Governor Pliny and Governor Cuomo

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus was governor of Bithynia–Pontus in present day Turkey from 111 to 113 AD.  That capped a long career during which he served as judge, staff officer, knight, senator, quaestor, tribune, praetor, prefect, consul, propraetor and augur. He was popularly known as Pliny the Younger because his uncle, the naturalist and military commander, adopted him. He had been with his uncle when he died at the eruption of Vesuvius, rescuing some of the people fleeing Pompeii. Given his acrobatic balance in dancing to the tune of very different emperors: Vespasian, Titus, Domitian Nerva, and Trajan, he reminds one of Talleyrand whom he actually surpassed in erudition as a writer of Greek verse and orator in the line of Cicero.  Talleyrand would have admired his cynicism, as when he decried Domitian as soon as he died, having long extolled him. It is curious, but not atypical of the Italian Renaissance, that this torturer of Christians should be honored with a statue on the façade of the cathedral in his native town of Como.

A growing body of Christians was unsettling the pagan establishment in Bithynia.  Pliny wrote Trajan a famous epistle beginning with the flattery he had mastered:

It is my constant method to apply myself to you for the resolution of all my doubts; for who can better govern my dilatory way of proceeding or instruct my ignorance? I have never been present at the examination of the Christians by others, on which account I am unacquainted with what uses to be inquired into, and what, and how far they used to be punished; nor are my doubts small, whether there be not a distinction to be made between the ages of the accused and whether tender youth ought to have the same punishment with strong men? Whether there be not room for pardon upon repentance? or whether it may not be an advantage to one that had been a Christian, that he has forsaken Christianity? Whether the bare name, without any crimes besides, or the crimes adhering to that name, to be punished? In the meantime, I have taken this course about those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians or not? If they confessed that they were Christians, I asked them again, and a third time, intermixing threatenings with the questions. If they persevered in their confession, I ordered them to be executed; for I did not doubt but, let their confession be of any sort whatsoever, this positiveness and inflexible obstinacy deserved to be punished. There have been some of this mad sect whom I took notice of in particular as Roman citizens, that they might be sent to that city.

Pliny deemed these people superstitious because “they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god.” Superstition was not a crime, and it was rife in the Empire, but these Christians refused to worship the gods of the land and would rather die than worship the Emperor himself.  There were not a few Christians who got cold feet and obliged Pliny: “A libel was sent to me, though without an author, containing many names [of persons accused]. These denied that they were Christians now, or ever had been. They called upon the gods, and supplicated to your image, which I caused to be brought to me for that purpose, with frankincense and wine; they also cursed Christ; none of which things, it is said, can any of those that are ready Christians be compelled to do; so I thought fit to let them go. Others of them that were named in the libel, said they were Christians, but presently denied it again; that indeed they had been Christians, but had ceased to be so, some three years, some many more; and one there was that said he had not been so these twenty years. All these worshipped your image, and the images of our gods; these also cursed Christ.” Trajan wrote back saying that Pliny had followed proper procedure, but to be fair according to Roman justice, the “spirit of our age” required that the governor should only persecute those who refused to cease being Christians.

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently declared on a radio program in Albany that those who uphold, by implication, Christian moral standards, and refuse to go along with state legislation on such matters as abortion and the redefinition of marriage, have “no place in the state of New York.” If this also applies to dead New Yorkers, perhaps he should exhume the remains of pro-life feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  He did not threaten to throw anyone to wild beasts, but the tone of the governor of the Empire State was decidedly imperious, and the threat of having to move west of Hudson River might be unsettling to even the most devout Catholics.  As Cuomo has publicly flaunted his concubinage with the cook Sandra Lee, it cannot be said that he is inconsistent in his moral prescriptions. If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, he is the very opposite of a hypocrite, for he would rather insist that virtue pay tribute to vice.  It is unlikely that a statue of Governor Cuomo will ever adorn the Albany cathedral like the one of Pliny at the cathedral of Como, but in that cathedral on the day after his inauguration in 2011, Bishop Howard Hubbard preached: “Ultimate victory over forces that are seemingly insurmountable is really possible.” According to the New York Daily News: “The divorced son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who was once chastised by Catholic leaders for his support of abortion rights, calmly received Holy Communion. Lee walked in line for Communion with him.” Immediately after the Mass, Cuomo the Younger said that the bishop’s words were “inspirational” and then ordered ethics training for employees in his office, to be given by the Public Integrity Commission. One supposes that such training includes eradicating the superstitious cult of Christianity.

Attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, but more probably the words of Joseph de Maistre, is the oft-repeated warning,  “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.” New York now has the highest abortion rate in the nation, and Governor Cuomo promotes abortion even in the third trimester when a baby can feel pain, and apparently more so than the governor himself. In a state whose population supposedly is 38 percent Catholic he enjoys a 52 percent approval record, and received 61 percent of the nominal Catholic vote. Catholics fragile in spirit who symbolically offered incense to Caesar by voting for such present leaders, were either ignorant (and ignorance unlike stupidity can be cured) or selfish in placing small material interests above moral standards.

