Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Shhh! Not now! Some other time! And not then, either.

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 08, 2011

The bishops of New York met today with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In light of the highly publicized flap recently over Cuomo's decision to receive Communion-- despite the scandals caused by his relationship with a live-in girlfriend and his support for legal abortion and same-sex marriage-- you might be wondering whether that topic came up in his conversation with the bishops.

No, it didn't. 

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, who administered the Eucharist to the governor, said that the Church does not comment "when it comes to judging the worthiness of Communion." (Presumably he meant worthiness for Communion.) Sorry, but that's just plain wrong. Speaking through the Code of Canon Law (915), the Church says that those "who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."

"There is some disagreement among bishops about using the Communion line as a place for confrontation, and I don't think the bishops in New York State feel that's appropriate," Bishop Hubbard continued. You might rephrase that, to say that there's a disagreement among bishops about whether or not to carry out the clear duties imposed by Canon 915. But leave that aside. Today the bishops did not meet Cuomo in the Communion line; they met for a private conversation. 

So again, did the topic arise? Bishop Edward Kmiec of Buffalo responded: "That kind of issue has to be discussed not at the altar rail." Right. Understood. But there was no altar rail in sight during the meeting today.

So let's try again. Did the bishops mention the topic? No, said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. You see, "this is probably not the best place to talk about something that pastorally sensitive."

OK. You can't talk to the governor about it when he presents himself for Communion. You can't talk to the governor about it when you're meeting to discuss legislative priorities. When can you talk to the governor about it? 

And if Cuomo is scandalizing the faithful by receiving Communion, and jeopardizing his own salvation, what other topics are more important for bishops to discuss with him?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 10, 2011 1:55 PM ET USA

    If it is pictured or printed in the news, it is a public affair. The Bishops are an even greater scandal by not preaching the Gospel "in season and out of season." Pray for them.

  • Posted by: michaelwilmes - Mar. 10, 2011 1:12 PM ET USA

    "And if Cuomo is scandalizing the faithful by receiving Communion, and jeopardizing his own salvation, what other topics are more important for bishops to discuss with him?" That's an EASY question to answer, Phil! Money. And the flow OF from state coffers to Church-sponsored social agencies. Makes you wonder what they would have discussed with Henry VIII if they were bishops 500-some years ago.....

  • Posted by: - Mar. 10, 2011 12:11 AM ET USA

    I know I'm going to be thrown under the bus for this one, but I actually side with the bishops in this case, not in the fact that they did not deny him communion (which I think they should have done) but in the prudence of not discussing his affair at the meeting. I think a one-on-one meeting with his own bishop only would be the correct place for a discussion of his relationship. I do think the meeting would have been a PERFECT time to address his pro-choice policies.

  • Posted by: JP810 - Mar. 09, 2011 10:38 PM ET USA

    Phil is absolutely correct! The bishop has a duty to protect the faithful from public scandal! One's personal belief doesn't set aside canon law at one's convenience.

  • Posted by: Hal - Mar. 09, 2011 6:20 PM ET USA

    He's just a Governor. Pilate was a governor too.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Mar. 09, 2011 6:15 PM ET USA

    Did it ever occur to you that these bishops don't really believe in the real presence? I am reminded that the Levitical priests offered a pinch of incense to Nero to keep their good standing in the Roman Empire.

  • Posted by: headdave4594 - Mar. 09, 2011 10:43 AM ET USA

    Let's take the bishops at their word and say the bishop of Albany did meet (or plans to meet) with Cuomo privately to warn him about his situation. Would this ever be made public? Should it be made public? They may be thinking that privacy is required here. Of course, trying to keep things private leads to its own problems.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 09, 2011 10:21 AM ET USA

    Maybe those bishops should read the story of St. John the Baptist. They can pick up a Bible at their local bookstore or buy online.

  • Posted by: pauljworthington637024 - Mar. 09, 2011 9:52 AM ET USA

    It is now the bishops who are scandalizing the faithful. Gentlemen, two words: MAN UP.

  • Posted by: pba4155 - Mar. 09, 2011 9:25 AM ET USA

    I fail miserably everyday and act more out of my concern for what others will think of me or act out of ambition for my agenda rather than acting out of sacrificial love and risking offending others. I don't know if that is true for Bishops, but it certainly is true for me. I guess I hoped that people in leadership roles did tough love better. When Doug Kemic meet with candidate Obama, I was so disappointed in what he said and fail to say to Obama. What a missed opportunity to witness to life.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Mar. 09, 2011 8:29 AM ET USA

    These NY bishops are real profiles in courage. Did they attend the Cardinal Cushing school of sucking up to Catholic in Name Only (CINO) politicians?

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Mar. 09, 2011 12:30 AM ET USA

    Oh can you see the bowing and scraping that went on in that room amongst the politicos, laity and clergy alike?

  • Posted by: 30 year priest - Mar. 08, 2011 10:48 PM ET USA

    Is it not apparent that they do not believe in the gravity of the offense, and the reality of eternal damnation (aka "hell")?