Cdl. Dolan Rejects Calls to Excommunicate Cuomo

by Stephen Wynne  •  •  January 25, 2019   

Ignores requests by bishops, laity

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NEW YORK ( - Cardinal Timothy Dolan is dismissing calls to excommunicate New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for enacting the most radical abortion law in U.S. history.

On Tuesday, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). In addition to legalizing abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, RHA removes the requirement that abortionists be licensed doctors, allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform abortions. It also removes protections for babies born alive after botched procedures, essentially green-lighting infanticide for newborn survivors of abortion. The move has sparked a growing outcry from faithful across the country for Cuomo, a self-identified Catholic, to be excommunicated for pushing the bill through the state legislature.

On Friday, CNN's Daniel Burke spoke with a top New York archdiocesan official about the prospect of censure. "I asked @CardinalDolan's spokesman about the calls for Gov. Cuomo to be excommunicated over NY's new abortion bill," Burke tweeted. "While emphasizing that this should not be considered a comment on any specific person, he said excommunication 'should not be used as a weapon.'"

The spokesman issued a statement suggesting that excommunicating Cuomo would be an inappropriate response. "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," he said.

"Second," he argued, "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."

The statement also claimed Dolan preferred to handle the matter "personally and directly" with Cuomo, going on to say excommunication would ultimately be ineffective. But Catholic leaders — including brother bishops — disagree with the archdiocese's assessment.

Enough is enough. Excommunication is to be not a punishment but to bring the person back into the Church.

On Thursday, Bp. Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee took to Twitter, saying: "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. I think I might do it for any Catholic legislator under my jurisdiction who voted for the bill as well as the Governor."

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas later echoed Stika's position. "I'm with Bishop Stika," he tweeted early Friday morning. "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!!!!!!!!!!"
Leading clergymen made their voices heard even before Bps. Stika and Strickland. On Wednesday, Fr. Kevin M. Cusick, LCDR, MSM, a contributor to Catholic journal The Wanderer, tweeted that "Public excommunications, such as in the case of Cuomo, are long-overdue in this country."
UK priest Fr. David Palmer of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said Wednesday: "This man must be publicly excommunicated (he has already de facto excommunicated himself). He has no place in the Catholic Church until he repents."
On Wednesday, in an article for the National Catholic Register, Msgr. Charles Pope called for Cuomo's public censure:

There comes a time when something is so egregious and boldly sinful that it must be met with strong ecclesial and canonical penalties and remedies. ... This cannot be allowed to stand without canonical penalties. I am not a canon lawyer, but the truth is clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not in communion with the Catholic Church. At this point, canonical penalties forbidding him to receive Holy Communion — or even, if possible, issuing a formal excommunication — are simply affirming what is already true and what he himself has done. To fail to issue all possible canonical penalties at this point would, to my mind, show the Church to be irrelevant and a laughingstock.

To fail to issue all possible canonical penalties at this point would, to my mind, show the Church to be irrelevant and a laughingstock.
Likewise, canon lawyer Ed Peters is insisting that contrary to Cdl. Dolan's suggestion, Cuomo's abortion law is ample grounds for the his excommunication. On Wednesday, Peters tweeted: "Gov.@Cuomo has, I understand, refrained from Communion since the concubinage controversy of 2011; now, his blatant promotion of New York's murderous abortion law would, by itself, suffice to conclude he must not be admitted to the Sacrament per Canon 915."
In a follow-up article for The Catholic World Report on Thursday, Peters expanded his analysis. "Regardless of Cuomo's ineligibility for holy Communion on other grounds, his conduct in regard to New York's new abortion law also suffices, in my view, to bar him from holy Communion per Canon 915," he wrote.
"Cuomo has, however, committed acts that, in my view, suffice to invoke penal Canon 1369 against him," Peters added. "That possibility occasions some observations for Catholics forming their expectations about exactly who in the Church could be doing exactly what in a case like this."
Peters added that both Cdl. Dolan and Bp. Edward Scharfenberger of Albany have the power to take action against Cuomo: "Penal jurisdiction in this matter rests with the bishop of Albany (as the place where some or all of the canonically criminal conduct was committed, per Canon 1412)," he wrote, "and/or with the archbishop of New York (as the place where Cuomo apparently has canonical domicile, per Canon 1408)."
Dolan has already made clear he won't excommunicate the governor. All eyes are now turning to Bp. Scharfenberger, widely regarded as a faithful bishop, to see what action he will take. On Tuesday, Scharfenberger penned an open letter excoriating Cuomo for signing the RHA into law. But faithful Catholics across the country are insisting that words aren't enough; faithful bishops, they say, must act against Catholic lawmakers who sacrifice the unborn for political gain.
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