Trajan was a comparatively humane man by the standards of the day, but he seems to have been inflated with his successes against the Scythians and Dacians, and became more bloated with pride when he decided to march on Armenia.  According to tradition, en route to Armenia, Trajan stopped in Antioch where the bishop Ignatius was brought before him. Trajan was perplexed that such a gentle man would not water down his faith in order to cooperate with the state.  He ordered Ignatius to get out of Bythinia. Before arriving in Rome where he was tossed to the lions by imperial decree, St. Ignatius wrote:  “Do not err, my brethren. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such a one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire and so shall every one that hearkens unto him.”

St. Ignatius was second in succession to St. Peter as bishop of Antioch, after the death of Bishop Evodius, and he may have been appointed by the Prince of the Apostles himself.  He was a student of Christ’s most beloved apostle John.  So what Ignatius wrote resounds with the authority Christ gave to Peter, and resonates with the beat of the heart John could hear at the Last Supper.

Fr. George W. Rutler


Fr. George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He is the author of many books including Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) and Hints of Heaven (Sophia Institute Press). His latest books are He Spoke To Us (Ignatius, 2016) and The Stories of Hymns (EWTN Publishing, 2017).

  • emer83

    I wish I lived in this great man’s parish. Perfect and thank you.

    • flourgiggy

      Fr. Rutler’s new parish – St. Michael’s (appropriate, yes?) is at 424 West 34th Street, just a couple of blocks west of Macy’s. Pay a visit there the next time you’re in NYC.

  • jacobhalo

    Maybe Cuomo could rent the German concentration camps and place pro-lifers in there, along with those who oppose homosexual marriage. Hitler would be proud of him.

    • Adam__Baum

      Others are observing the unsettling similarities between 2014 and 1934.

    • tom

      The Church excommunicated Catholics who suppported that Fuhrer.

      • jacobhalo

        The church should excommunicate those who support abortion.

        • Arriero

          The Church should excommunicate usurers as she did for more than one thousand years .

          Only then, the Wall Street Journal et al would be a nice wilderness.

          • Adam__Baum

            What about fools?

            • Arriero


              But first the usurers. Recall how in 1306-1321 Dante pens “The Inferno”, in which he places usurers at the lowest ledge in the seventh circle of hell – lower than murderers. Also remember how in the Medieval Canon Law Usury is punishable by ex-communication and how it was outlawed by Charlemagne in all his kingdom.

              In fact, were the first protestant sects the ones who firstly began to disobey and deny Church’s teaching on money, interests and trade. Concepts well explained by Thomas Aquinas within the Summa.

              In fact, under a real Catholic regime, monetary policy would be very different. There wouldn’t be zero lower bound problem or/and liquidity trap (unfortunately for keynesians). Fed’s interest on reserves would be outlawed and quantitative easing wouldn’t be necessary at all (being Open Market Operations far less agressive). Hence, money would have a higher intrinsic value and inflation would be stable without government intervention. Unluckily, the pseudo-calvinists always liked too much power, money and materialism. Incredibly marxist, by the way, don’t you think?

              • Adam__Baum

                To a certain sort of rube, this might seem impressive. Of course, then again I am convinced that you have intimate familiarity with every level of the inferno.

                • Arriero

                  I know the arguments from the pseudo-calvinist catholics very well.

                  Take for instance Huerta de Soto, more papist than the same Pope, and well-known proponent and intellectual of the anarco-capitalist economic theory in the spirit of Murray Rothbard (who was anything but Catholic) with a clear influence from the late Austrian School. He even advocates a total privatization of justice and the military. Too radical even for anti-government-per-se americans, maybe. Yet it’s worth noting he is professor within a PUBLIC university in Madrid. Other austrian economists who dare to call themselves Catholics, also wrote articles heavily critizing the Pope, under such titles as «Por qué el Papa se equivoca» (Why the Pope is wrong) (From an economic page called «Free market» )

                  This is ( ) a good example of crappy pseudo-intellectual discussion and a total misunderstanding of the Chuch’s tradition, teaching and magisterium. One wonders how someone dares to write such things; people who clearly has never read Aquinas, or Saint Agustine or the Fathers (not the Pilgrim Fathers of course, who nobody in the Church cares who they were).

                  But hey, don’t get upset with me and have a nice day!

                  • Adam__Baum

                    There was a great Saint who laughed at his burning bed, you are less imposing an apparition, I can do the same.

