06/22/2005: "Mario Cuomo exemplifies poor Catechesis... again."
Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York (1983-1995) and self proclaimed Catholic, is one of the most poorly formed Catholics in the public sphere. He is generally credited with conceiving the notion that a Catholic politician can in good conscience support laws legalizing abortion because he or she represents a pluralistic society, a logic that was emphasized by John Kerry. The logic is a false one, but I won't go into why here.
No, today I want to respond to a column by Mario Cuomo written just a few days ago in regards to Stem Cell research where he continues his life-long ignorance of the Catholic faith he professes. It can be found here. Here is my letter to him:
Dear Mr. Cuomo,
I was very disappointed by your column published in the New York Times on June 20th. It has been your opinion over your political career that politicians should not impose their faith on others. I believe there is much truth in this statement although one must be careful to realize that natural law needs to be enforced in civil law and that for a person of faith this is inextricably linked to one's belief in God.
That said, what you are supporting in this recent column is exactly what you claim to be against. You make it clear in your column President Bush is imposing no limitations on embryonic stem cell research, only on federal funding of it. In fact you chastise him for the position as being an inconsistent one because "he refuses to demand legislation to stop commercial interests that are busily destroying embryos in order to obtain stem cells." In other words the President refuses to impose his faith on others. He allows them to continue to doing what he considers immoral. All he refuses to do is pay for it. He is not acting on "Faith Alone" as the title of your column suggests but is letting the principles of religious freedom guide his actions
In fact I would go further to say that his policies in regards to ESCR do as much to protect religious freedom as any policy on the subject could. You see, I am a tax payer just like you and like the vast majority of Americans. I find embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) morally unacceptable just as you should as a believing Catholic. Whenever the government spends money, they are spending our money. I would never pay for any ESCR and being forced to do so violates my religious beliefs. As an example of this, as a pretty average California resident (average as defined by my income level and property ownership) I will be paying about $40 every year for ESCR through legislation that was passed by the voters last November. This is $40 that not only would I never dream of paying, it is $40 that I find morally sinful. When government funds get spent on something that is morally unacceptable to a significant portion of Americans, the religion (or call it faith or belief) of the majority is being forced on the minority. Isn't this exactly what the principle of religious freedom is supposed to prevent?
You address this concern by saying that we, through the government, pay for what some of us find morally objectionable all the time. In saying this you reference 4 examples: the death penalty, contraceptives, abortion and war. I suspect you pick these 4 because they fall on "both sides of the isle". In doing so you seem to make a compelling argument that we must accept it because as you say it "is part of the price we pay for this uniquely successful democracy." But there is a significant difference between the "two sides of the isle" in this case. Abortion and contraception funding are not part of what is traditionally considered the responsibility of the government. In fact, traditionally, caring for the poor (which is the closest traditional role of society that these could be put under) has been the responsibility of the Church. On the other hand, punishing criminals and defending the people from outside forces are much more clearly the responsibility of the government.
Do I object to the use of the death penalty? Yes I do. I often lobby for the end of it. But I do accept that the government must punish criminals. As such a consensus MUST be reached and the government must act upon that consensus. I similarly object to the war in Iraq (although I believe we must now finish what we started) as I believe that we had Saddam Hussein reasonably contained and as such was not an evil that could justify the evil that a war entails. In short it did not meet the just war criteria. So, as the buildup to the war was occurring, I lobbied my senators to say no to the war. But just as is the case with the punishing criminals, I accept that fighting wars (or defending the country) is the responsibility of the government and as such a consensus MUST be reached. For both of these case I'm willing to accept paying for these objectionable actions as "part of the price we pay for this uniquely successful democracy."
Paying for abortions and contraceptives on the other hand is not necessarily the responsibility of the government. There need not be consensus! There is no "price" that needs to be paid. I wholeheartedly reject that someone should accept these non-essential parts of government as part of the price of having a government. In these scenarios, scenarios in which the government need not be involved, it is best to fall back to a position in which we do not force the consensus opinion on anyone. In this way we can do our best to respect the religious freedom of all people by preventing the government from funding these activities.
This same principle applies to ESCR. Medical research is not the responsibility of the government particularly in a society with privatized medicine. There is no need for consensus on this subject and because of this, I full expect that my tax dollars will not be spent on what I find morally unacceptable.
In summary, it would seem to me that you would be a whole-hearted supporter of the President's current position on ESCR. Not only are the beliefs of those who have no moral objections to ESCR being respected so too are the beliefs of those who would be required to pay for it if it was funded by the government.
Why aren't you?
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