Many laypeople have called for the excommunication of Governor Cuomo. Only bishops can exercise this “last resort” measure, designed to protect the faith of the people of God and bring the one excommunicated back to God. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, when asked why he has not corrected his son Andrew, laughed it off. “What clout do I have?” he joked. “I’m just a bald fat old man.” Is that really how a cardinal of the Church sees himself? The bishop of Albany, when asked why he has not formally corrected his son Andrew Cuomo, stammered and prevaricated a lame evasion along these lines: nobody really believes abortion is a good thing, and so I don’t have to excommunicate Governor Cuomo because he has already excommunicated himself from the public. “Why would I add insult to injury?” Bishop Scharfenberger said. Notice that the bishop treats abortion as a public relations issue, decided by popular opinion, rather than a moral issue. Public relations is more or less how the bishops have treated clergy sex abuse. Laudably, Bishop Scharfenberger has said some strong words against Governor Cuomo’s legislation, but the bishop has not followed his words with actions. Words are cheap. We are tired of words like “we will do everything we can to prevent clergy sexual abuse.” The bishops need to stop talking and start acting, acting like strong and brave fathers.
But finally there is one bishop who has formally corrected any government leader who promotes the killing of unborn children. Bishop Thomas Daly, of Spokane, this week instructed all of his priests to withhold communion from any Catholic official who supports abortion. Finally, we have a father, a man who has decisively protected the faith of his children, a bishop who cares more for the souls of Catholic politicians than their approval. When Senator Ted Kennedy was asked how he, a Catholic, could support issues so clearly condemned by his own Church, he replied “it’s the bishop’s problem, not mine.” In other words, if the bishops really believed that abortion was a grave offence against human dignity, they would excommunicate me. Ted Kennedy was never formally disciplined by any of his bishops. Thank God we finally have a bishop, at least in Spokane, who is ready to suffer the personal attacks that will surely come to him from Catholic politicians in order to care for their souls.