Crisis MagazineA Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity
JANUARY 30, 2019
Governor Cuomo’s Bridge
There was a literary symbiosis between G.K. Chesterton and Henri Ghéon somewhat like the musical one between Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky. Ghéon’s biography of Saint John Vianney, The Secret of the Curé d’Ars, is enhanced by the brief commentary that Chesterton added to it. Chesterton mentions a mayor of some French town who not only commissioned a statue of the rationalist Emile Zola but, intent on further provocation, ordered that the bronze for it be forged from the bells of a church. This rings a bell, if you will, when thinking of how an ecstatic Governor Andrew Cuomo chose to sign into law our nation’s most gruesome abortion bill on January 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, to raucous applause and cheering in the state capitol. In a fallen world, dancing on graves requires no instructors. Then Cuomo ordered that the One World Trade Center in Manhattan, and the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany be illuminated in pink lights. The ancient Caesars dressed in red as the token of victory. Cuomo chose pink.
Mark the ironies: the Freedom Tower is at the site of the memorial to the dead of 9/11, and listed on that somber shrine are eleven “unborn babies” killed with their mothers. As for Al Smith’s building, that chivalric Catholic personality would have resigned rather than endorse infanticide.
In Orwellian “Newspeak,” just as a concentration camp is called a “Joycamp,” the killing of innocent unborn infants is sanctioned by a “Reproductive Health Act.” This macabre euphemism declares that it is legal to destroy a fully formed baby seconds before birth and, should it survive a botched attempt to cut it up, attendants are allowed to let it die. The abortionist does not even have to be a medical doctor. Under certain conditions an ambiguously defined “authorized practitioner” might qualify.
The legislation was deferred over years by politicians who, if not paragons of empathy, were appalled by its excess. It has only passed because the Democrats now control both houses of the New York state legislature. Politics aside, the governor teased a religious question. Not only does he mention that he once was an altar boy, he concluded the signing celebration by praying for the legislators: “God bless you.” It was an echo of the time that Barack Obama invoked God’s blessings over a national gathering of Planned Parenthood. A popular singer, Charlie Daniels, was so taken aback by this that he Tweeted: “The NY legislature has created a new Auschwitz dedicated to the execution of a whole segment of defenseless citizens. Satan is smiling.” Theologians may differ as to whether the Prince of Darkness can laugh, but he certainly can smile as a way of showing that, in a Miltonian sense, evil is his good. Meanwhile the bleak visage of Governor Cuomo should be shielded from children allowed to live, for it resembles with each declining day a grotesque icon of the Giver of Life in reverse.
From his rambling rhetoric, untutored diction, and scant intellectual formation, we may assume that Governor Cuomo has escaped the brush of Lord Acton’s aphorism that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Cuomo’s power is not absolute, although it has now proven deadly, but even power that is not absolute has a blithe courtship with vice. His official website now displays the cook with whom he shares a home in a relationship that would have exercised John the Baptist. This has barred him from Holy Communion as a disciplinary norm, if not a canonical penalty, and in recent times he has observed that. But, as a pre-eminent canon lawyer, Dr. Edward Peters, has indicated, Cuomo’s communicant status is further impeded by Canon 915 because of his promotion of the “Reproductive Health Act.” Dr. Peters says: “Penal jurisdiction in this matter rests with the bishop of Albany (as the place where some or all of the canonically criminal conduct was committed, per Canon 1412), and/or with the archbishop of New York (as the place where Cuomo apparently has canonical domicile, per Canon 1408).” Canonical discipline should not be caricatured as a “weapon” since it is properly punitive to promote justice and prevent scandal, and medicinal to reform and safeguard the spiritual state of the offender.
These matters are beyond the ken or jurisdiction of a parish priest, but it is clear that it is not sufficient for churchmen blithely to suppose that an adequate response to the massacre of innocents by the inversion of reason is nothing more than an expression of “profound sadness.” The faithful are entitled to the expectation that their bishops will qualify as vertebrates in more than a technical anthropological sense. Our Lord did not chase the moneychangers out of his Father’s House with a faint whimper of melancholy.
Although our Founding Fathers rejected an hereditary form of government, it roams like a ghost through various corridors of state. One is hard pressed to convince others that Andrew Cuomo would be presiding in Albany had his father not formerly occupied his seat. Just as Andrew engages a reverie of his days as an altar boy, so Mario invoked his membership in the Legion of Mary. Mario also rightly resented any imputation of a family connection to the Mafia. He is to be credited for his familial piety. This writer also was a good friend of Mario Cuomo’s predecessor, Governor Hugh Carey, and I can attest that Carey much regretted not having blocked an abortion bill during his tenure. But when Carey was out of office, and devoted himself to Pro-Life witness, he was hounded and threatened by his successor Mario in a way redolent of The Godfather.
Perhaps Andrew Cuomo is succumbing to the temptation that some of the senators of classical Rome detected as evidence of decadence: the apotheosis, or divinizing, of emperors in an Imperial Cult complimentary to the traditional deities. Ignoring the objections of more than 100,000 petitioners, Andrew named the Tappan Zee replacement bridge over the Hudson River in honor of his father. The Romans also developed the custom of Damnatio Memoriae which erased the memory of disfavored predecessors. This fate was dealt to 26 of the emperors before Constantine. The Egyptians did something like that when they erased the memorials of the pharaohs Hatshepsut and Akhenaten. Andrew Cuomo eliminated the name of former Governor Malcolm Wilson from the old bridge which was blown up last month.
In dark ages, there was a superstition that a bridge could only be safe if sacrificial victims, preferably children, were buried in its foundations. Peter Ackroyd mentions this in his history of London, and it was more than a legend, since a child’s body was found in the foundation of the Bridge Gate at Bremen. It was a ritualized practice in Japan, called Hitobashira. If Andrew Cuomo persists in ignoring the petitions of the people of Rockland and Westchester counties, and keeps the name of his father for the construction, there will be enough sacrificed bones to ensure the soundness of the Mario Cuomo Bridge, and all of them the remains of innocents. Herod Antipas could not have been prouder of his father who did not enjoy a good reputation in Bethlehem.
One theory is that some Church leaders have been reluctant to annoy Governor Andrew Cuomo in the midst of civil investigations of the Church, given the recriminatory personality of the man. But accommodation is a weak strategy. After the Munich agreement, Winston Churchill said, “And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Corroborating that warning, Andrew Cuomo has on January 25, just three days after his “Reproductive Health Act,” “celebrated” the “Defend Child Act” aimed at Catholic institutions.
While contemplating the Crucified Christ, Doctors of the Church have seen his flesh as paper, his blood as ink, and the nails as pens. So the Word of God is blotted out by the words of the morally illiterate. After Governor Cuomo signed the “Health” act, he handed his pen, like a nail in Christ, to a grinning and grandmotherly women whose ample lap could have held several children. She had none.
Editor’s note: New York State governor Andrew Cuomo speaks on stage at a rally on the “Reproductive Health Act” at Barnard College on January 7, 2019. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)
Fr. George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael’s church in New York City. He is the author of many books including Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) and Hints of Heaven (Sophia Institute Press). His latest books are He Spoke To Us (Ignatius, 2016); The Stories of Hymns (EWTN Publishing, 2017); and Calm in Chaos (Ignatius, 2018).