  • Don

    Of course when confronted with his own words Governor Cuomo protested that his words had been taken out of context. A careful review of his entire speech shows that his words had not been so abused. How often over the last few years have we observed politicians say or do something which was recorded in detail and then deny having done so only to have the press ignore such demonstrable dishonesty? I will render to caesar what is his . . . but no more than that. Thank you once again Rev. Rutler for a wonderful essay.

  • AcceptingReality

    And what is the fate of Cardinals and Bishops who fail to publicly admonish Gov. Cuomo for his obstinate and scandalous opposition to Catholic teaching? Who won’t formally excommunicate him? Or who say nothing about his receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist unworthily? What happens to Cardinals who would rather rub elbows with elite politicians than publicly proclaim the truth? Who won’t protect the faithful from scandal?

    • Danielck

      Maybe we don’t know the fate because we haven’t seen or heard from Cardinals, Bishops and Priests admonishing the governor and/or standing up for life, family, Catholic tradition, etc. And they continue to ask us for more money, saying support is down because of the economy, or for whatever reasons. Maybe if they pointed out that we Catholics might have more money for the Church if we weren’t required (forced) to give more of our money to planned parenthood, illegal immigrants (in the form of food stamps, public assistance, etc.), those without health insurance (Health care may be a right, but health care is not health insurance), etc. Maybe if once they had the courage to say “Stop voting for politicians against the Faith! Educate yourselves! Vote pro-life! Vote for the Catholic Church!”

      • Howard

        I think AcceptingReality meant the ETERNAL fate, not the temporal consequences. This would be in response to what St. Ignatius said.

    • JERD

      And what is our fate; the fate of the lay faithful? Why do we look for the clergy to speak up publicly, when so many of the lay faithful fall silent? How many of those who have posted here criticizing church leadership have written letters to Cuomo, or the media, or have raised the issue with unsympathetic friends and co-workers. How may have held up a protest sign outside the state capital or a local state government building? Let’s see the plank in our own eye before we obsess with the speck in our neighbor’s.

      • Adam__Baum

        When you sent your letter to Cuomo, make sure it’s written on Charmin, we wouldn’t want to make the custodian’s job at the Governor’s mansion more difficult that it must already be.

      • AcceptingReality

        JERD, you’re NOT wrong about that. As for myself I do speak up publicly and privately when the need presents itself. Bringing such things as the suppression of “the five non-negotiables”, liturgical abuses and questionable statements made in homilies to the attention of one’s pastor can have consequences. One may be shunned and or marginalized. Pushing back when acquaintances assert their anti-life, socialistic views can cause not only friction but the loss of customers in one’s business. All of which I have experienced.

    • Mike Feehan


      • joxxer

        as one saint declared, “The floor of Hell is lined with Bishop’s skulls (probably some Cardinals too,”

  • Ford Oxaal

    There is nothing more loathsome to the unrepentant than a young, innocent, radiantly joyful, pro-lifer.

  • Catholic in Exile

    The title of the article should have been Governor Pliny and Governor Cuomo and Cardinal Dolan. Having anointed Cuomo “a Catholic in good standing” the Cardinal is an accessory to Cuomo’s ongoing assault on the Church. While people get the government they deserve, do Catholics likewise get the Church leaders they deserve?

    • Adam__Baum

      I think I’m rather gratified that there were no American Bishops in the last round of Cardinals.

      • tom

        They are largely ( some of them very largely) Slackers for Christ.

      • jacobhalo

        Those bishops who were made cardinals are in the same club as Dolan and his ilk. Don’t forget, Pope Francis I is as liberal, or more liberal, than the Dolans of the USA.

        • Adam__Baum

          He’s the one that skipped appointing U.S. Bishops.

    • John O’Neill

      Dolan is a disgrace and false teacher. It was not enough that he apparently endorsed Obama/Biden the most extreme pro abortionists in American politics at a political dinner sponsored by the Irish American mafia which runs the criminal enterprises in most Americanized cities. Dolan will never never never stand up to Cuomo, Cuomo represents the power structure and Dolan has spent his whole life bowing down to the gods of the American State. Catholics of America be prepared the persecutions are around the corner and it will only take a minor inconvenience to Dolan and the betrayers of the Faith to renounce their allegiance to Christ.

      • Adam__Baum

        Somehow, he seems to have missed the injunction “The Church is not an NGO,”

        If you want to see the “Irish American mafia”, visit Scranton, PA on the Saturday nearest St. Patrick’s Day. It’s disgusting spectacle of clannishness (ethnic intimidation), gluttony and intoxication that has no sanctity and much scandal. And then there’s the obligatory “visits” that are/used to be made by the likes of the Caseys (the faux Kennedys of Green Ridge) with entourages that resemble those of inner city gang members, to places like Joyce’s and the Minooka Notre Dame Club on March 17.

