Missing the Story, Yet Again

April 2nd, 2014

Once again, the Newspaper of Record has completely failed to get the full story about the Catholic Church’s record on child sexual abuse.

In an online piece published the other day, the Times once again rehashed old allegations about the sins of priests and the failures of bishops.  This story, as with many others like it, irked me to no end.  If a news outlet is going to report a story, it should, in fairness, report the full story.  It shouldn’t just report the bad news.

And so, I wrote a letter to the editor, which they published today:

The church hardly needs another reminder that some priests were abusers and that some bishops were negligent in their leadership. Obviously, sexual abuse of minors is a terrible evil and must be rooted out from every institution.

The real story is the incredible amount of human capital and financial resources that have been expended by the church on prevention of future incidents of child abuse.

We have more than 48,000 people working with children in the Archdiocese of New York, and two million more across the country. The church spends tens of millions of dollars each year in prevention and safety programs.

Our staff members have been screened and trained and are being supervised by dedicated leaders committed to protecting children. We have tight policies to ensure that predators can’t have access to our children, and we react promptly and decisively to root them out and bring them to justice.

Other institutions study and model themselves on us. And we have been open and transparent in allowing outside auditors and scholars to study our efforts.

The Catholic Church in America has done something no other organization in the world has done — we’ve made a huge, across-the-board change in our corporate culture so that now every leader and every worker has child protection as a high item on his agenda. And we’ve been a great success.

That’s the real news: a story about learning from tragic mistakes and then committing to a course of transformation and success.

Let’s be clear.  Any incident of sexual abuse is a horrific tragedy, and there’s no doubt that some Church officials didn’t do enough to protect children.  It’s also undeniable that mistakes are still made — we are all far too human to be perfect. And there’s always room for improvement in how we help victims to heal.

But it is just fundamentally unfair, and bad journalism too, for the Times to continue to ignore the herculean efforts of thousands of pastors, principals, directors of religious education, Church administrative staff — and yes, bishops too — for the protection of children.

If you’re going to report the story, tell the full story.

 

Truth and the Governor’s Abortion Expansion Plan

March 21st, 2014

Catholics from around New York State made the trek to Albany on March 19, to join in the “Catholics at the Capital Day”.   One of the major that we went there to discuss was Governor Cuomo’s abortion expansion plan, which is part of a bill with the name, “Women’s Equality Act”.

Many of the participants in the day, when speaking with their “pro-choice” legislators, were accused of lying about the contents of the WEA.  Unsurprisingly, these ill-informed solons were just repeating the propaganda talking points put forward by the pro-abortion lobbying groups.

So it’s worth taking a few minutes to review the truthfulness of the two essential arguments that we are making about this bill:

The WEA would expand abortion

It is true that the expressed purpose of the abortion provisions in the “Women’s Equality Act” is to “protect a woman’s right to obtain an abortion…  as established in Roe v. Wade”.  But this bald statement is used by pro-abortion advocates to claim that the bill does nothing more than to “codify existing law”.

In fact, the Governor’s proposal is much more radical, and would expand abortion rights far beyond current federal and state law.

The fundamental reason for this is that Roe v. Wade is no longer the controlling federal constitutional standard on abortion.  The legal standard established in Roe was very liberal, and courts used it to strike down virtually every abortion regulation passed by state legislatures.  But as time went along, the Supreme Court backed away from the extremism of Roe, and eventually adopted a standard that permitted more leeway for states to regulate abortion.  This led to the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which purported to retain the “central holding” of Roe, but which actually transformed the applicable legal standard in a way that made it somewhat more possible for states to regulate abortion successfully.

So if the goal is really to “codify” current federal constitutional law on abortion, a reference to Roe is completely misplaced.  This proposal would actually codify the high-water mark of liberal abortion law, and ignore the subsequent legal developments that have pared that standard back.  It would lock in place an abortion law that is extremely permissive and hostile to any attempt to regulate or restrict the practice in any way.

