The Governor of the State of New York has an unfortunate tendency to engage in absolutist, take-no-prisoners political rhetoric. Just a few years ago, he declared that anyone who opposed redefining marriage was “anti-New York and anti-American”. So it really should be no surprise when his rhetoric gets out of hand, and shows a lack of respect for those who take opposing positions in good faith.
Nevertheless, the remarks he made the other day are particularly disturbing. Commenting on some internal disputes among his Republican rivals, the Governor of all New Yorkers (even those who disagree with him) said this:
“Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.” (emphasis added)
I’m not a Republican, so it’s not for me to defend that party, or to get into the middle of an election-year political scrum. But the Governor’s overheated language goes way beyond his political opponents.
Apparently our Governor thinks that there’s no place in our home state for anyone who believes that the laws should respect the right to life of all people, including the unborn, and who believe in the authentic definition of marriage.
But let’s ask ourselves — Who are the real extremists here?
It’s the public officials and the advocates who aren’t satisfied with New York being the abortion capital of America, a place with over 110,000 abortions each year. It’s the people who oppose any reasonable regulations on abortion, including involving parents in decisions made by minors, full informed consent requirements, and so on. It’s those who want non-doctors to be able to perform abortions. It’s the pro-abortion advocates who oppose health and safety regulations of clinics and who fight against any effort to inspect clinics. It’s those people who want to redefine marriage and the family beyond recognition. And it’s those who refuse to recognize faith-based objections, and slander those who stand on their faith for life and marriage.
This is not just a Catholic issue. The Governor’s rhetoric encompasses the Catholic Church, but also the Orthodox Jewish community, the Evangelical Christian community, many mainline Protestant Churches and Muslims, and others of no religious faith at all.
It is deeply troubling when an elected official, who took an oath to uphold the Constitutions of our state and nation, casts out of polite society all those who disagree with him. Remarks like these reflect not only a noxious political climate in our nation, but a deep-seated spiritual malady that St. Augustine called the libido dominandi, the lust to dominate and rule.
In an ironic way, it’s fortunate that the Governor made his unpleasant remarks in the midst of the U.S. Bishops’ “9 Days for Life” campaign of prayer, penance, and pilgrimage. It’s a reminder that if we’re going to be “extremists” about anything, it should be in our prayer. In particular, we can focus on the “9 Days for Life” prayer intention for tomorrow, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision:
For an end to legal abortion in our nation and for the conversion of all hearts, so that the inherent rights of every human being—especially those most at risk of abuse and rejection—will be upheld.
Friday’s prayer intention is also particularly appropriate:
For elected leaders who oppose any restriction on the abortion license: may God allow them to grasp the brutal violence of abortion and the reality of post-abortion suffering experienced by countless women and men.
All of our society is enriched when people of faith bring their values into the public square, and nobody benefits when people are cast out of our political debate. Let us pray for genuine tolerance, and for a conversion of heart so that our beloved state can show authentic respect for life and marriage.
[This blog post was reprinted in the New York Post as an op-ed]