        Here’s one for you. Why is Bobby Casey like a banana? He was green during the campaign, but quickly turned yellow after the first election, now he’s just rotten. Let’s not forget Biden being from Scanton (albeit having left early on)

        So what has Scranton gotten for it’s years of ethnic hegemony? Well, it’s perpetually bankrupt, was named “the fast dying” city a few years ago by a national publication, and rapidly ascending the list for most demolished churches.

        • Objectivetruth

          Casey’s old man was the last good Catholic from that área.

          • Adam__Baum

            Should I bore you with a litany of his shortcomings? The best thing I could say about him was he gave us the “pizza tax”.

            • Objectivetruth

              Nah… least he was very pro life, where his son ain’t. Was up in WB/Scranton a couple of months ago, continues to decay.

              • Adam__Baum

                Oh nothing’s improved since 2008, and more churches have been sold or demolished. I do remember an interview the elder Casey gave where he spoke of his time as AG, where he claimed that he instructed the auditors (doing nursing home audits) to go beyond the financials-to make sure the light bulbs were bright enough-as if he pioneered performance and compliance audits.

            • Objectivetruth

              I remember as a kid he’d come over my uncle’s house in Kingston and eat ice cream on the front porch.

      • 1ray1

        Cardinal Dolan is going to be the main speaker at a conference in St. Louis real soon. I would normally go but won’t because of him being the main speaker. Catholics need to withdraw their donations in his archdiocese, give to other Catholic charities instead. This will be something his ilk can understand, nothing else matters to this kind. Being disappointed in the Church hierarchy here in America can get us down, but undaunted prayer for our Church will eventually see us through this time in the wilderness. Keep the Faith!!

        • Faustina11

          Fr Rutler is a pastor in the Archdiocese of New York I believe. There are many great parishes in New York. I really don’t know how all this sniping at our bishops helps the church. Pray for unity as our our Lord did.

          • Brian McFarland

            Pray for unity yes but don’t betray knowing that Archbisop Dolan removed Fr Rutler from one of the more prestigious pulpits on the island of Manhattan and sent him West. May God Bless Fr Rutler. May God save Archbishop Dolan and may God help us all who wallow where Pliny the elder first decreed that conscience had no place in the Public Square

            • Faustina11

              I’ve been to Mass at Fr Rutler’s former church when he was pastor and I look forward to attending Mass at his new, and I would say, very blessed, church, St Michael. I don’t know why he was reassigned. Fr Rutler is a humble priest who I would say took no pride in the prestige of his former position.

            • Adam__Baum

              Priests do get reassigned, all the time. Without something other than you’ve written, it’s calumny to ascribe surreptitious motives to a reassignment, and completely wrong to classify some parishes as “prestigious” and others, not so much.

              • Patricia Atencio

                I live in NJ and we had a great, traditionalist Pastor for 20 years. People came from 25 miles around to attend our church. He was greatly loved by his parishioners. The church was financially very sound. His brother priests in surrounding towns hated him. They felt he was taking their parishioners away from their churches. When he was 75 and blind in one eye, he submitted the required “letter of resignation” to his Bishop, thinking the Bishop would not accept it and let him stay on for a few more years, so he could stay for his 50th anniversary of the priesthood. The bishop accepted the resignation and he was forced to resign. We all wrote to the Bishop and protested but the Bishop didn’t not say a word. Our Pastor was still in good health but none of the other pastors would allow him to say a Mass in their churches. My husband found a hispanic Pastor of a nearby church who was very sympathetic to his problem and allowed him to say Mass every morning and on Sundays. We all switched parishes. Another priest was made pastor of his old parish. Attendance fell, money declined but this new pastor was allowed to stay on way past 75 years of age. He was not as traditional as the previous pastor. Our old pastor continued to say Mass until he was 91 when cancer finally took him away. So it is possible to ascribe surreptitious motives to a reassignment. There are plenty of “politics” in the church.

                We had a great priest help out with some of the Masses under the new pastor. When this priest made a statement about “proper dress” for Mass i.e. people should not attend Mass wearing shorts (both men and women) the pastor got rid of him. Money talks and the richer parishioners complained about the statement.

      • joxxer

        I must agree–he gives VERY bad example. Talk about your celebrity hound–he is embarrassing, and shameful to the flock. I see photos of him giving his big Hee Haw laugh to the celeb at hand, even during Mass (yelled HELLO to Joe Biden). Can you imagine him as Pope? Heaven forbid!!!!!!!!

  • Matthew J. Ogden

    When the real persecution comes, it will be the American bishops who light the fires at the feet of the Catholic martyrs in the United States.

    • tom

      The bishops don’t know they’ll be the first ones executed by America’s furhers.

      • Howard

        How many went to the block under Henry VIII? St. John Fisher, and …?

        • Adam__Baum

          And some will be like Cardinal Woolsey or those that rolled over when the Act of Supremacy was passed.

    • Faustina11

      There are some great bishops in America.