In addition, the proposal not only ignores the current constitutional standard, it also ignores other important developments that have already been codified in federal  law — like the Hyde Amendment (restrictions on public funding), the partial birth abortion ban, the criminalization of violence against unborn children (Lacy and Conner’s Law), and more robust conscience protections (like the Church Amendment and the Hyde-Weldon Amendment).

In fact, by appealing to the very liberal legal standard of Roe, the legislation sends a signal to the courts that they should strike down any reasonable regulation of abortion — like restrictions on public funding, a partial birth abortion ban, the criminalization of violence against unborn children, and robust conscience protections for medical practitioners who don’t want to participate in abortion.  It would make it difficult, if not impossible, to enact bills that enjoy wide public support in our state and across the nation — like restrictions on late-term abortions, health and safety regulations on abortion clinic , parental notification requirements and full informed consent provisions.

So this proposal cherry-picks existing federal law, selecting only the liberalized pro-abortion elements that the advocates want, and rejecting the reasonable pro-life elements that they consistently oppose whenever they appear.

By any standard, that’s an expansion of abortion.

The WEA permits non-doctors to do late-term abortions

A second major argument that we offer is that the bill would allow non-doctors to do surgical abortions, even up until the moment of birth.

The bill accomplishes this by repealing the current requirement that only doctors can perform abortions (a provision found in the Penal Law).  Instead, it would grant the Health Department broad authority permit anyone — even non-health professionals — to do abortions.  It would immunize any non-doctor abortionist from any criminal prosecution, for practicing medicine without a license, or any kind of professional misconduct action.

In other words, the Governor’s law would permit abortion with impunity for anyone who has the approval of the Health Department — whose highest officials are, naturally, appointed by this ardently “pro-choice” Governor.

It actually gets worse.  The bill would permit abortion of any child who is not “viable” for any reason, at any time in the pregnancy.  But this key term is completely undefined in the bill — it would be left entirely in the discretion of the abortionist to determine if a child is “viable” or not, with no legal standard to go by and no requirement that any other person (much less a trained doctor) concur with that determination.

Think about that for a second.  This bill would allow non-doctors, people with far less training and experience than physicians, to make their own decisions about whether a baby could survive outside the womb, and then to perform surgery to kill that child — even up to the moment of birth.

By the way, this is not just us making this claim.  Pro-abortion supporters  conceded on the floor of the Legislature last June that the bill would allow non-doctors to do abortions, and at least one influential legislator is writing to constituents that it is a major goal of the bill.

So what’s the truth about the WEA?

We already have over 100,000 abortions in New York State.  The great majority of them are performed on women who have had at least one previous abortion.  More African-American babies in New York are aborted than are allowed to be born.   37% of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion.

That’s the truth.  That’s the tragedy of abortion in New York.  And we need more truth, less tragedy.

Thanks to My Patron Saints

March 8th, 2014

(Yesterday was my birthday, so I thought I would re-post a blog that I wrote several years ago, for the same occasion)

If you’re like me, you have lots of favorite saints, and lots of saints who you think are looking out for you and helping you.  That’s one of the best things about being Catholic — a regular, daily awareness of the communion of saints. And also, if you’re like me, you had the good fortune to be born on a day on which the Church honors the memory of particular saints.

I’m old enough to have been born when the old Roman Calendar was still in effect.  As a result, I was born on the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas.  I have received many graces through his intercession, including a keen interest in theology and my middle name.  Thomas led a fascinating life, and he wrote so beautifully and deeply on all aspects of the faith that he has been a great gift to my faith.  I am particularly mindful of one of his final thoughts, after having some kind of mystical experience.  He ceased work on a project, and upon being asked by his secretary why he didn’t finish the work, replied “all that I have written seems like straw to me.”  That’s a good reminder that nothing that we could do in this life could ever stand comparison to the glory of God.  As St. Paul said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 3:7-8)

When they reformed the Roman Calendar in the Sixties, they decided to move Thomas’ feast to January 28.  Oddly enough, they chose the day that they “translated his relics” — that is, the day they dug up his body and moved it from one resting place to another.

Although I still have some hard feelings about them taking Thomas from me, I have to say that I lucked out again when the Church restored the ancient feast day of Saints Perpetua and Felicity to their proper day.

