoted” people — those hicks and rubes — who refuse to get “on the right side of history.” One will perceive people who wish to engage in conduct rejected by traditional morality (especially where such conduct is sought in satisfaction of desires that can be redescribed or labeled as an “orientation,” such as “gay” or “bisexual,” or “polyamorist”) as belonging to the category of “sexual minorities” whose “civil rights” are violated by laws embodying the historic understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. One will begin congratulating oneself for one’s “open-mindedness” and “tolerance” in holding that marriage should be redefined to accommodate the interests of these minorities, and one will likely lose any real regard for the rights of, say, parents who do not wish to have their children indoctrinated into the ideology of sexual liberalism in public schools. “Why,” one will ask, “should fundamentalist parents be free to rear their children as little bigots?” Heather’s two mommies or Billy’s two mommies and three daddies are the keys to freeing children from parental “homophobia” and “polyphobia.”

No political correctness here. Politics don’t determine what’s correct.

As orthodox sexual liberals, neither the governor [Andrew Cuomo] nor the mayor [Michael Bloomberg] believes in a conception of marriage in which marriage is normative for sexual partnering; indeed, neither believes in norms of sexual morality as traditionally conceived, even apart from any question about same-sex partnerships. Both regard “civil marriage” as nothing more than the legal blessing of romantic partnerships, and neither gives any indication of ever having remotely considered an alternative view. Both have so thoroughly absorbed the premises of sexual liberal ideology that the possibility of an alternative doesn’t cross their minds. For them, it is all a matter of “us urbane, sophisticated, tolerant, open-minded, defenders of civil rights, against those ignorant, intolerant, hateful homophobes.”

Prof. George was a guest on my radio show this week. He sounds the same in person as he does in print. Certain. Determined. Resolute.

“Let the marriage matter be put to the ballot in state after state,” he said, emphatically. “Because when the people deliberate on the issue, they have always come down on the side of traditional marriage.” In 31 out of 31 times it’s been put to the vote, he reminds me.

Which brings up an interesting point he made on the show. In response to a question I asked him about the Gallup reports that from May 2010 to May 2011, poll results seem to reflect Americans are edging toward more approval of same-sex marriage, from a slight minority last year to a slight majority this year.

“The only poll that counts is the one voters take at the booth,” said Professor George. “If the Gallup poll and other polls that say a majority of Americans favor same-sex are correct, why don’t same-sex marriage backers want it on the ballot?”

He’s right. They don’t.

I asked him if they preferred to circumvent the electorate by taking the issue to the politicians in state legislatures. “What they really want is the courts,” he said. “It’s easier for the movement to work through the courts for same-sex marriage to be instituted through judicial fiat.” But he reminded me that the judges who did that in Iowa were thrown out the next time voters had the chance to express their will.

I asked Prof. George if he was surprised by the New York vote, and he said what was most surprising was that New York Republican leadership let that vote even go forward. “It was against the will of the Republican base. We asked them to exercise their legitimate authority, and they weren’t faithful to their morally conservative base. We’ll hold the Republican leadership responsible for this and will work to get them replaced in the next election.”

Especially Mark Grisanti. Who was elected with the help of some money and influence of the National Organization for Marriage, running on the principle of upholding traditional marriage laws. And then flip-flopped. “It was a grotesque betrayal of those who put him in office,” said George. “Grisanti has to be voted out, he needs to go, immediately. We need to repeal this law, but first vote out the group who betrayed us.”

Citizens have to be informed and engaged, George said sternly. And even though I say that same thing often in print and on the air, it somehow seemed to carry more gravity when he said it.

As for the cover NY Governor Andrew Cuomo promised those politicians who helped him muscle this law through, George had this to say:

“Andrew Cuomo is a powerful politician, no doubt, he’s a tough guy. But we have to be just as tough…The great thing about standing up to a bully is that it always works.”

And the interesting thing about the bully pulpit of big media, is that it sometimes works against itself. Or in spite of itself. Like this New York Times article on a San Francisco study on gay marriage relationships. Prof. George gave the Times credit for reporting that.