  • tom

    Catholics who vote for an anti-Catholic bigot like Cuomo the Younger should be excommunicated so they can consider the state of their immortal souls inside the morally dead New York State.. DeBlasio supporters are in even more need of moral guidance in warding off his depraved communist beliefs.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    Not only did Pliny make the façade of the Como cathedral, Dante let Trajan into Paradise.

  • Adam__Baum

    This is Cuomo’s educational pedigree:

    Cuomo graduated from Saint Gerard’s School in 1971 and Archbishop Molloy High School in 1975. B.A., from Fordham University in 1979. Albany Law School 1982.

    Clearly, a lot of Catholic education went to waste. Then again who knows what was going on at Fordham during the 70’s.

    • jacobhalo

      Cuomo-Fordham- Jesuits. Liberal, liberal, liberal.

      • slainte

        No, no. no….Fordham was awesome; a really excellent university.

    • Art Deco

      His father is not an idiot and at least had something of an uneasy conscience about a number of matters. Before I looked to the schools, I would look at his peers and at the family psychodrama. The Cuomo crew have not produced anyone like the Shrivers: people on the inside at odds with important aspects of how the family business is conducted.

      • Adam__Baum

        Art, other than the fact that Cuomo is a legacy politician, I know very little other than the old man was a better double-talker. The son seems to be more aggressive and obnoxious.

        As for the schools, I’m not blaming them., just lamenting that his seats couldn’t have been occupied by a more sincere student.

        • Art Deco

          The father has been married to the same woman since 1957, has a mess of kids, and at least has devoted considerable thought to matters religious and philosophical (though with an odd attraction to Teilhard de Chardin). He has not generated any personal scandals either. His principal defect as a human being is astonishing vindictiveness and long-nursed grudges. He retains the common Italian resistance to living anywhere but where he grew up and anywhere inconvenient to his mother.

          I suspect one thing that contributed to ruining the son (over and above the ambient culture which ruined so many of his contemporaries) was that he came into vocational life just as his father occupied a position of supreme influence in New York. I had conversations in 1984 with a publicist with connections to the prominent in New York politics who made an admission against interest concerning Andrew Cuomo: that the man had recently perjured himself in the course of hearings held in front of the State Commission on Investigations. Cuomo had not been admitted to the bar much more than a year when he did this and he had been working as a public prosecutor to boot. He was assisting his father in a wretched little project at the time which was brought to the Commission’s attention by a New York pol who was being gored by the Cuomo’s.

        • slainte

          Mario Cuomo’s political views have consistently been liberal. It is unlikely he would have succeeded as a political figure in New York had they been otherwise. The downstate area of New York (ie., NYC) is and was progressive and largely democrat.
          See, Bio.

    • slainte

      Fordham was awesome in the 80’s. : )

      • Adam__Baum

        Ahh, but why?

        • slainte

          In the 1980s…a very warm and intensely Catholic atmosphere; a caring community with a mostly religious faculty; very challenging academically…..and, of course, priests like Father Francis Canavan, S.J. (RIP) who made it very worthwhile,

          I have never encountered another alum who spoke negatively about his/her experience at Fordham. We were privileged.
          Not sure what it is like today.

          • Adam__Baum

            So we can assume that Cuomo’s behavior as a public official is even more egregious, since he had the benefit of the sort of education and culture you describe.

            Libido Dominandi strikes again.

            • slainte

              A_B, you have expressed interest in the U.S Supreme Court’s development of substantive due process in caselaw.
              I thought you might find of interest a 1998 article by Fr. Francis Canavan originally published by “FIrst Things” which tracks the development of substantive due process and its expansion of judicial powers.

              “The Eminent Tribunal”

            • Art Deco

              There is another vector here. Mario Cuomo graduated first in his class at St. John’s law school in 1957, but was spurned by white shoe law firms and went to work in Brooklyn as a rank-and-file attorney. It was common in that era to spurn ethnics (though you’d have thought there would have been some prominent ethnic firms in New York by that date). Journalists who interviewed him a generation later (when he was sitting in the Governor’s chair) contended he was still steamed about it. There is an ambient element of social anxiety and resentment in that clan (which might account for Andrew Cuomo’s very imprudent attraction to one of Ethel Kennedy’s rapacious brood).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The mention of Talleyrand is very apposite, for it is he who said that “Governing has never been anything other than postponing by a thousand subterfuges the moment when the mob will hang you from the nearest lamp-post, and every act of government is nothing but a way of not losing control of the people.”

    People indeed get the government (and the Governor) they deserve

    • Adam__Baum

      Every act of government is nothing but a way of gaining control of the people. The modern statists use a simple 3-D strategy, dependency, distraction and deception.

      “Panem et circenses” is alive and well.

    • Art Deco

      Amusing, but false. (And you’ve used that line before).