If you aren’t familiar with Saints Perpetua and Felicity, you should immediately drop all that you are doing and correct this.  Perpetua, a Roman noblewoman, and her slave Felicity, were martyred in 203 A.D., in Carthage.  Perpetua was nursing her baby when arrested, and Felicity was pregnant. Perpetua’s child was taken from her by her family, but Felicity gave birth while imprisoned and the child was adopted by a Christian family.  Perpetua wrote an account of their ordeals in prison with other Christians — one of the earliest written records by a Christian woman.  The story of their witness to Christ is vivid and moving, and should be required reading for all Christians who want a glimpse into the heroism of our ancestors in faith.

The night before their martyrdom, after having celebrated a “love feast” (the ancient name for the Mass) with her fellow prisoners, Perpetua had a dream about being led to the arena by one of the men who had already been martyred, who beckoned her to come and join them.  In the arena, she was beset by a mighty enemy, but she vanquished him and was called to enter the Gate of Life.  Realizing the significance of this dream, she wrote, “I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil; but I knew that mine was the victory”.

The next day, March 7, Perpetua, Felicity and their companions were taken to the arena, whipped, attacked by wild beasts and slain by gladiators.  They have been honored ever since.  As Tertullian said, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”.

I certainly do not consider myself to be in the intellectual ballpark of Thomas, or anywhere near as courageous as Perpetua and Felicity.  But I feel very close to them, as if they were my friends, but just separated from me for a short time.  Perhaps one day, if their prayers for me are heard, I will meet them, and I can thank them for their help and friendship.

Resistance to the Dictatorship of Relativism

March 5th, 2014

Pope Benedict famously warned about the impending dangers of a “dictatorship of relativism” — a state where truth is denied, morality is defined by subjective desires, authentic tolerance is extinguished, and political power is used to force compliance with the whims of the day.

Well, we certainly have enough relativism in our culture, and the slide to dictatorship seems to be accelerating.

Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen more and more Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Courts, er, I mean federal judges, overruling the democratic decisions of legislatures and the people, and redefining marriage.  We’ve seen elected officials foreswearing their oaths of office to uphold the laws, and refusing to defend the authentic definition of marriage.  We’ve seen hysterical and mendacious accounts of proposed religious liberty legislation, even to the point where defenders of the free exercise of religion are compared to Jim Crow racists.  Intolerance from the forces of “tolerance” is becoming the language of the day.

We need to be clear about what is at the heart of this situation, and what our response must be.  There are several fundamental truths that are being denied by our current culture:

  • Being male and female is an inherent aspect of the human person, they are not arbitrary and irrational concepts.
  • Marriage is ordained by God and by nature to unite a man and woman in a life-long bond that benefits them as persons, and that is the proper context for sexual relations and the procreation and raising of children.
  • A homosexual inclination is contrary to the true meaning and purpose of human sexuality as created by God and enshrined in human nature.
  • Homosexual conduct is always contrary to the will of God and the nature of the human person.
  • Persons with a  homosexual inclination must be treated with full human dignity and cannot be treated with unjust discrimination;  however, their unions cannot be recognized as equivalent to marriage, and their sexual activity cannot be approved.
  • Every human person has the right and obligation to follow their conscience, even when it disagrees with human laws.
  • The budding “dictatorship of relativism” is becoming more and more intolerant of these truths, and will gradually subject those who hold them to criticism, ostracism, and legal penalties.

    In the face of this, we must be ready to resist.

    The starting place for resistance is to recall several key points, most eloquently explained in Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, and Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless:

  • Resistance is a duty of all citizens when faced by injustice.  It is not an “extra-credit” activity.
  • It must be always be grounded in the truth.  It makes no compromise with lies, and always seeks to expose them.
  • It must always be pursued with love and respect.  It is not an excuse for violence and lawlessness.
  • The goal is conversion of heart on the part of those who support injustice, not overbearing their will with power.  It’s message always is “come, join us”, and never “we will force you to agree”.
  • The most important tactic is our willingness to testify to the truth by our words and our actions, and our refusal to cooperate with injustice and lies.
  • Underlying this duty of resistance is an important understanding of the freedom of conscience, and my duty of obedience to the truth rather than to mere human laws.  The government may attempt to coerce my external cooperation with injustice by imposing penalties, fines, and so on.  But no government, and no law, can force me to accept a lie as the truth.

