Archive for the ‘State Legislature’ Category

Truth, Lies, and the Power of Prayer

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Last Friday, the Governor’s Abortion Expansion Act was defeated.  The final days of the legislative session were chaotic and hard to understand, and there were many behind-the-scenes maneuvers going on.  But in the end, the Assembly voted — to their shame — for more abortion in our state, but the Senate refused to go down that path.

It was a close call.  The change of only one vote in the Senate would have resulted in an expansion of late-term abortions, and permission for non-doctors to do abortions, among other things.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that elections don’t matter.

There were several key lessons that were learned in the last few weeks of this long effort — remember, we have been working against this bill for over six years.

Lies Don’t Work — the Truth Will Come Out.

For months, the proponents of the bill were telling blatant falsehoods about what it was all about.  They claimed — inconsistently — that it was a “historic” measure that would ensure abortion rights, and also that it did nothing to change New York law.  They argued that it would not permit non-doctors to do abortions — although in the end, during the legislative debate, they finally admitted that it would.  And they said that it wouldn’t increase late-term abortions — although that was the only possible result of including a broad “health of the mother” justification for destroying viable unborn children.

These falsehoods were in the very heart of the Governor’s proposal, and they couldn’t be glossed over or ignored.  Eventually the strength of the truth carried the day, and the key Senators were persuaded to oppose the bill.

Abortion law in general is based on a great lie — that human life is disposable.  This bill built lie upon lie, and in the end couldn’t stand.

Prayer and Witness are Powerful

There were powerful and wealthy forces promoting the Governor’s “Women’s Equality Act” — of which the abortion plank played the central role.  The Governor himself is a potent political figure, and he had all his administration to rely on to promote the bill.  The press was, as usual, not with us.  Abortion advocacy groups were spending time, money and energy to push for the expansion of abortion.

Just to give you an idea of what we were up against, in May there were press reports that groups allied with the Governor were committing over $1,000,000 to run advertisements in favor of the agenda.  And that was only a small part of the money spent by abortion advocates.

On our side, we had a coalition of committed but cash-poor organizations.  But we had some things that our adversaries did not — the power of prayer and public witness.

So we concentrated on using inventive means of social networking, YouTube advertising, local prayer rallies, a candlelight vigil in Albany, Holy Hours, Rosaries.  In the last, critical week, hundreds of pro-lifers went to Albany to give public witness in the hallways of the Legislature, cheering on the lawmakers who were standing up for life.

We must never underestimate the power of prayer and public witness.  In any uphill struggle, we can always count on the power of God, and the impact of people who are willing to stand up and make their faith known.

Thanks be to God for the strength and support that He gave to us, and for the grace that He shone into the hearts of the legislators who stood with us.   May that grace also convert the hearts of those in the grips of the Culture of Death.

Remember, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31)

The Spiritual Struggle

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

The legislative session in New York is winding down to its last chaotic week, and the fate of the Governor’s stealth abortion expansion bill is still undecided.  Today, pro-life people from around the state will be traveling to Albany for one final effort to oppose this evil bill.

At times like these, it is all too easy to think that the entire fight is about politics, and media, and activism.  But it’s not — a great spiritual celestial battle is taking place around and within us.

We see its signs everywhere — the addiction to lies to justify abortion,  hardening of human hearts towards vulnerable people, the building of structures of sin to protect abortion, desensitization to violence and evil, a growing commitment to consequentialism and utilitarianism, a spirit of division in communities and families, and hatred and intolerance, particularly towards God and people of faith.  All of these, of course, are the weapons and fruits of our Enemy, deployed in spiritual combat against us.

Perhaps more than anything else, we see the tragedy of the potential loss of souls.  This legislation is undoubtedly very important, but it pales in significance next to the possible loss of a even single human soul.  And that is always the highest goal of our Adversary.

At times like these, it is valuable to recall the words of St. Paul:

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)

We who are in this struggle feel this acutely.  We are deeply troubled and saddened in heart by the sight of baptized Christians who openly support abortion, or even avidly advocate for it.  These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet they have accepted the Enemy’s lies and damaged their communion with Our Lord — hurting themselves, and hurting us as well.  As much as we seek to convince them of their mistakes, we must also dedicate ourselves to prayer and acts of reparation, offered up for their conversion and their reconciliation to the Body of Christ.

