One of the ablest of all the Catholic Church’s newspaper columnists is The Wanderer’s James Fitzpatrick.

He has raised what is no doubt a major problem of what might be called TNMGNY (for: “The new morality of the governor of New York”).

Amazingly, Catholic layman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s living with a singularly attractive mistress named Sandra Lee was defended in the Jesuit magazine America, by Jesuit priest William J. O’Malley.

Columnist Fitzpatrick notes, among other things, the following:

“O’Malley’s topic is the question of whether New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be denied communion. Apparently, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany does not refuse communion to Cuomo, even though it is widely know that the governor, divorced and with three children, is living with Sandra Lee, a well-known personality on the Food Network. Bishop Hubbard was criticized for his decision by Edward Peters, a Canon law professor at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary and an adviser on Canon law to the Vatican.

“Wrote Peters: ‘If he (Cuomo) approaches for holy communion, he should be denied the august sacrament in accordance with Canon 915.’ This is the provision in Canon law about denying communion to ‘public sinners.’

“Yet things are not that clear for Father O’Malley. He takes Dr. Peters to task for sitting ‘in judgment on both a governor and his bishop,’ and applying the law without ‘adequately ponder(ing) the intentions of the Person who occasioned the law.’ The ‘Person’ he’s talking about is our Lord, if you had any doubts.

“O’Malley gives examples of where Jesus was welcoming of ‘public sinners’ at the dinner hosted by Simon the Pharisee where a woman ‘known as a sinner in town’ broke in and wept on Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. ‘Not only did Jesus not reprehend her,’ says O’Malley, ‘but he told his indignant host, “Much has been forgiven her because she has loved much.”‘ O’Malley also cites the story of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well who already had five husbands. O’Malley concedes that Jesus admonished her, ‘The man you are with now is not your husband,’ but that he ‘immediately dropped the subject and spoke of more important matters, like eternal life.’

“Sorry: I don’t get Father O’Malley’s point. The issue is not how members of the hierarchy should deal with repentant public sinners. It is whether public sinners should be permitted to receive communion – which requires that the communicant be in the state of grace. Does Father O’Malley want to change that requirement? Why not say so openly, then?

“When Jesus intervened to save the woman about to be stoned, he instructed her to ‘go and sin no more.’ He was unapologetically judgmental. Being judgmental is wrong behavior in the world of the politically correct. But it is a duty for a priest or bishop entrusted with teaching and defending the faith. There was nothing in O’Malley’s article that called on Bishop Hubbard to instruct Andrew Cuomo to ‘go and sin no more.’ Does O’Malley want the Church’s laws on divorce and extramarital sex to be changed? Then why not say that openly?

“Perhaps Cuomo has assured the bishop that he is trying to live chastely while sharing quarters with Ms. Lee, hoping for an annulment somewhere down the road. Perhaps, before receiving communion, he confesses those times when he strays from that intention. (I must say that it strikes me as an unlikely scenario.)”

Ladies and gentlemen, let me add to this skillfully trenchant column the questions:

  1. Has the Roman Catholic diocese of Albany, N.Y., made it a practice to provide holy communion to ALL Catholics who are shacked-up? Or just to the governor?

  2. How long does anybody believe that the Holy Father will tolerate one of his bishop’s toleration of gubernatorial concubinage?

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