    We cannot have any illusions.  Many, if not most of our family and friends will conform, and will consider us to be strange.  We may be estranged from loved ones.  It will be painful.

    Yes, we will be persecuted — indeed, it has already begun.  It will be a soft persecution, nothing like the hardship  suffered by our brethren in countries like Syria.  Nonetheless,  we will feel the steel fist under the velvet glove.

    Resist.  The power of truth and love cannot be extinguished.

    Unity and Joy in Defense of Life

    February 13th, 2014

    There are many graces and joys that come to those who are involved in the pro-life, pro-family cause.  One of these is the opportunity to meet and work with friends and allies in other Christian communities.

    The March for Life is a great experience every year, with thousands of people of all faiths gathering with joy and dedication. The New Yorkers for Life coalition with our evangelical friends has been very effective. I’ve been blessed by my collaboration with Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family. It is truly enriching to stand together with our Christian brethren in unity and strength.

    The other night, I had another one of these wonderful experiences. I was invited by my friend Chaplain Viviana Hernandez, to attend an event conducted by “Life Team”. This is an organization of interfaith clergy and laypeople, established by Chaplain Hernandez and Fr. Peter Pilsner in response to the abortion crisis in New York City, and the hostile policies of the City government. They have done great work building a body of committed Christians in the black and Latino communities, who are dedicated to rolling back the Culture of Death in our City.

    The event took place at the Bethel Gospel Tabernacle in Jamaica, Queens. This is a serious Christian community, very dynamic and active, with an impressive leader in Bishop Roderick Caesar. The room was filled with members of their church and others who joined them. There was a great deal of praise and worship, and I found it very moving.

    The talks were powerful. A pastor from Connecticut offered suggestions on how to speak to women who are heading into abortion clinics.  A young lady shared her incredible personal post-abortion witness, and outlined her commitment to the pro-life cause — including her participation in 2012 in a walk from Houston to Dallas as public witness to the cause of life. Pastor Beverly Caesar (Bishop Roderick’s wife) gave a powerful personal testimony and was very uplifting and encouraging. A young man sang a beautiful and touching song he specially composed to honor his own mother’s decision to choose life. Members of the community spoke of their commitment to oppose the abortion mentality that has afflicted the black community.  Plans for a new pregnancy resource center in the neighborhood were also discussed.

    Confronting the Culture of Death can be very daunting and discouraging at times.  But the message of this evening was very clear.  The cause of human life is God’s cause, and He will lift us up in this struggle.  God’s love and mercy are always at the heart of all that we do, and we must find ways to welcome people into the heart of God, who will heal their wounds.  We are united in the Holy Spirit for this mission.

    The Lord has said very clearly, “those who honor me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30).  I had the privilege of spending some time with a wonderful group of people who are honoring God by their commitment to the defense of human life.  I am confident that God will indeed honor them for their fidelity to His great cause.

     

    The Real Story on Sex Abuse

    February 4th, 2014

    In recent weeks, we have once again seen “news” stories in the papers about sex abuse and the Catholic Church.

    These “news” items related to a disclosure of some documents by the Archdiocese of Chicago, relating to old cases dating back many decades, and a hearing before a UN board at which the Holy See was questioned about how sex abuse cases were handled and how many priests have been laicized in response.

    Obviously, the sexual abuse of minors is a great concern to us, and to society as a whole.  It is a terrible evil, and must be rooted out from every institution.  The Church hardly needs the release of ancient personnel files, or some hearing before an international organization, to remind us that some priests were abusers, and some bishops were negligent in their leadership.  Every case of sexual abuse is a tragedy, and we are completely committed to helping victims heal from their ordeal.