We also feel it in our own hearts, in our very common feelings of powerlessness and defeatism, and the frustration, anger and bitterness that go along with them.  We are ever mindful of our own sins, and we become burdened by our weakness and unworthiness.  These too are weapons of the Enemy, meant to discourage us — literally, to rob us of our courage.  Prayer and reparation are also called for, that we may receive the graces of fortitude and perseverance.

We also must remember that in this struggle, we have mighty allies who also strive endlessly against the Enemy.   We are always under the protective mantle of Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Heaven.  We are united in prayer with the Church around the world and throughout time.  We are continually strengthened by Our Lord, particularly in the Sacraments.  And we fight alongside the angelic hosts and our patron saints — think of it, we bear arms alongside St. Michael, and we draw swords with St. Joan!

We are confident that the Spirit is with us, and will lift us up.  And at times like these, in the midst of this struggle, it is always worth calling to mind the words of our Lord:

In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

The Reproductive Health Act and Criminal Law

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

As part of our efforts to educate people about the Reproductive Health Act, we have been pointing out that the bill would remove any criminal penalties for a violent attack on an unborn child.  The bill’s supporters have been countering by saying that there would still be sufficient criminal sanctions available, if RHA is passed.

Here’s why they’re reading the law wrong.

Current New York law criminalizes a direct attack on an unborn child outside of the context of a doctor performing an abortion with the mother’s consent.  If the unborn child is over 24 weeks of gestation, this crime would be a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison; before that, it’s a felony punishable by up to four years in jail.

Without these criminal abortion laws, there is no way to bring a prosecution for a direct attack on an unborn child.  The reason is that New York has a “born alive” rule, under which you can only be a victim of a crime — a “person” under the law — if you are born alive.  Before that, you aren’t a “person”.  Yes, it seems absurd, but that’s been the law for many years.

If you want a more detailed legal explanation for how this plays out, here it is — if you don’t, you can skip the next paragraph.

The basic problem stems from the nature of the assault and homicide statutes, and the required intent elements that must be proved, when taken together with the “born alive” rule.  The assault and homicide laws are “specific intent” laws — the prosecution must prove that the assailant had “intent to cause serious physical injury to another person”.  Since an unborn child is not a “person” within the meaning of the law, no assault that is intended to harm that child can be the basis of a prosecution.  Nor can the doctrine of “transferred intent” lead to a prosecution.  That principle holds that if a person intends to assault one victim, but harms another, they are liable for injuries to the second victim.  But the assault and homicide statutes specify that the injury must be caused to the intended victim “or to a third person”. Again, since an unborn child is not a “person”, the injury to the child cannot be the basis of a criminal charge under the theory of transferred intent.  Of course, there is always the possibility of bringing charges for any injuries caused to the mother — but those are separate and distinct from the offenses directed against the unborn child, which can only be brought under the criminal abortion statutes.

The criminal abortion statutes are reasonable and necessary, and have a long history in our law.  By having this provision, New York law shows that it has a legitimate interest in protecting unborn life, which it will defend in criminal court.  This interest has been repeatedly recognized and upheld by the Supreme Court — even in the original Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion.

These laws are especially important because deliberate attacks on an unborn child are frequently part of a domestic violence incident.  And, not every attack on the unborn child causes some kind of physical harm to the mother.  For example, an involuntary dose of RU-486 or emergency contraception might only cause harm to the unborn child, not to the mother, and thus could not be prosecuted at all if RHA is enacted.  Think of it — a man could slip a woman a dose of EC with the intent to kill their unborn child, yet he could completely escape prosecution.

The result of all of this is clear — without the criminal abortion statutes (which would be repealed by RHA), an assault on an unborn child cannot be the basis of a criminal charge unless there is an independent injury to the mother.  And even then, the only victim whose rights would be defended would be the mother — the child would be merely a piece of evidence at trial, not a human being who had been victimized.

The proper way to address this flaw in the current law is not to remove the abortion provisions from the Penal Law, as RHA would.  Instead, the Legislature should enact an Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would provide criminal penalties for assaults upon unborn children, regardless of the impact on the mother.  Thirty-six states and the federal government have these laws, and they have been upheld in the courts. The RHA may well prevent that law from ever being passed in New York State.

The broader issue at stake here is the legal theory embodied in RHA — it treats the life and well-being of the unborn child as irrelevant, and asserts that the state is only concerned with maternal health.  This would completely abdicate the state’s legitimate interest in protecting unborn life — which has even been recognized by the Supreme Court.

