New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan is refusing to excommunicate Governor Andrew Cuomo from the Catholic Church despite the fact he just enshrined into state law one of the most radical abortion measures in United States history, ensuring that women have a “fundamental right” to kill their babies at any time throughout the pregnancy if an authorized abortionist determines in “good faith” that it would “protect the patient’s life or health.” Under the new law, a woman in New York can literally abort her baby at any time up to the moment of its birth.
After New York enacted the abortion law, Catholics across the country immediately demanded that Cardinal Timothy Dolan excommunicate Cuomo from the Catholic Church, arguing his actions were too egregious to be met with a simple statement of condemnation. Two of Cardinal Dolan’s colleagues, Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, were emphatic in their calls for the excommunication of Cuomo.
“Someone asked me today if I would issue an excommunication of a Catholic Governor under my jurisdiction if the Governor did the same as in New York,” Stika tweeted Thursday afternoon, LifeSiteNews reports. “I think I might do it for any Catholic legislator under my jurisdiction who voted for the bill as well as the Governor.”
“Enough is enough,” continued Stika. “Excommunication is to be not a punishment but to bring the person back into the Church. It’s like medicine for them. But this vote is so hideous and vile that it warrants the act. But thankfully I am not in that position. Very sad.”
Bishop Strickland supported Stika’s call for Cuomo’s excommunication, saying the new law amounts to little more than legalized “infanticide.”
“I’m with Bishop Stika,” he said. “I’m not in a position to take action regarding legislation in New York but I implore bishops who are to speak out forcefully. In any sane society this is called INFANTICIDE!!!!!!!!!!”
In a statement released on Friday by Cardinal Dolan’s spokesman, the New York prelate said that excommunication “should not be used as a weapon” and that the people calling for Cuomo’s ouster are only doing so out of “anger and frustration.”
I will not discuss any individual. Anything that follows is a statement of some general principles, and should not be considered to be 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).
According to Catholic Canon Law, politicians who publicly oppose the Church on matters of grave sin should not even receive Holy Communion at Mass.