FEBRUARY 7, 2019
Comfort My People
The name of the step-brother of William the Conqueror was a palindrome, and the ladies who made the Bayeux Tapestry must have enjoyed embroidering it and the caption under the scene of Odo at the Battle of Hastings. A year after the Norman Conquest, he became Duke of Kent, assuming vast lands and power, but William had already seen to it that he became a bishop about the age of nineteen. He was serious about his episcopal office, even at Hastings where a servant carried his crozier into the fray. Careful of the canonical prohibition against clerics wielding a sword, he used a heavy club, and with it he threatened his own troops who were reluctant to run headlong into a hail of crossbow arrows. The inscription on the tapestry, which he probably intended for his own cathedral, reads in abbreviated Latin: “Hic Odo Eps [Episcopus] Baculu[m] Tenens Confortat Pueros” which is to say, “Here, Bishop Odo, holding his club, comforts his boys.” In our vernacular, that is not the sort of comfort one wants, but the word originally and essentially means to strengthen. Derived from it are words like fortress and fortitude, the latter being one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is the other Comforter that Christ promised, in order to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (John 14:16; Ephesians 6:11).
The equivalent for Comforter is Paraclete, or Advocate, which means “a strengthener who stands by the side of another” to plead on his behalf in a court of justice (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1). This teaching comes from the Beloved Disciple, the object and bestower of singular tenderness. But he was not sentimental, for sentimentalism is sham love without sacrifice. Saint John was strong enough to stand with Our Lady and comfort her when the older apostles had fled the crucifixion. The Beloved Apostle says in his second letter, and reiterates in his third, that those who are not faithful to the truth should be separated from those who are. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him, for whoever greets him shares in his evil works (2 John 1:10-11).” By so saying, he does not slip into sentimentalism, and he prefigures the dictum of Saint John Paul II in a general audience of November 8, 1978, that “there is no love without justice.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen phrased it earlier: “Justice without love could become tyranny, and love without justice could become toleration of evil.” That pastiche of love claims to feel your pain while inflicting it, and comforts you while destroying you.
Few verses in all literature match Saint Paul’s hymn to love (1 Cor. 13). But to cherry pick the apostle’s words in order to show God’s mercy, to the exclusion of what he says earlier is to emasculate his exaltation of sacrificial love: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:12). Had Paul demurred from telling truth to Caesar in hope of bringing him to a better frame of mind and parading with him on festive days through the Forum, he could have kept his head, at least for a while.
These thoughts came to mind when the governor of Virginia was attacked from all sides for allegations of racism, an offense against human dignity, while his publicly avowed permission to kill babies born as well as unborn, has been neuralgicly downplayed. Grounds for demanding his resignation were not based on infanticide, but on his sophomoric prancing about in blackface. The media overwhelmingly demurred from commenting on the governor’s justification of infanticide, saying one way or another that they did not have enough facts. Such lack did not prevent them from ranting against some racially demeaning yearbook photographs with another figure dressed as a Klansman. The media have given that more publicity in a few days than it ever gave a photograph of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger addressing the Ku Klux Klan. That image is said to have been “Photoshopped” but Sanger did address a women’s branch of the Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey, albeit uncomfortably; and she minced no words about her eugenics.
As a pediatric neurologist, Governor Northam spoke with clinical detachment about “comforting” babies that survived abortion: “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensure between the physician and the mother.” He did not explain what the discussion would include but, in contemporary America, it certainly would echo the moral desolation and self-inflicted punishment of depraved Babylon: “…they will have no mercy on infants, nor will they look with compassion on children” (Isaiah 13:18). As for medical qualifications, and prescinding from imputations of absolute equivalence, it is sobering to recall that Joseph Mengele had degrees in anthropology and medicine (cum laude) from the universities of Munich and Frankfurt, and worked as an abortionist in Brazil after the war, just as Vilis Kruze, an SS officer and physician, did in Ohio and Hawaii. Abortionists seem to have an international and ageless fraternity of their own.
Governor Northam’s kind of comfort was not that of Bishop Odo prodding his troops, for it was rather in the line of sedation before annihilation, and a nursery version of Otto von Bismarck’s protocol: “Every courtesy as far as the gallows.”
Justin Fairfax, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, is a former Planned Parenthood official and is even more aggressively pro-infanticide than Northam. For all of their ilk, when it comes to “comfort,” they are like scornful Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” There are those of intractable moral confusion who would vote for those whose mastery of words removes the adverb “not” from the commandments of God.
Confounding attempts to pigeonhole the abortion scandal as a moral tumult only in the minds of Catholics, there are other voices from different platforms, including John Calvin who was anything but a friend of Catholicism: “…the unborn, though enclosed in the womb of his mother, is already a human being, and it is an almost monstrous crime to rob it of life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his most secure place of refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy the unborn in the womb before it has come to light” (Commentary on Exodus 21:22). The moral probity of killing an infant after birth was beneath consideration.
