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: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.