The RHA is focused solely on the mother and on ensuring her unlimited access to abortion.  The unborn child would have no legal rights, and no defense from assault, under RHA.

Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the Governor’s Radical Abortion Plan

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Now it appears that our pro-abortion Governor will be bundling the so-called “Reproductive Health Act” with a number of other “women’s initiatives”, to create an omnibus bill that offers something to everyone. Of course, most of the bill is mere window-dressing for his plan to remove all limits on abortion, and reinforce New York’s lamentable status as the state with the most expansive abortion laws.

The New York State Catholic Conference has put out the Top Ten Reasons to oppose this radical bill.  here they are:

10. It moves New York State in the opposite direction of “safe, legal and rare.”
9.  It would undermine beneficial maternity and prenatal care programs, which could be deemed “discriminatory” for favoring childbirth over abortion.
8.  It could be used to compel Catholic Charities and Catholic schools to counsel and refer for abortion.
7.  It could be used to compel all hospitals, even Catholic hospitals, to allow abortions on premises.
6.  It makes abortion immune to prudent regulations supported by large majorities of the public: parental notification for minors’ abortions, restrictions on taxpayer funding, informed consent or a waiting period for pregnant women.
5.   By inserting a broad “health” exception into our law, it opens up third-trimester abortions for any reason at all, leading to more late-term abortions of viable, fully formed infants.
4.   By repealing the requirement in current law that only a licensed physician may perform an abortion, it endangers women’s lives.
3.   By tying the abortion expansion plan to helping victims of domestic violence and ending pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, these important objectives are held hostage to an illogical and ideological agenda.
2.   It will not foster women’s health or dignity or promote women’s equality.
1.   It defies common sense because New York is already the abortion capital of the nation, with 33% of pregnancies ending in abortion, over 40% in New York City.

All the state-wide pro-life groups have joined in a new coalition to defeat the bill.  We’ve taken the name “New Yorkers for Life”, and have started up a Facebook page and Twitter account.  We would like to use these as rally points for pro-lifers, to express their opposition to the bill and to get more information.  Please spread the word to everyone you know, encourage people to “Like” the page on Facebook, and share it with their friends and contacts, and to “Follow” it on Twitter.

The New York State Catholic Conference has put up an alert on the bill.  Please let others know about this, and urge them to contact their legislators and the Governor.

We already have too many abortions in New York.  Enough is enough.

Why “Make Abortion Rare”?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

On March 8, Catholics from around the state traveled to Albany for the annual “Catholics at the Capitol” day, sponsored by the State Bishops’ Conference.  The purpose of the day is to offer Catholics an opportunity to stand together on the broad range of issues of concern to us — protecting life, strengthening our schools, caring for the poor and sick — and to speak to our state legislators.

One of the issue papers distributed by the Conference was entitled “Making Abortion Rare”.  This document explained our Church’s opposition to the radical Reproductive Health Act, a bill that would lead to an increase in abortion, by placing it beyond any reasonable regulation.  A second issue was our opposition to the Governor’s elimination of all funding for the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation.  That foundation supports local initiatives and organizations that offer alternatives to abortions, and have helped thousands of women have their babies.

These positions are a practical response to the challenge issued by Archbishop Dolan at his press conference in January about the appalling abortion rate in New York City: “I invite all to come together to make abortion rare, a goal even those who work to expand the abortion license tell us they share.”

Some of our pro-life supporters have expressed discomfort with saying that we wish to “make abortion rare”.  They are worried that this might imply that we are conceding the legality of abortion, and that we have given up our ultimate goal of defending every human life.

This concern is understandable, because people rightly can’t be satisfied with anything short of full protection for the unborn.  I understand this concern, but I believe it is unfounded.

Our ultimate goals in this struggle have never changed.  Nobody has any doubt about the position of the Catholic Church on abortion.  We are absolutely, unalterably, irrevocably opposed to legal abortion, and will never accept the legitimacy of laws that permit it.  We hold steadfastly to building a culture of life in which every life is valued in our society and its laws.

But while we pursue those ultimate goals, we have to take into account the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves.  Then, relying on the virtue of prudence, we have to mitigate the harm that is being done by legalized abortion, and try to achieve realistically attainable results to advance the culture of life.

