Kathryn, I wish I could share your admiration for Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s pastoral approach to dealing with enemies of the Church and its dogma, but in the wake of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s naked hostility to his nominal religion (the governor’s office pushes back against the New York Post’s characterization of his remarks here, although not particularly convincingly), it really is time to ask: What would Dagger John do? (You can read the four earlier installments in this series here, here, here, and here.)
Uniquely among the American clergy, the Archbishop of New York is called upon to play both a religious and a political role in the life of American Catholics, thanks to the legacy of the diocese’s very first archbishop, John Hughes. From William J. Stern’s profile of Dagger John in City Journal:
The “nativists,” as the highly organized anti-Catholics were called, included Protestant fundamentalists who saw the Catholic Church as the handiwork of Satan and superstition, intellectuals who considered Catholicism incompatible with democracy, ethnocentric cultural purists who believed the United States should be a land for Anglo-Saxons, and pragmatic citizens who thought it not worth the trouble to integrate so many culturally different immigrants. The nativists counted among their number many of America’s elite, including John Jay, John Quincy Adams, John Calhoun, Stephen Douglas, and P. T. Barnum, all of whom spoke publicly against the Catholic Church and the threat to liberty that allowing Catholics into the country would create. In Boston a mob led by Congregationalist minister Lyman Beecher, the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, burned a convent to the ground; church burnings were common. Samuel Morse tapped out rumors of Catholic conspiracies against liberty on his Atlantic cable long before such trash circulated on the Internet. Books depicting concupiscence in convents and sex in seminaries were everywhere.
Hughes was outraged. He didn’t want Catholics to be second-class citizens in America as they had been in Ireland, and he thought he had a duty not to repeat the mistakes of the clergy in Ireland, who in his view had been remiss in not speaking out more forcefully against English oppression. Resistance was imperative. He began a letter-writing campaign to the newspapers, decrying what he saw as a tendency toward chauvinistic nationalism in his new country.
Substitute “secularists” for “nativists,” “abortionists” for “Protestant fundamentalists,” and “Democrats” for “English oppression” and what have you got? Elsewhere on the Corner today, David makes that point that when someone is yelling that he’s going to kill you, it’s wise to take him seriously:
A man screaming for your head is disturbing enough if he’s merely waving a plastic spoon. He becomes terrifying when he’s waving a loaded gun.
To which I would add, that you have to get to him before he gets to you. Cuomo’s thuggish remarks are rich coming from a guy with his personal and family history, and from a governor who rammed through a poorly conceived and arguably unconstitutional “gun control” bill on an “emergency” basis when a) there was no emergency and b) the proximate cause happened in another state. As Pat Archbold in the National Catholic Register recently opined:
Cuomo is not content to merely disagree while ceding your right to advocate for your position. No, the Governor states that you do not belong in his state. You have no place. Get out. We will not tolerate you.
Now that Catholics have been declared personae non gratae by the most powerful person in the State, the scales must now finally fall from the eyes of the Big-Tent Church of Hugs and Giggles™. I am sure the Church in NY will now wake up and respond in kind, right?
So what would Dagger John do? Very likely, he would make an example of the governor and threaten to excommunicate him until he backs down from his un-American ideological extremism, then let Cuomo decide between his faith and his politics. I understand that canon law is not quite that simple, and that, technically, the Queens-born Cuomo’s bishop might be seated in Albany. Still, such a deliberate provocation ought not to go unanswered. As the Good Book says:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Make them choose. Make them squirm, for a change. See how they like it.