    But all these stories, and dozens like them, completely miss the real news.  The fact is that the Catholic Church has become a model for child protection, and that other organizations emulate us and wish that they could have as good a record as we do now.  This is the key — what’s being done to ensure the protection of children today and in the future.

    We should never be afraid to take a long, hard look at mistakes that were made in the past, in order to try to learn how we can do things better in the future.

    So, what’s wrong with much of the reporting of these old incidents?

    First, many of these “news” events are orchestrated by trial lawyers and self-appointed victim advocates, who are supporting lawsuits or litigation that target the Church. In almost every case,  the incidents took place years, even decades ago, and most of the priests have long since died or have been removed from the priesthood.  And the reports raise serious questions about fairness.  No other institution is subjected to constant reminders of the misconduct of former officials — certainly not the public school system, which has a much higher rate of sexual abuse.

    The hearing before the UN committee that is supposedly dedicated to defending the rights of children has its own problems.  The committee is filled with nations that have terrible records of human rights abuses.  (The committee has also never said a word about the worst abuse of human rights that it taking place around the world, legalized abortion, which takes the lives of tens of millions of children each year.)  And no other organization has been called before the committee to explain its policies regarding sexual abuse — certainly not the UN itself, which has failed to address the systematic sexual abuse of children and women by UN peacekeeping forces in various countries around the world.  The UN committee even had the audacity to recommend that the Church change our teaching on abortion and contraception — tipping their hand to their real, anti-Catholic, anti-life biases.

    The only “news” here is that the UN would have the chutzpah to pass judgment on any other organization at all.

    So what is the real story?

    The real story is the incredible amount of human capital and financial resources that have been expended on prevention of future incidents of child abuse.  Let’s put some numbers on it.  We have over 48,000 active people working with children in the Archdiocese of New York alone, and two million more across the nation.   The Church spends tens of millions of dollars each year in prevention and safety programs.  All our people have been screened, trained, and are being supervised by dedicated leaders who are committed to protecting children.  We have tight policies to ensure that predators can’t have access to our children, and we react promptly and decisively to root them out and bring them to justice.

    Other institutions study and model themselves on us.  Experts, like Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University, have said that “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.”  We have been open and transparent in allowing outside auditors and scholars to study our efforts.

    And we’ve seen the results of all this investment in child protection.  There has been a dramatic drop in the number of credible reports of present-day sexual abuse of minors by clergy — in 2012, there were only eleven minors who reported allegations in the entire nation.

    Nobody can match our efforts or our accomplishments.

    Why is this the bigger story?

    Just think about it — when a big company like Apple makes a tiny design change in a popular product, it makes headlines around the world.  Everybody pays attention, and thinks it’s a big deal.

    But the Catholic Church in America has done something even more important, something that no other organization in the world has done.  We’ve made a huge, across-the-board, change in our corporate culture, so that now, every leader and every worker has child protection as a high item on their agenda.  Nobody does as much as we do to protect children.  It’s not just superficial window-dressing, but a massive substantive commitment. And all of that has been done voluntarily, in the midst of hostile and intense scrutiny, because it was necessary to avoid and correct the mistakes of the past — and because it was the right thing to do.  This is a huge accomplishment.

    That’s the real news that the media should be writing — not yet another rehash of old tragedies, but a story of  transformation, commitment and success.

    The Politics of Principle

    February 3rd, 2014

    (This is a repeat of a post from this same day the last five years.  This post was written in memory of Jack Swan, a great warrior of faith and politics, who entered eternal life on February 2, 1998.  God sent Jack into my life to teach me these lessons about politics, and I’m just a pygmy standing on the shoulders of a giant.  As time goes by, I see more and more a need for us to recapture the politics of principle.  Jack, please pray for me, that I get the lessons right.)

    In the mind of most people, “politics” is the struggle of candidates, political parties, and their supporters to gain power and influence in the government. That is certainly true up to a point, and it makes for interesting entertainment.

    I write a good deal about politics on this blog and elsewhere, and I’m frequently perceived as being “political” in that sense — of being”partisan”. That completely misses the point.

