My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This is the full text of Bishop DiMarzio’s Cathedral Club Dinner speech delivered on February 7 at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
Good evening, everyone.
Thank you for coming to this, the 119th Anniversary dinner for the Cathedral Club of Brooklyn. The Club was founded in 1900 – not by me – but by then Father George Mundelein, who would later become Cardinal Mundelein of the Archdiocese of Chicago. This Club was founded to ensure representation in public life, particularly in the courts. The primary focus was not to promote scholarships and charity – which I obviously support and am grateful for – but rather to ensure that Catholics were elected to office. The legacy of Father Mundelein sits with us on the dais in the form of the many judges who join us each year.
Each year, this dinner raises money to provide scholarships for our local Catholic high schools, including Xaverian, who is well represented here tonight.
Later, we will hear from our honoree, Domenick Cama, President and Chief Operating Officer of Investors Bank. He has a long history of helping Catholic organizations in Brooklyn and Queens, including our Catholic Scouting programs.
We are also honored to be joined by New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill. I know that many of New York’s Finest are here with us tonight. If you are a member of the NYPD, currently serving or retired, please stand so we all may thank you for keeping us safe.
Malicious Reproductive Health Act
Not everyone on this dais, or certainly in this room, is Catholic. But this shows at a minimum an interest in a dialogue and that is more than I can say for what has happened in our state capital recently. Since this might be my last Cathedral Club Dinner as Bishop of Brooklyn, giving my pending retirement after I reach age 75 in a few months, I must leave you with my parting thoughts on the “State of our State.”
The malicious Reproductive Health Act recently signed into law does nothing to protect the lives and health of women in our state. It is fundamentally dishonest to call this a pro-choice bill. Rather, it is an extremist, pro-abortion piece of legislation. What it does do is allow for the termination of pregnancy in the days and even moments before a woman gives birth. But what is it? It is infanticide. To all people in this room, a fully formed infant of nine months is far different than what is present in a woman who has conceived in the first three months. I looked online and found that in the Merck Manual, the bible of the medical community, their definition of the “Stages of Development of the Fetus” states, “A baby goes through several stages of development, beginning as a fertilized egg. The egg develops into a blastocyst, an embryo, then a fetus.”
Does medical science believe that all stages are human life? And no one can deny that a child about to be born is a human being! Because of this grave evil, many in the Catholic community want the bishops to excommunicate Governor Cuomo, as well as those members in the state legislature who voted for this to happen. Rather, vote them out of office, for this is the ultimate penalty for a politician.
Let me be clear: This was not simply the passage of a bill that we deemed to be immoral. It was the celebration of the destruction of human life. Twenty-something years ago, the politics of abortion were defined by the Clintonian “safe, legal, and rare,” but now we are at a point where the Democratic establishment of New York State promotes abortion. New York is the abortion capital of the United States, with the New York State Board of Health reporting that 87,325 abortions are performed annually in our state, which is about 10 percent of the US abortion rate.
How did we get here? Our Governor, who with great fanfare signed this legislation, was educated in Catholic schools from grammar school to college. So, clearly, it is not sufficient to simply support politicians who claim to be Catholic. Unfortunately, the truth is that the Church is losing many of its friends in politics. The Honorable Mike Long is here on the dais, but this New York icon is retiring from leading the state’s Conservative Party after many years. Last week, we buried Joe Hynes, the former DA of Brooklyn. Joe and I may have disagreed on some issues, but at least we could talk with each other about our differences. Marty Golden lost his seat in the State Senate. He has always been a true champion for many of our causes. There are a few others here in the audience that I will not name because I do not want to embarrass them now. There were only five legislators from Brooklyn and Queens who voted “no” on the bill; Senator Joseph Addabbo, Senator Simcha Felder; Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein and Assemblyman William Colton. All are now marked for extinction.
Sexual Abuse Crisis
We find ourselves amid a type of politics that is more and more polarized. Right now, the moral voice of the Church has been effected. For the past eighteen years, we – and by we, I mean the Catholic bishops – have been grappling with the sexual abuse crisis that has engulfed the Church. We all know that many tragic mistakes were made and many lives were profoundly hurt. For that, I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness.
