Former three-time New York governor Mario Cuomo died at the age of 82. The accolades are coming in by the boat load. He’s being called “Super Mario.” He was a liberal. What do you expect?
Donna Douglas, who played Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies and an “ugly” patient on a 1959 episode of The Twilight Zone (“Eye of the Beholder”) also died on January 1, 2015. Who do you think brought more joy to Americans? Donna Douglas or Mario Cuomo? I’ll put my money on Elly May.
Donna Douglas never argued for legalizing the killing of unborn babies. Mario Cuomo — a “good Catholic” — did like his pro-abortion Catholic son and Nancy Pelosi, also another “good Catholic.” Being Catholic doesn’t make abortion the moral evil that it is. Too many politicians hide behind the proposition that they can’t impose church doctrine on people of different faiths or no faith. It would be like saying that stealing, rape, and murder are opposed by the Catholic Church, therefore, a politician should legislate against them because they are part of “Catholic doctrine.”
Here’s how Mario Cuomo justified his anti-abortion/pro-abortion stance. We have a record of it in a speech he gave at our nation’s premier Roman Catholic university – the University of Notre Dame. The title of his message was “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective,” delivered September 13, 1984.
It’s quite the stem winder and too clever by half. It’s a smart man’s attempt to get around a clear moral wrong. He gives away his operating assumptions with this line: “I can offer you no final truths, complete and unchallengeable.”
When have you ever heard a liberal make this claim? Liberals are always arguing that liberalism is final truth that is complete and unchallengeable. All anybody has to do is mention global warming (“the debate is over”), homosexual marriage (“we’ll sue you if you don’t agree with us”), raising taxes (“we need more of your money”), and abortion (“it’s a woman’s right, we’ll make you pay for them, end of discussion, and if you don’t agree with us you are waging war against women”).
For a liberal like Cuomo One (Mario) and Cuomo Two (Andrew), liberalism is all about “final truths.”
Opposition to something like abortion in the form of a law, Cuomo argued, “depends on a consensus view of right and wrong. The values derived from religious belief will not — and should not — be accepted as part of the public morality unless they are shared by the pluralistic community at large, by consensus.”
It seems to me that someone who claims to be opposed to abortion, as Cuomo claims he was (see below), would have spent a great deal of time using his speaking gifts to persuade people that abortion is a moral wrong and thus create a moral consensus against it. Here’s what he said in his address:
“As Catholics, my wife and I were enjoined never to use abortion to destroy the life we created, and we never have. We thought Church doctrine was clear on this, and — more than that — both of us felt it in full agreement with what our hearts and our consciences told us. For me life or fetal life in the womb should be protected, even if five of nine Justices of the Supreme Court and my neighbor disagree with me. A fetus is different from an appendix or a set of tonsils. At the very least, even if the argument is made by some scientists or some theologians that in the early stages of fetal development we can’t discern human life, the full potential of human life is indisputably there. That — to my less subtle mind — by itself should demand respect, caution, indeed . . . reverence.
“But not everyone in our society agrees with me and Matilda.”
Not everybody believed that slavery was wrong; that racism was wrong; that segregation was wrong. In fact, not everybody believed abortion was right in 1973 when the Supreme Court, in a 7 to 2 decision, legalized the bloody business in all 50 states.
How often did Cuomo try to persuade people who did not believe as he and his wife did? I don’t recall him ever making an argument against abortion like a politician would do today against racism.
In the same address, Cuomo said that “Church teaching on slavery and abortion is clear.”
It’s at this point in his address that things get even more morally muddled. There was a great deal of political force to put an end to slavery and segregation. Minority positions became majority opinions with public discussions that slavery and segregation were moral evils and they needed to be stopped.
The moral consensus on slavery in England changed because William Wilberforce took action.
“In 1787, he came into contact with Thomas Clarkson and a group of anti-slave-trade activists, including Granville Sharp, Hannah More and Charles Middleton. They persuaded Wilberforce to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
“Twenty years later, Wilberforce supported the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery, and continued his involvement after 1826, when he resigned from Parliament because of his failing health. That campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire; Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to his friend William Pitt.”
Mario Cuomo did nothing even vaguely similar. I can’t imagine Wilberforce ever giving a speech like Cuomo did at Notre Dame. The “I’m personally opposed but . . .” argument would have been rejected by Wilberforce. He would have considered it cowardly.
The first question I would have asked Mario Cuomo is, “Why are you personally opposed to abortion?” I would have then asked if he was personally opposed to slavery, segregation, rape, murder, child abuse. Of course, he would have said that abortion is different since in each of these other cases there is a victim.
But isn’t that what the abortion debate debates? What is being aborted? Cuomo actually said that “a fetus is different from an appendix or a set of tonsils.” In what way? They are only removed when they are diseased. An unborn baby is not a part of a woman’s body. An unborn baby is not a tumor or a disease.
With all the talk about Cuomo’s great oratorical skills, in the end he stood by and said nothing as each year passed with the death of another million or more unborn babies thrown in the garbage.
New York, where his son Andrew serves as governor and repeatedly proclaimed “Because it’s her body! It’s her choice!,”1 performs the second most abortions in the United States with an abortion rate of 26.8 per thousand, higher than No. 1 California at 23 per thousand.
- Andrew Cuomo “wanted to ‘codify’ state with the federal law to assure abortions could be performed into the ninth month of pregnancy.” [↩]