At the ordination of a bishop, a Book of the Gospels is placed on the head of the Bishop-Elect, for he is to be subservient to the Word of God in order to serve the People of God. There have been admirable bishops who edify by the simple clarity of their discipline. Among them, Bishop Thomas Daly wrote in a pastoral letter of February 1, 2019: “Politicians who reside in the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, and who obstinately persevere in their public support for abortion, should not receive Communion without first being reconciled to Christ and the Church.”
Vacuous comforters may cajole their flocks with congenial platitudes, but there is no strength in that. (Risus infundat in ora stultorum / “Fools are full of laughter.”) There is a long line of those who confuse sycophancy with prophecy, whose operative ambition is their own comfort and the solace of approval by those who are as superficial as they are. “…I saw the oppressions that are done under the sun, and the tears of the innocent, and they had no comforter; and they were not able to resist their violence, being destitute of help from any” (Ecclesiastes 4:1).
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).
FOR RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL RIGHTS
|Cuomo Distorts Truth About Abortion Bill|
February 7, 2019Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on an op-ed in today’s New York Times by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:
No public official in America is more pro-abortion than New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He proved that again today when he penned a rousing op-ed in the New York Times defending abortion at any time and for virtually any reason. He also distorted the truth about the bill he championed.
Cuomo says that bills like the one he signed “merely codify existing federal law and firmly established practices.” Nonsense.
Cuomo’s bill goes beyond Roe v. Wade by allowing babies born alive as a result of a botched abortion to die without medical intervention. It also allows persons who never went to medical school to perform abortions: The 1973 decision does not authorize non-physicians to perform abortions.
Cuomo says his bill permits abortion after 24 weeks “only when a woman’s life or health is threatened or at risk.” He knows exactly what that means. It means that any abortionist can “decide” that the woman’s mental health may be at risk—she may suffer depression—if she has to take care of the baby she doesn’t want.
Amherst professor and Catholic League advisory board member Hadley Arkes has a piece today in The Catholic Thing that recalls what happened in the 1970s when a child survived an abortion for twenty days. Did the attending doctor have an obligation to save the baby?
Arkes notes that Circuit Court Judge Clement Haynsworth ruled that once the woman decides she wants her child aborted, “the fetus in this case was not a person whose life state law could protect.” Arkes rightly explains that “In other words, the right to an abortion was the right to an ‘effective abortion’ or a dead child.”
Cuomo obviously sides with Haynsworth, which is why his bill would allow for infanticide. He should admit it and stop pretending otherwise.
Would anyone in his right mind allow a dental assistant to do a root canal? Why, then, is it morally acceptable to allow non-physicians to perform abortions? If, as often happens, there are complications—the woman is bleeding badly and needs a doctor to attend to her—how will the staff explain to her family that they did not have the training to help her?
If Cuomo’s defense of this bill isn’t objectionable enough, his history of trotting out his Catholic credentials—which are now in tatters—is obnoxious. He tells us again about being an altar boy, as if that gives him a pass to publicly flout the Church’s teaching on abortion.
“My Roman Catholic values are my personal values,” Cuomo says. Not true. Roman Catholic values, as noted in the Catechism, do not support acts which are “intrinsically evil.” Abortion is at the top of that list.
Cuomo digs himself in even deeper when he contends that he makes decisions “based on my personal moral and religious beliefs.” But those religious beliefs are not in any way Catholic, at least not when it comes to issues like abortion and marriage.
Echoing his father, Mario, he says, “I do not believe that religious values should drive political positions.” But abortion is about biology, not religion. Is Cuomo allowing his religion to drive his objections to the death penalty? Both he and the Catholic Church are opposed to it.
Worse still is Cuomo’s contrived victim status.
Citing his allegiance to separation of church and state, he says “the country cannot function if religious officials are dictating policy to elected officials.” Who is dictating policy to him? He mentions New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan in his article. If he has evidence that Dolan is dictating to him, he should hold a press conference and share it with us. Otherwise, he needs to stop with the drama.
Telling the truth about this subject is a real challenge for Cuomo. He writes that most Catholics, like most Americans, support Roe v. Wade. Wrong. That decision allows abortion for virtually any reason through term, and that is not what most Americans want.
In 2013, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that seven in ten Americans believe Roe should stand (this is the kind of survey Cuomo leans on). But when asked whether there should be exceptions, 67 percent said there should be, thus disagreeing with what Roe allows.
In 2015, I commissioned a survey of Catholics on a range of issues. The survey found that 17% said abortion should be prohibited in all circumstances; 17% said it should be legal only to save the life of the mother; and 27% said it should be legal only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. That’s 61% who are mostly pro-life and who disagree with Roe.
In 2018, Gallup found that a majority of Americans, 53%, said that abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances (35%) or in no circumstances (18%). This means that most Americans reject abortion-on-demand, thus rejecting the sweeping scope of Roe.
For reasons that only he can explain, Cuomo has laid anchor on abortion, promoting it with a vigor that is unnerving even to those who are “pro-choice.” He needs to talk to someone. A priest would help.Contact Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor: firstname.lastname@example.org