Sunday, January 27, 2019

Despite Urging, No Excommunication For Gov. Cuomo Over Abortion Rights Law

On Jan. 22, New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed A00021, the Reproductive Health Act (full text) which protects abortion rights.  As reported by the Washington Post on Friday, "some prominent Catholics have urged Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to declare Cuomo excommunicated." CNN Religion Editor Daniel Burke received this reaction from a spokesman for Cardinal Dolan:
I will not discuss any individual. Anything that follows is a statement of some general principles, and should not be considered a comment on any specific person.
First, excommunication should not be used as a weapon.  Too often, I fear, those who call for someone's excommunication do so out of anger or frustration.
Second, notable canon lawyers have said that, under canon law, excommunication is not an appropriate response to a politician who supports or votes for legislation advancing abortion.
Third, from a pastoral perspective, if a pastor-- and a bishop is certainly a pastor of a diocese-- knows of a grave situation involving a parishioner, it is his duty to address that issue personally and directly with the parishioner.  That was the approach of Cardinal O'Connor and Cardinal Egan (both of whom I served), and it is Cardinal Dolan's approach as well.
Fourth, and finally, from a strategic perspective, I do not believe that excommunication would be effective as many politicians would welcome it as a sign of their refusal to be "bullied by the Church", thinking it would therefore give them a political advantage. (See, for example, the case of Bishop Leo Maher and Lucy Killea).