This approach was outlined in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life:

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defense of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life. (90)

The challenge to “make abortion rare” is just such an initiative.  It takes into account the political and cultural fact that a complete abrogation of abortion laws is not attainable in our current cultural and legal climate.  It is directed not to people who are already committed to the cause of life.  Instead, it is an appeal to those who consider themselves “pro-choice”, but are uncomfortable with abortion and may be open to work with us on practical measures to reduce it.

In other words, it is an effort to change hearts, to rebuild the foundation for a true culture of life.  As hearts change, laws will follow.

Our vision and our goals will always remain the same.   As the United States Bishops said in their statement, Living the Gospel of Life:

The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid. Our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights. (33)

Election Results

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Gallons of ink, and millions of electrons, have been spilled on the results of last week’s election, and what it means for our nation, our state, the political fortunes of the President and a host of other presidential contenders, our new-fangled voting machines, etc.

I’m more interested in real results.

On the national level, the switch of control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans has brought with it a pro-life majority. The narrowing of the Democratic majority in the Senate also increases the chances for some pro-life legislation. These election results present new opportunities for real gains on Culture of Life issues.

The top priority has to be passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Currently, restrictions on public funding for abortion comes through piecemeal amendments to the budget bills. This means that pro-lifers have to be vigilant about all the various ways that canny legislators and bureaucrats can find to promote abortion. So, the Hyde Amendment restricts funding through the Medicaid program, the Helms Amendment stops funding for oversees abortions, the Smith Amendment prevents federal employee health insurance plans from covering abortion, and the Weldon Amendment provides conscience protection to medical personnel. Each year, these amendments have to be passed against the opposition of pro-abortion members of Congress.

This bill would take the provisions of these individual amendments, make them permanent law, and apply them across the entire federal budget. This would cure the major flaw in the health care reform law, as well as offer genuine and solid conscience protection for all medical personnel. This is a bill that would easily pass the House, and has a decent chance of passing the Senate — public funding for abortion is deeply unpopular.  It would be very interesting to see what our pro-abortion President would do if this bill appeared on his desk.

That’s one result of the elections that we’re looking forward to.

On the state level, the results of the election are not as positive. Our state has elected an ardently pro-abortion Governor and a radically pro-abortion Attorney General. Both men have committed to pressing for the passage of the extremist Reproductive Health Act. The chaos over the results of the elections for the State Senate (the final outcome is still in doubt) leaves Culture of Life supporters with a deep sense of uneasiness that the real result of the state elections could be very, very bad. So, we must remain vigilant in monitoring what goes on in Albany.

Perhaps the most interesting result of the election is the continuing demonstration of the popularity of the pro-life position. Conventional “wisdom” characterizes a pro-life stand as an electoral loser, and encourages candidates to avoid it. Conventional wisdom is dead wrong.   Polls show that 30% of the voters in this election said that abortion “affected” their vote. But it’s the breakdown of that 30% that’s most interesting — 22% voted for pro-life candidates, while only 8% voted for pro-abortion candidates. That’s an advantage of almost three to one in favor of life.

This reflects an on-going trend that I’ve written about but that continues to elude the mainstream media. Our culture is slowly changing towards greater respect for life, and a greater desire to promote life. The new pro-life majority in Congress is just one reflection of this trend. More will follow.

That is a very encouraging result of the election.

On the Edge of the Abyss — Updated

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

New York State stands poised on the edge of an abyss.  Our State Legislature is contemplating enacting an evil law, called “The Reproductive Health Act”.  As with all acts of the Evil One, this bill is a lie.  It has nothing to do with the health of anyone’s reproductive system.

It is instead dedicated to the killing of unborn children, to enshrining that iniquitous practice in our laws to the maximum extent possible, and to forcing compliance with this monstrous practice by all citizens.

I have written about this bill before (see here), and the New York State Catholic Conference has an exhaustive analysis of the bill and an action alert to allow people to contact their legislators.  Anyone interested in the details of the bill should consult these sources, and consider what our legislators are on the verge of enacting.

For me, I would like to return to first principles, and contemplate the bigger picture.   We have to start talking seriously about the disturbing fact that the legal regime that permits abortion, and this bill in particular, undermine the nature of civil society itself, and call into question the fundamental legitimacy of our current system of laws.