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        I imagine Talleyrand could have furnished a pretty good list of examples: Louis XVI, followed in quick succession by the Girondins, then the Dantonists, then Hébert and the énragés, then the Jacobins in the Reaction of Thermidore and the White Terror that followed.

        Thirty years later, Talleyrand witnessed the July Days and the flight of Charles X, the last of the Bourbons. He died in 1838, ten years before the fall of the Citizen-King, Louis-Philippe and the June Days of 1848

        Twenty years later, we had the Paris Commune in 1870

        One could go on.

        • Art Deco

          One could go on about Bourbon France, not about Onondaga County, N.Y.

    • Howard

      I wish the American people had enough spirit in them to hang politicians from lamp-posts, though I also wish they had enough reason and self-control to reserve the act for special cases.

      • Adam__Baum

        There’s a reason DHS (an agency without a valid constabulary or military commission) just bought 2700 urban assault vehicles and a couple BILLION rounds of ammunition.

        • Howard

          Yeah yeah yeah, I’ve heard it before. Yet you still have to hold a mirror up to the mouth of the American public to see if there is any breath still in it.

          • Adam__Baum

            What do they say on the TV shows? Respiration is weak and shallow?

  • jacobhalo

    The Catholic church allows these so-called Catholics to call themselves Catholics. The church should put its foot down and call out these pseudo Catholics.

  • Charles Ryder

    Sorry to be joining this discussion late. Father Rutler, thank you for this article. It raised in my mind a number of questions that I am not certain you intended to raise. The main one is this: should the Catholic Church in American be more concerned about potential coercion from career politicians like Cuomo and his kind or about the fact that the Catholic Church in America is producing laymen like Cuomo in such high numbers? So Cuomo and his mistress received the Eucharist without the faintest objection from his bishop. Is this a surprise? Any bishop who had so refused would soon have found himself a human dartboard for criticism from every side-above, below, and all around. Anyone who thinks that a prelate, one who was possessed of the fortitude to refuse the Sacrament to a high profile layman in a state of unconfessed sin, would subsequently enjoy the united support of his fellow bishops in upholding the decision is a fool.

    Frankly, if I were a Catholic in New York I wouldn’t feel like I had much to worry about from the current governor, mainly because the type of life he leads and the ideals he holds do not appear to be alien from those of most of his fellow laymen. Why ever would anyone need to persecute us in this country? Most of us, it seems, are along for the ride, and those who are scarce to the point of being culturally invisible. No clever tyrant needs to smother a voice that can’t be heard.

    We should be thankful for Governor Cuomo. He is a perfect example of American Catholicism as it now stands. If tomorrow we were faced with the choice of permanent and exclusive allegiance to Caesar or to Christ and His Church, can anyone doubt that ninety nine out of every hundred-bishops, priests, monks, nuns and laymen- would bend the knee to the former?

    Thank God the Church has, and always will have, Truth on Her side. Judged as individuals, we certainly don’t much to show in the way of fortitude or principle. The shepherds of the flock aren’t worth a damn, and even to call the sheep “sheep” is to give most of us credit for too much moral discernment. You might say we were made for each other, which thought ought to humble all of us.

    Parce nobis, Domine.

    • Evagrius

      There is no doubt that “[a]ny bishop who had so refused would soon have found himself a human dartboard for criticism from every side-above, below, and all around.” The darts thrown by the main stream media and the Americanist wing of the Catholic Church, however, have marshmallow tips. They are no more lethal than feather dusters. No Catholic prelate faces criminal or even personal civil liability for proclaiming the Gospel in the United States. If our bishops can be cowed into craven submission with the mere hint of an unflattering op-ed piece in the New York Times, then there is indeed no need for persecution. The Americanist heresy has always been a form of auto-censorship, an internalization by Catholic prelates of the secularist critique of authentic Catholicism. In an encyclical addressed specifically to the American bishops, Leo XIII describes this heresy, in somewhat gentler terms, so: “Many think that … concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them.” (Testem benevolentiae).

  • Charles Ryder

    One moral we should all take away from this is that none of us need fear persecution at present, because none of us are worth persecuting. The Church is not exactly producing a generation of Justins and Polycarps.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Do you imagine that the French hierarchy in 1789 were Justins or Polycarps? The Catholic historian, Lord Acton explains why they were persecuted – “The bishops were rich, they were numerous, and they were not popular. Those among them who had been chosen by the Church itself for its supreme reward, the Cardinal’s hat—Rohan, Loménie de Brienne, Bernis, Montmorency and Talleyrand [The uncle of the statesman]—were men notoriously of evil repute…” That is why the Assembly enacted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.