    There is a deeper, more significant nature of politics. It is the way we order our society together, so that we can live according to our vocations and be happy, and ultimately attain eternal life. In this understanding of politics, the partisan theater is an important reality, but it is not the main focus. What really matters is principle.

    Without principles, politics becomes mere pragmatism, where the question is whether something “works”, or, in the less elevated version of the game, what’s in it for me. Now, don’t get me wrong. Pragmatism is important — we want our government to be effective. But again, principle is more important.

    I received much of my tutelage in the real world of politics from a man who devoted his life to being a practitioner of the politics of principle. I learned that it was fine to be keenly interested in the partisan scrum, but only to the extent that it advanced the principles we hold dear — defense of human life, protection of marriage, family and children, and religious liberty. The promotion of those principles is more important than party label, and the idea is to support — or oppose — politicians based on their fidelity to those principles, not based on what party label they happened to be wearing this week.

    That’s how I try to practice politics, in my small and limited way. I have opinions and judgments about many pragmatic issues, and what kinds of national security, economic and other policies would “work” better than others. But none of those pragmatic issues matter at all, compared to the core principles.

    Here’s how it works for me. If a politician doesn’t protect human life, I don’t care what his position is on other issues. If he can’t understand that human life is sacred and must be protected at all stages, I have no reason to trust his judgment about any other issue. And, very frankly, anyone who does not understand that basic principle is not, in my opinion, fit to hold public office.

    The same holds for the other core issues. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. If you don’t respect human life, don’t see the need to preserve marriage as one man and one woman, and won’t defend religious liberty, they you just have to look elsewhere to get your fifty percent plus one.

    This means that I am perpetually dissatisfied with our political process and our politicians. But that’s fine with me. They are all temporary office holders anyway, here today and gone tomorrow, and their platforms are passing fancies that nobody will remember in a short time. The principles, however, remain perpetually valid.

    Listen, Our Lord made a very simple request of us. He said, “Follow me”. He didn’t say, be a Republican or a Democrat, a Socialist or a Whig. He demands that I be his follower. So I need to look to the Lord for my principles, and in this age that means I have to listen to the Church. That’s what Our Lord wants me to do — after all, he said to his apostles “he who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk 10:16). We happen to have in our midst the successors of those apostles — the Holy Father, our bishops, and my bishop in particular. As a Catholic I must listen to them, and get my political principles from them, not from Fox News, CNN, talking heads of the left or the right, the editorial page of the Times, or either the Democratic or Republican Parties.

    This, to me, is the way to live as a disciple of Christ in this crazy political process. I realize that this will be considered odd by many, and even dangerous by some.

    But we hardly need more party loyalists at this, or any other, time. And we certainly need more practitioners of the politics of principle.

    The Struggle Against Abortion Expansion Continues

    January 31st, 2014

    Pro-abortion advocates traveled to Albany the other day to push for the passage of the Governor’s abortion expansion proposal, which is embedded in the “Women’s Equality Act”.  This plan first saw light as the “Reproductive Health Act”.  The Senate has already passed nine out of the ten parts of the WEA, which deal with such issues as domestic violence, pay equity, etc.  But the Assembly refuses to pass the valuable and good elements of the WEA, because their leadership insists on including the abortion expansion plan.

    In conjunction with the pro-abortion rally in Albany, the Assembly voted once again to pass the entire WEA, with the abortion expansion plan included.  Editorial boards of newspapers around the state have been voicing their support for the WEA.  In response to one such editorial, I submitted the following letter to the editor:

    I am writing in response to your editorial calling for the passage of the full 10-point “Women’s Equality Act.”  In your editorial, you note that the bill stalled in the Senate last year due to the provision that related to abortion.  But you mis-characterize that section of the bill, claiming that it would merely “codify existing federal abortion rights as affirmed in Roe v. Wade”.

    In fact, the Governor’s proposal is much more radical, and would expand abortion rights beyond current federal and state law.  It would remove any obstacles to late-term abortions, and would allow non-doctors to do surgical abortions, even late-term abortions up until the moment of birth.