I have sought to create a program of reconciliation under the auspices of Kenneth Feinberg, a settlement expert, and, in addition, our Diocese continues to take responsibility for the costs associated with the pastoral care and emotional well-being of victims. We in the Church today go above and beyond what any institution is asked of in the training and background screening of employees and volunteers alike; the training is for adults and even our young with a focus on awareness and prevention. This is all at a great expense; however, it is an expense that we believe is worth it because we have learned the lessons of the past. Despite our vilification by our Governor, we are committed to protecting young people. Were our public institutions as committed to this, our city and state would be a better place.
It is important to note that before 2002 and the adoption of the Dallas Charter, the Diocese of Brooklyn only knew of about 14 percent of the total cases now presented to us. How can you cover up what you do not know? You should also know that in our own Diocese of Brooklyn, there have been only two credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor since 2002. That is over the course of nearly 17 years, and over a period of time where we have had hundreds of priests with tens of thousands of children being educated in our schools and attending Mass in our parishes.
Shepherds of the Church
As Bishops, we are the shepherds of the Church, and we have sought to take responsibility, promote healing, and create the conditions necessary for justice. It must be noted that while many things should have been handled differently by the Church, this was not just a problem of the Church but of our broader society. That is why I am pleased that the Child Victims Act legislation will enable all victims of sexual abuse to seek redress and compensation. Public entities should never have been kept out of being held accountable for sexual abuse allegations. As a result of this legislation, although not yet signed by the Governor, those abused by people in public entities will now be able to be sued in the same way that religious entities have been sued in the past. It is only with this equal protection under the law that our society can truly deal with the devastating effects of sexual abuse of minors.
With our institutional voice compromised, who can be the prophetic voice to lead us out of the darkness? You! You are the ones who will be our voice and will be the voice of Christ in the halls of power in the city, state and federal governments.
There is no Catholic political party. Politics is always a matter of different choices, of compromise, of the possible. However, it is undeniable that just when it seems that the Democratic party has redeemed itself by showing its concern for the poor and the most vulnerable among us, it still cannot help itself but be tied to the ultimate politics of abortion.
I am sure there are some, maybe even some sitting on the dais or in this room who think that the Church is too radical on this question because we oppose abortion. Is it not radical to embrace the taking of human life up until the moment of birth? No, person here in good conscience can support such an evil in any circumstances. Let me be clear: the politics of hate that allows a person to dress up in blackface or in a KKK outfit is the same politics of hate that allows the taking of human life up until the moment of birth.
Our Governor and State legislature are not finished. They are not so much concerned with the merits of policy, but simple political opportunism. Not satisfied with the destruction of human life up until the moment of birth, our leaders wish to make it easier to take a vulnerable human life that is suffering from the ravages of old age and illness. The proposed assisted suicide legislation is as merciful as much as the Reproductive Health Act is about healthcare.
Our Constitution and the Supreme Court assures that the United States is a place of laws, governed by the will of the people. But the Supreme Court has been wrong in the past. Do you remember their upholding of slavery before the Civil War in their Dred Scott Decision?
The basis for Roe v. Wade is the principle of privacy that the Court has found in the Constitution. Personal freedom and privacy seems to trump everything. What about the responsibility of citizens to the Nation, and the Nation to its citizens. Extreme personal freedom and privacy destroys this relationship.
If we do not resist these developments, who will? If we do not stand up for the vulnerable, who will? I will not excommunicate anyone. However, those who supported and signed this legislation must wonder if they have excommunicated themselves, as they left not only the teaching of the Church which is their mother, but the common sense of the natural law.
I want our leaders to find their way back to right and reasonable morality and to the Church. Please join me in praying for them. However, thoughts and prayers are not enough.
Faith is action. Will you take action? Support candidates for political office that reflect good moral values. Run for office. Be someone for whom you, yourself, would want to vote.
God bless the Cathedral Club and God bless America!