      • Charles Ryder

        Mr. Paterson-Seymour-

        I have a general familiarity with the conditions of the Gallican hierarchy on the eve of the revolution, and your above quote from Acton is very much to the point. However, it needs also to be considered how much more central the Catholicism was in the France of 1789 as compared with the United States of 2014. The French bishops were worthless men who were nonetheless at the very center of things socially. The clergy of our day are culturally negligible, and if not for the most part the twisted predators the media likes to show us, neither are they men of heroic virtue such as inspire revivals. Exactly what motive would the state have for putting them to the rack? They’re most of them more useful to its purposes in their present condition: fat, insignificant and platitudinous.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          And rich

          The French hierarchy shot themselves in the foot when Boisgelin, Archbishop of Aix, proposed to Necker that the bishops should buy up the National Debt (£16 million sterling). Not surprisingly, many thought confiscation a simpler, more elegant solution

          • Charles Ryder

            I’m sorry, I don’t follow- are you suggesting that a parallel development might be in the offing for the bishops here?

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              The history of the Church in Europe suggests that confiscations occur when the clergy are too decayed in zeal and in numbers, too wealthy and much too removed from the life of the nation to rally popular support. In such cases, many are convinced by the argument that the endowments of the clergy are not their personal property, but are held on trust for charitable purposes and could be better administered by the public authorities.

              It was Thomas Jefferson who said, in a letter to Madison, “This principle, that the earth belongs to the living and not to the dead, is of very extensive application and consequences…. It enters into the resolution of the questions, whether the nation may change the descent of lands holden in tail; whether they may change the appropriation of lands given anciently to the church, to hospitals, colleges, orders of chivalry, and otherwise in perpetuity…” He pretty clearly thought that it might.

              • ColdStanding

                OK, let’s think it through, then, this Jeffersonian “principle” you forward:

                If the earth belongs to the living and not the dead, then ought one not seek, with all haste, to make one’s opponents dead?

                There would be total war. To the victors (sic) would go the spoils and when they die, they will ensure that their estate is passed on to their heirs. Plus la change and all that.

                It should also be said that of those “appropriated” properties (they were bequests, not appropriations) to the Church, that the man to whom these properties were given still lives and always will. So, the inquiry into wrong doing or not, would properly proceed under criminal law, for theft, not estate law and probate.

  • Arriero

    The double edge of liberal democracy. I would ask the author: do you accept it or not? Because a much more sincere opinion would be to deeply criticize liberalism, especially its political branch; which leads, besides, in countless times to immoral behaviour and immoral actions clearly accepted by a majority. Otherwise, nothing will never be fixed.

    Then, we should ask ourselves: is a good system one that allows people like X (put the name you hate more) to be in power and legislate inmorally without punishment? Isn’t such «system» somewhat flawed?

    The author doesn’t seem to be conscious enough to affirm that liberal democracy in its protestant-nihilistic way is profoundly anti-Catholic (as Don Felix Sardá long ago declared: ). Only anti-Catholic systems of power may allow to happen things as legalized mass abortion and other profoundly inmoral issues. A consequence of a weaker Church, especially in the US, where Catholics have always been, unluckily, a minority.

    • Adam__Baum

      If I had a time machine, I’d send to you to 1534. England, so we’d be done with your utopian panegyrics.

      • Arriero

        I believe in the first liberalism of Father Juan de Mariana and the School of Salamanca. In the economic theory from Saint Thoma’s Summa (wisely summarized in this statement: «never sell anything for more than it’s worth»). In the political republicanism of the Republic of Venetia during the XII century and the first Roman Republic. In the medieval commercial law drafted during the Church’s IV Lethran Conclave. In the medieval property law with a special emphasis that comes from the Roman Law Code. In the first economic laws of supply and demand by French pre-revolutionary mathematicians and in the Ricardian-Smithsonian-Marxian «Labour Theory of Value» – though with some nuances -. In the distributive theories of Belloc-Chesterton plus the Acemoglu-Robinson theory of prosperity («Why nations fail»).

        Of course, I don’t believe in anything which smells protestant, or anglo-saxon, that apart from being unbearably arrogant the majority of time is usually flawed too. I don’t blame you for not having read the rich teaching of the Church on economic though written throughout the centuries, but don’t try to make me believe in these stupid theories of anti-government-per-se and no-regulation-at-all. Apart from intrinsically stupid and flawed, those theories are deeply protestant and anti-Catholic.

        There’s nothing more anti-Catholic that the Walrasian marginal utility theory or the smithsonian «subjectivist» theory of value (AD/AS curve). All were heavily influenced by english utilitarianism (Mill and Bentham), also profoundly anti-Catholic. And let’s not discuss the rational expectations (anti-bubble) theory; not only it’s anti-mathematic, but also it is anti-human.

        • Adam__Baum

          Yep, more disorder.

