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Pray for Better US Supreme Court Justices

By Michael J. Gaynor

After refusing to protect Terri Schiavo's right to life, the United States Supreme Court kept Roe v. Wade as the law of the land, without comment.

Obviously a majority of the Justices are still unwilling and perhaps even unable to acknowledge so heinous a mistake as permitting innocent life to be ended because someone considers it inconvenient.

Pray that they will be replaced as Justices with better people.

The sooner, the better.

And that the Roman Catholic Church in the United States be unambiguously pro-life and unafraid to follow canon law when it embarrasses the rich and powerful.

Our Pope is a living saint, but we need some better bishops too.

As CBS's Dan Rather might say: "COURAGE!"

The first step should be for the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to support Pope John Paul II and canon law.

On January 25, 199O, I wrote to the late John Cardinal O'Connor, then the Archbishop of New York:

"It is, of course, public knowledge (and, to many, public scandal) that the Governor of the State of New York, Mario Cuomo, persists in refusing to accept the Church's teaching on abortion. As I understand it, that teaching is a fundamental tenet of the Church and, by refusing to accept it, Governor Cuomo has separated himself from the Church.

"Excommunication is a drastic remedy which should not be utilized unless it is truly necessary. In the case of Governor Cuomo, his scandalous, strident public statements appear to call for such drastic action. As you know, a bishop who was incarcerated for protesting abortion recently warned Governor Cuomo that if he persists in his course of action, he risks 'going straight to hell.' Governor Cuomo responded by stating that he defended both the right of a bishop to curse a politician and the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion. In fact, the bishop did not curse Governor Cuomo; he gave him a warning which was certainly warranted. Governor Cuomo's reply, though clever, maliciously distorts the bishop's statement and reiterates the Governor's unwillingness to accept Church teaching.

"I respectfully suggest that excommunication may not only be appropriate, but effective. I have read a book by James Conoway, entitled Judge, which is an account of the life and times of Leander Perez. Mr. Perez dominated Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana for nearly half a century, and although professing to be a Catholic, refused to accept fundamental Church teachings, resulting in his excommunication.

"The following paragraph from page 189 of the book is illuminating:

One week after the funeral Mass, six new Orleans priests lodged a complaint with the Archbishop Philip Hannan, protesting the burial of 'the leading racist of the South, Leander H. Perez, Sr., with full and solemn honors in a Catholic church.' An unidentified official of the archdiocese announced to the Associated Press that the excommunication of Judge Perez had in fact been quietly lifted the previous year. Officials of the archdiocese had begun discreet inquiries after the death of [Mrs.] Perez in 1967 to determine whether Judge Perez wished to return officially to the Catholic faith. Archbishop Rummel, who had initiated the excommunication, had died in the interim. Perez was made to understand that anything he might say in public that could be construed as "supporting the authority of the Church' would be sufficient to lift the censure. It was claimed that one year before his death, Perez spoke to a small gathering which included two priests, at the dedication of an incinerator plant in Plaquemines. They reported to their superiors that Perez had ended his brief speech with a word of praise for the parochial school system, and for the new archbishop, Hannan. Soon after that, Perez was informed that he was absolved.

"It appears that Archbishop Rummel's courageous action had a salutary effect.

"It is also noteworthy that former Governor Hugh Carey, Governor Cuomo's predecessor, recently expressed regret for his failure to fully accept the Church's teaching on abortion. It is unfortunate that Governor Carey did not have the courage to do so while he was in public office, and it seems clear that Governor Cuomo, still contemplating further public service as an elected official, will not be dissuaded from his present course unless (and perhaps even if) he is excommunicated.

"In excommunicating Mr. Perez, Archbishop Rummel exhibited moral courage, which is lacking in Governor Cuomo. The failure to excommunicate Governor Cuomo, notwithstanding his demagogic exploitation of the so-called abortion issue, would call into question the Church's authority and integrity.

"I pray that your recent meeting with Governor Cuomo will help him ...

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