    The bill also ignores regulations on abortion that have already been codified in federal law and that enjoy wide support among the public — like restrictions on public funding, a partial birth abortion ban, the criminalization of violence against unborn children, and robust conscience protections for medical practitioners who don’t want to participate in abortion.  It likewise ignores reasonable regulations of abortion that enjoy wide public support in our state and across the nation.   Polls consistently show that wide majorities of New Yorkers oppose late-term abortions and permitting non-doctors to do surgical abortions, and they support reasonable regulations like parental notification requirements and full informed consent provisions.

    The Senate rejected the abortion provision of the Women’s Equality Act because the people of New York State don’t want an expansion of abortion.  Most New Yorkers realize that 110,000 abortions are already far too many, and that too many men and women have been wounded by abortion.

    The Legislature could pass the beneficial and uncontroversial provisions of the Women’s Equality Act at any time — the individual components have been introduced in the Assembly and the Senate has already passed them.  They shouldn’t be held hostage to a radical agenda that seeks to expand abortion.

    Abortion activists will never compromise in their efforts to enact this abortion expansion plan.  They will accept no limitations on abortion, and are not even satisfied with the current status quo.   Pro-life people, and those who consider themselves “pro-choice” but are uncomfortable with abortion expansion, need to make their voices heard.  The best way is through the New York State Catholic Conference’s Action Center.

    Who Are the Real Extremists?

    January 21st, 2014

    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]

     

    The Little Sisters of the Poor and the HHS Mandate

    January 13th, 2014

    [Last week, I was invited to participate in an online debate at U.S. News and World Report, about the lawsuit brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor against the HHS Mandate.  Here is what I contributed.]

    The Little Sisters of the Poor have dedicated their lives to giving witness to their Catholic faith by providing nursing home care for elderly needy people.   They do beautiful work, and are extraordinarily dedicated. You would think our society would cherish this mission and help it succeed.

    Instead, the Administration is forcing the Sisters into a terrible “Sophie’s choice” — violate their faith, or be forced out of business.  The issue is the “HHS Mandate” — the requirement that all employer health insurance policies include contraceptives (including “emergency contraception”, which can cause early abortions) and sterilization.  Catholics, and many others, object to this because those services directly contradict our belief in the sanctity of human life and sexuality.

    The Administration has created a narrow exemption for churches, but not for religious non-profit organizations like the Sisters’ nursing homes.  The best the Administration offers is an “accommodation”.  But to qualify, the Sisters have to file a “permission slip” directing their insurance company  to provide the offensive coverage.

    This is what the Sisters, and other religious organizations, can’t accept.  Filing that “permission slip” means they would be directly cooperating in something forbidden by their faith.  The government doesn’t have the right to force anyone to do that.

    Would anyone think it is acceptable for the government to force the Sisters to sign a form that gives explicit permission for someone to come into their nursing homes to euthanize their patients?  Of course not  — it would be an unthinkable violation of their religious freedom.  And remember, the Sisters are not imposing their beliefs on anyone — their employees, who freely chose to work for them, will still be free to obtain those services elsewhere.   Only the Sisters are being forced to violate their beliefs.

    This is not an abstract legal controversy — the real-world stakes are very high.  For standing up for their faith, the Sisters are facing fines of $100 per day per employee as of January 1.  They employ hundreds of people at their thirty nursing homes.  So do the math — they are looking at fines of over $50 million per year, which would put them out of business.

    The real victims of that would be the poor elderly people the Sisters serve, who would lose such wonderful care.  That would defeat the good intentions of the Affordable Care Act — ensuring health care for all, especially the most vulnerable.  That’s surely not in the public interest.

    Yet the Administration won’t even agree to delay the fines so the Sisters can argue their case on appeal — even though they’re now letting businesses drop health insurance for their employees completely, with no fine at all.   This isn’t public policy, it’s a coercive ideology that considers contraception, sterilization and abortion to be “sacred ground”, and that will brook no dissent from people of faith.

    All of society is enriched when religious groups serve needy people.  Only ideology is served by the Administration’s intolerance against the Little Sisters of the Poor.