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.

Teach your children well

This came out of the blue, or so it seemed. Last week, Green Bay Bishop David Ricken made the historic announcement that he has officially approved the Marian apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. The approval was as stunning as the existence of this shrine was startling, even to many Catholics close by.

I heard the news from a priest friend before reading it anywhere. ‘And you know what her message was at Champion,’ he asked? Let’s see….Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, LaSalette, Akita, and others….it always seemed to be about prayer and conversion. Turn back to God, and pray that others do, too. “Her message to the young Belgian immigrant woman was to catechize the children, teach the children the faith, that was the message,” he said.

Suddenly, I heard Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Teach Your Children Well, (in my head), recalling high school seniors who had chosen that as their theme to be played while marching triumphantly out into a radically changing world beyond the walls of their homes and schools and into endless possibilities. I was a youth in that auditorium, watching with wonder….

Like, wondering what it all meant. Students had completed the education their parents provided, under their care and direction, through high school, and now they were about to find themselves and whatever mattered to them and show their parents what influenced them most.

It continued to be just about anything but Catholicism, or at least the ‘Baltimore Catechism’, as huge numbers of these young people turned (or drifted) away in college and adulthood. The cultural floodgates opened by the Boomers swept them up. Relatively few survived the lure. And by the way, everything was relative.

Pope Paul VI urgently tried to reform consciences on the foundation Moses stood on… the sanctity of human life. That did not take, for vast numbers of Catholics. Pope John Paul II tried in his own way in the Gospel of Life. Throughout his pontificate, John Paul wove the theme of personalism into all his teachings. Joseph Ratzinger’s ‘dictatorship of relativism’ homily and its stunning impact on the college of cardinals installed a new era of preaching ‘the new humanism’ that continues the teachings of his predecessors….

Because the message doesn’t change, but the media do. As do the new youthful generations interacting with both.

Which gets back to the message of the newly approved Marian apparation. This is huge.

“I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful,” [Bishop Ricken] said on December 8.

“Today’s declaration makes Our Lady of Good Help at Champion the first and only site in the United States of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” according to a diocesan press release.

So what happened there to cause this extraordinary pronouncement, rarely given in Church history?

In 1859, Adele Brise, a 28-year-old Belgian immigrant in Wisconsin, reported that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to her and asked her to catechize children. “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation,” the Blessed Mother said. “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the cross and how to approach the sacraments.” In 1861, a chapel was built on the site, and in 1867, Sister Adele founded a school to educate children in the faith.

“Go and fear nothing”, she reportedly told Adele Brise. “I will help you.”

Just four years later, in the same year as the Great Chicago Fire, a similarly destructive inferno raged through the rugged countryside around Champion, killing 2,000 people and burning land up to the perimeter of the shrine. Sister Adele was inside with the local people, praying for their safety and protection.

Why this message and why now? Because, as BarbNicolosi keenly pointed out about young people in that blast of boomers

The Church must use all media to reach these new cultural power brokers, and to penetrate the commanding subconscious voices of their parents; she must teach them that the breakdown of the Boomers will require patience, heroism, and long-suffering.

And she must teach them what their parents may or may not have taught them. The basics, and why inestimable human dignity is at the core of everything.