The moral depravity of Andrew Cuomo & Friends

George Weigel

Writing recently on women seeking the presidency and the “likability” factor in our politics, Peggy Noonan made a tart observation: “There are a lot of male candidates with likability problems. Some, such as Andrew Cuomo, a three-term governor of a large state, are so unlikable they aren’t even mentioned as contenders.”

Without contesting Miss Noonan’s point, I’d like to offer an addendum: Andrew Cuomo is too morally depraved to be the President of the United States — or the Governor of New York, for that matter.

Of all the obscenities surrounding Governor Cuomo’s January 22 signing of a bill whose title (“The Reproductive Health Act”) would make George Orwell gag, the most cringe-inducing was the signing ceremony itself. You can watch it on YouTube, if you’ve the stomach for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43VhkcIO5Gw. The ceremony is replete with the self-congratulatory political blather to which many of us have become inured. What is truly sickening is the unholy glee with which Cuomo signed this sordid bill — a demonic mirth shared by the other miscreants on the platform with him.

Just what are these people celebrating?

The New York RHA declares abortion on demand, at any moment in a pregnancy, up to birth, a fundamental right. A healthy infant born in New York State today could have been legally killed yesterday, according to the RHA. And the killing would not be pretty. For third-trimester abortions involve either poisoning the unborn child or collapsing its skull by the grotesque procedure known as “dilation and extraction”; the mother then gives “birth” to a dead baby who’s been executed in a manner that would revolt anyone with an iota of feeling, were similar violence perpetrated on a dog or cat.

I recently met a young man who was born at 24 weeks of gestation, when he weighed a little over a pound. My young friend was considered a child, a living member of the human community, when he spent months in the neo-natal intensive care unit of his local hospital. The New York RHA permits children of the exact same gestational age to be surgically chopped up in the womb (“dilation and curettage”) — and its sponsors imagine this legal license to dismember a helpless human being while inflicting excruciating pain to be a civilizational advance, rather than the reversion to barbarism it is.

The gory-body-parts school of pro-life activism has never appealed to me, because women caught in the dilemma of unplanned pregnancy are looking for friends who will offer them compassion and assistance, not force them to watch the obstetrical equivalent of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But the unprecedented nature of the New York RHA demands that Andrew Cuomo & Friends be confronted with the reality of what they wrought and what they celebrate — which is the legal butchery of innocent children.

There are over 3,300 crisis pregnancy centers in the United States. They embody the virtue of solidarity by offering women in crisis the life-affirming care of real medicine, not the death-dealing witchcraft of the abortionist. With humane alternatives readily available, it is ludicrous to claim, as Cuomo & Friends do, that access to abortion up until birth is an imperative of justice. Indeed, any such claim makes a mockery of any rational concept of justice, for the New York RHA legalizes the brutal exercise of raw power over an innocent human life.

Another facet of this awfulness demands attention: Andrew Cuomo, and all pro-“choice” politicians who self-identify as Catholics, bespeak a massive failure of catechesis and Christian formation in the Church in the United States. In the face of that failure, the people of the Church, ordained and lay, are called to a stringent examination of conscience. When bishops fail to declare, in the strongest and clearest terms, that support for immoral bills such as the New York RHA puts the legislator or executive in a gravely impaired position within the communion of the Church, their dereliction of duty compounds that catechetical failure.  When lay Catholics dodge the abortion issue in conversation because it’s too uncomfortable or might make them look “conservative” or “anti-feminist,” they betray the Gospel and amplify the catechetical failures of the past and present.

Moral depravity stalks the land. Calling it such is deemed “extremist” by United States senators. We all have work to do. And we all must summon the courage to do it.

COMING UP: A last chance for Australian justice

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My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia’s High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal’s request for “special leave” to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse,” and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.

Thus in 2020 the highest judicial authority in Australia will review the Pell case, which gives the High Court the opportunity to reverse a gross injustice and acquit the cardinal of a hideous crime: a “crime” that Pell insists never happened; a “crime” for which not a shred of corroborating evidence has yet been produced; a “crime” that simply could not have happened in the circumstances and under the conditions it was alleged to have been committed.

Since Cardinal Pell’s original appeal was denied in August by two of three judges on an appellate panel in the State of Victoria, the majority decision to uphold Pell’s conviction has come under withering criticism for relying primarily on the credibility of the alleged victim. As the judge who voted to sustain the cardinal’s appeal pointed out (in a dissent that one distinguished Australian attorney described as the most important legal document in that country’s history), witness credibility – a thoroughly subjective judgment-call – is a very shaky standard by which to find someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It has also been noted by fair-minded people that the dissenting judge, Mark Weinberg, is the most respected criminal jurist in Australia, while his two colleagues on the appellate panel had little or no criminal law experience. Weinberg’s lengthy and devastating critique of his two colleagues’ shallow arguments seemed intended to signal the High Court that something was seriously awry here and that the reputation of Australian justice – as well as the fate of an innocent man – was at stake.

Other recent straws in the wind Down Under have given hope to the cardinal’s supporters that justice may yet be done in his case.

Andrew Bolt, a television journalist with a nationwide audience, walked himself through the alleged series of events at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, within the timeframe in which they were supposed to have occurred, and concluded that the prosecution’s case, and the decisions by both the convicting jury and the majority of the appeal panel, simply made no sense. What was supposed to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did.

Australians willing to ignore the vicious anti-Pell polemics that have fouled their country’s public life for years also heard from two former workers at the cathedral, who stated categorically that what was alleged to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did, because they were a few yards away from Cardinal Pell at the precise time he was alleged to have abused two choirboys.

Then there was Anthony Charles Smith, a veteran criminal attorney (and not a Catholic), who wrote in Annals Australasia that the Pell verdict and the denial of his appeal “curdles my stomach.” How, he asked, could a guilty verdict be rendered on “evidence….so weak and bordering on the preposterous?” The only plausible answer, he suggested, was that Pell’s “guilt” was assumed by many, thanks to “an avalanche of adverse publicity” ginned up by “a mob baying for Pell’s blood” and influencing “a media [that] should always be skeptical.”

Even more strikingly, the left-leaning Saturday Paper, no friend of Cardinal Pell or the Catholic Church, published an article in which Russell Marks – a one-time research assistant on an anti-Pell book – argued that the two judges on the appellate panel who voted to uphold the cardinal’s conviction “effectively allowed no possible defense for Pell: there was nothing his lawyers could have said or done, because the judges appeared to argue it was enough to simply believe the complainant on the basis of his performance under cross examination.”

The Australian criminal justice system has stumbled or failed at every stage of this case. The High Court of Australia can break that losing streak, free an innocent man, and restore the reputation of Australian justice in the world. Whatever the subsequent fallout from the rabid Pell-haters, friends of justice must hope that that is what happens when the High Court hears the cardinal’s case – Australia’s Dreyfus Case – next year.

Photo: CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images