Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Back in the 1990s, when I was working for Governor Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania, he used to lament the fact that Catholic politicians---mostly Democrats---were in the vanguard of pushing legal abortion and its public funding and resisting all efforts to protect the fundamental right to life of children in the womb. Casey knew that one didn't need to be a Catholic to understand that unborn children, like all members of the human family, deserve the full and equal protection of the laws. But he believed that Catholics had no excuses for failing to understand that, and that Catholic political leaders had no excuses for failing to act on that understanding. That is why he had nothing but contempt for Mario Cuomo's famous (or infamous) speech at Notre Dame arguing that one could be a good Catholic who "personally opposed" abortion, while at the same time supporting "a woman's right to choose."
If Governor Casey were still with us, no one would be less suprised than he that it is again Catholic politicians---mostly Democrats---who are leading the charge to abolish the conjugal understanding of marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses and replace it with a revisionist understanding of marriage as a romantic-sexual domestic partnership. Predictably, it is the pro-abortion Catholic politicos---people like Andrew Cuomo, Martin O'Malley, and Christine Gregoire---who are in the forefront of the movement to redefine marriage. That, I believe, reveals something rather significant: The philosophical tradition that shapes the reasoning and actions of these people is expressive individualism, or what is sometimes called "life-style liberalism"; it is not Catholicism, or the Judaeo-Christian ethic, or the natural law tradition. Whatever is to be said for and against that tradition, it is deeply alien (and hostile) to the Catholic tradition's commitments to the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions and the dignity of marriage as a conjugal partnership.
Somehow, when politicians like Cuomo, O'Malley, and Gregoire go about the business of discerning their obligations on issues of profound moral significance on which Catholicism teaches one thing, and the editorial board of the New York Times teaches something else, they are always led by the spirit to side with the Times. Funny, how that is.