In his great encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul had this to say:

The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may “lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” (1 Tim 2:2). Precisely for this reason, civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. (71)

Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law. (72)

Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection…  In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it”. (73)

Lest anyone think for a moment that this is merely a Catholic sectarian position, allow me to add another quote, this time from a man who was not Catholic, and is considered so significant a figure in American history that his birthday is recognized as a federal holiday:

… [T]here are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Those words were written by Rev. Martin Luther King, in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”.

Make no mistake.  Legalized abortion has pushed America far into a Culture of Death.  The Reproductive Health Act would cast us even further into an abyss where death is celebrated, life is denigrated, good is called evil and evil good.

We must stand firm, and oppose this evil.

UPDATE –

The New York State Legislature adjourned on July 2 without taking any action on the Reproductive Health Act.  However, the state budget has not been finished and it is likely that the Legislature will return during the summer to finalize their fiscal negotiations.  As a result, it is still possible that RHA may be taken up by the Legislature when they return into session later this summer.  We need to be alert, since we may be called back into action on short notice.

Stop the Radical Reproductive Health Act!

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Our dysfunctional New York State Legislature, having failed for months in its fundamental duty to govern our state responsibly, is now threatening to ram through a radical pro-abortion bill, hoping that the public won’t notice.

The so-called “Reproductive Health Act”, which was first introduced by disgraced Governor Eliot Spitzer, and then adopted by Governor David Paterson, has languished in the State Senate for months, with no action imminent.  Now, on a Friday before the last week of the legislative session, it has been suddenly introduced in the Assembly, and may be pushed through the Legislature with virtually no consideration, public input, or debate.  Typical Albany shenanigans.

Make no mistake here.  This bill has nothing whatsoever to do with reproductive health.  It is an extremist pro-abortion bill that would establish the destruction of unborn human beings as a “fundamental right”, and make it impossible to pass common-sense regulations, like parental notification laws. It would also undermine or eliminate the conscience protections in law that protect religious liberties, under the guise of eliminating “discrimination” against the newly-recognized “fundamental right”. Church-owned hospitals, social service agencies, and schools could be required to promote, perform, or refer for abortions. Our schools could be required to help pregnant girls to get an abortion, or risk being sued for “discrimination”. And the licenses of doctors, nurses, and other professionals could be at risk if they don’t promote, perform or refer for abortions.  More information about the bill can be found on the New York State Catholic Conference’s website.

Any legislator who votes for this bill will not be able to hide behind the phony rubric of being “pro-choice”.  This bill is pro-abortion, pure and simple, and would compel every part of society to acquiesce in the legal regime that refuses to recognize the most fundamental right, the right to life, for unborn children.

The Catholic Conference is calling upon everyone who values human life to immediately contact their State Senator and Assembly Representative.  The easiest way is to send an e-mail through the Catholic Conference web site.  Phone calls should also be made; representatives’ phone numbers can be found on the Catholic Conference’s website.

Please don’t let the State Legislature get away with this injustice.  Take action now.  Spread the word.  And pray.

Dishonoring Marriage

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Our New York State Legislature, unable to do their basic duty to pass a budget, has turned instead to real mischief — they are going to dishonor marriage by passing a so-called “no-fault divorce” bill.  The Senate passed it today (by one vote), and the Assembly is expected to follow suit soon.

New York is the only state in the nation that does not yet have a “no-fault divorce” law.  Divorce is always a tragedy, but sometimes it is necessary to protect the well-being of a spouse or children.  But it shouldn’t be easier to end a marriage than it is to get out of a cell phone contract.

Essentially, this “no-fault” bill will establish a new ground for divorce — all you need is for one spouse to swear under oath that the marriage has been “broken down irretrievably” for a period of six months.  In essence, you could just run down to the corner drug store and swear before the notary that your marriage isn’t working, and that’s the end of it.

This utterly fails to respect the importance of marriage to individuals, families, and society.  Unilateral divorce by ambush would be permitted and even encouraged by this law.  There is no standard for determining what’s “broken down irretrievably” – it is an entirely subjective standard that is based entirely on the attitude of the spouse who wants to end the marriage.   There is no requirement of mediation or counseling to stave off an unnecessary divorce.  And there’s no waiting period before the divorce is granted, which doesn’t allow for a “cooling off period” for reconciliation.  That’s important, because many people have regrets about their divorce, and many couples reconcile during the process.  Even worse, there is no consideration for the best interests of the children in dissolving the marriage, or any requirement that they receive counseling.

The “no-fault” approach completely turns the law on its head.  Marriage will be the only civil contract that can be breached for any reason at all, with no demonstration of fault, and no damages to the injured  party.  This makes the marriage contract less worthy of protection (and easier to get out of) than mere economic contracts (e.g., a cell phone contract or a real estate lease).  This also gives an unfair advantage to a wrong-doer (e.g., the spouse who abandons the other, or an adulterer).  This is contrary to the traditional legal “clean hands” doctrine, under which you can’t ask for relief from the court when you have committed misconduct.

Contrary to what its advocates claim, “no-fault” divorce will not eliminate conflict from the domestic relations courts.  Because the legislation permits divorce by ambush, an innocent party can be blindsided by a wrong-doer — not only will that  fail to eliminate conflict, it will make it worse.  And the bill does nothing to reduce disputes over any of the other key issues at play in a divorce — maintenance, child custody and support.  These will still have to be resolved by the courts, and because the innocent party is treated so cavalierly, the level of conflict over these issues will likely increase.

Of course, there are parties to the divorce whose interests will be well-protected by our Legislature — the lawyers.  Alongside the “no-fault” bill, they will also pass a bill that ensures that legal fees are paid by the more wealthy party to the divorce.  So, the psychological and social well-being of kids — not so important to our solons.  But the economic health of lawyers?  That will be fully protected.

Once again, our New York State government has lived down to expectations.  This time, instead of just passing bad economic legislation, they’re dishonoring the foundation of society itself — marriage and the family.  Shame on them.

UPDATE — In an extraordinary example of incompetent journalism, the Times led its story on the bill today by stating that the Senate “approved legislation that would permit couples to separate by mutual consent…”  Sorry, that’s not even close.  New York already has a method by which couples could end their marriage by consent — it involves a formal separation agreement, or just not contesting the grounds for divorce (e.g., abandonment).  This bill has nothing to do with mutual consent, and everything to do with empowering one spouse to try to get out of the marriage unilaterally.  Don’t they have editors at the Times, or reporters who can read legislation?

The First Principle is God

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

On Tuesday, over a thousand Catholics from across the state traveled to Albany for the annual Catholic Conference Public Policy Forum Day.  The goal of the day is to give witness to our faith in the public square, and to advocate for some important issues of concern to the Church and to individual Catholics.

It’s a long and frustrating day, and it would be easy to get cynical and give up on our State government.  But for me, there were two highlights of the day that are worth reflecting on, that keep me hopeful and optimistic.

In the morning, Archbishop Dolan led a workshop on Catholic Social Teaching.  There have been many outlines of the social teachings of the Church, in an attempt to make them more accessible to people.  (Full disclosure:  I even wrote a small book about this subject)  And the Archbishop did an excellent job, in just a few minutes, to lay out the basic principles:  the innate dignity of every individual human person, made in the image and likeness of God;  the common good; solidarity; subsidiarity; and the duty to bring God’s truth into the public square.

But what was striking was how he started the discussion.  He said that “the first principle is God”, and that we must always remember that God’s way, and His law, must have dominion over our lives and our world.

That is a truly radical proposition, and it’s the heart of what we as Catholics must do when we stride into the public square.  We are never there to advance a purely partisan agenda, or to act on a theory of economics or social organization.  We’re there to convince the world of the dominion of God, that He must always be our guiding star, and that we are His servants.  It was the perfect way to kick off a day in which we would be going to the Capital Building to talk to our representatives about legislation.

The other highlight, for me, was the privilege of walking the halls of the Legislature with the Sisters of Life.  We went on a tour of the Capital Building, which is a whitewashed tomb, outwardly beautiful but filled with corruption within.  But we were there not just to see the sights, but so that the Sisters could be seen.   They don’t have to say a word to a legislator or to an aide, give a quote to a reporter, or have their picture taken.  Their presence alone is a witness to the King of Kings.  Merely walking through the hallways was an evangelizing moment.

And everyone there recognized it.  One thing about walking anywhere with the Sisters — you have to be patient, because they’re stopped every ten feet by people who want to talk to them and they stop to give Miraculous Medals to everyone they see.  What they saw, of course, was not just a small group of women in habits.  They saw a visible sign that people should commit themselves to God, and serve him with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strengths.

The first principle is always God.  That was why over a thousand Catholics went to Albany.  That’s the source of our hope.