          • Arriero

            You DON’T SEEM to have read in depth the «Corpus Iuris Civilis», neither Fra Luca Pacioli’s accounting methods («De divina proportione», 1496-98) nor Doctor Navarrus’ monetary developments, among others in an almost infinite list. It’s deeply interesting analyzing the views and works of Henri Pesch (this article also says what I say: ) and also those of Pierre Le Play ( ). The list is overwhelming and incredibly rich.

            Protestantism was the first «serious» movement to attack from a deeply political-economical-institutional point of view the Catholic magisterium. Was needed a Counter-reformation to give the seriousness and importance to Aquinas’s thought on economy and politics after the harmful protestant-nihilist attack. The second that attacked Church’s magisterium were the revolutionaries during the French Revolution; not only denying a big part of the Church’s commercial and property law but also re-defining Roman Law, especially its civil and penal Code. This, in fact, explains why some «tradtionalist» philosophers like Burke despised the French Revolution (heavily influenced by the works of the first american revolutionaries, who were mostly masons and protestants; i.e. anti-Catholics). The third attack to the Church’s magisterium was marxism which clearly gets items from the first protestant sects. Thomas Muntzer et al were among the first marxist revolutionaries in history. Even Luther reneged from them and their ideas. Assessing the XIX century english socialism («laborism») serves to see the influence of protestantism in socialism (Fabians and cool Unions, socialists and christians, as they loved to call themselves).

            Jesus said: «aquellos que no están conmigo están contra mi» (those who aren’t with me, are against me).

            • Adam__Baum

              Once again, you have no idea what I’ve read. Be gone, demon.

              • Arriero

                Sure, I’m not the mentalist. Even so, it’s not easy discussing with someone who is not able to argue against any point I’ve made, apart from continuously seeing «an invisible evil hand» (paraphrasing Smith) in each of my comments.

                Remember that Catholicism is the most rational religion. Faith without Reason is inconceivable, just like Reason without Faith. So try to put aside for a moment supersticious statements («Be gone, demon») and fight evil Faith-fully, i.e. rationally; just like Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul teached us to do.


                PD- The phrase «you don’t seem to have read […]» – which I precisely wrote in capital letters – is slightly different than «you have not read […]».

                • Adam__Baum

                  “Sure, I’m not the mentalist.”

                  Oh sure you are, twice you claimed to know what I’ve read. So were you lying then or now?

                  You don’t make “points”. You make speeches laden with specious deception. I don’t engage liars, even when they wrap themselves in cloaks of hyper-orthodoxy. You can’t seem to understand the difference between “unwilling” and “unable”.

                  One observation, funny how you showed up as Seeber suddenly got quiet.

                  • Arriero

                    A conspiracy? Seeber and I… (that was the beginning of a joke, wasn’t it?)

                    More superstition. Somehow, it recalls me of Chávez, when he had cancer he thought that the holy Virgen Maria would do the whole job with a few flowers, some hollow ceremonies and misleading prayers. Only some flawed protestant sects are anti-scientific – especially those who much more like to believe in «Sola Scripture». Luckily, Catholicism knows that religion and science are complementary and mutually needed (in youtube there’s a Pope Benedict speech on the subject).

                    I challenge you to name a single thing I’ve written that goes against the teaching of the Church. «Hyper-orthodoxy» is a nonsense which helps to mislead about the nature of Catholicism, like «left/progressive Catholicism» and other adjectives. You are Catholic – with all the consequences and prospects – or you’re not. Period, end of story. These differences within the same Catholicism are a product of liberalism – i.e. relativism through, mainly this time, the use of language as a weapon to attack Truth (see Chomsky or Derrida) – in its attempt to wreck the Church from inside. But we know that the Church is ONE and INDIVISIBLE, so that «Catholic» is a self-descriptive word – with intrinsic value – with no need of further adjectivization, which is by the way the task of post-modern deconstructivists: re-gramatizing to mislead.

                    PD- Seriously, I have no idea who this Seeber is. I don’t expect many americans (heavily influenced by protestant relativism in politics and the economy) to expose the ideas I’ve been exposing. But I’m eager to discuss with him too, if he doesn’t tell the truth about what is really Catholicism.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “I don’t expect many americans (heavily influenced by protestant
                      relativism in politics and the economy) to expose the ideas I’ve been exposing. But I’m eager to discuss with him too, if he doesn’t tell the truth about what is really Catholicism.”

                      Arrogance-another diabolical trait.

                    • Arriero

                      Catholicism is, one might say, in fact, very «arrogant». It is the Truth and nothing but the Truth.

                      You can see it that way. Protestants also believed Catholics were very «arrogant», that’s why they created a religion à la carte. Nowadays,«liberals» also assess Catholicism as too arrogant. They use arrogance when they better should say Authority and Truth. For relativists Catholicism is worse than a thorn in their foot, no doubt.

                      Please, to end allow me to cite the always witty Bernard Shaw: «He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career».

                      For today is enough. Tomorrow more and better. ¡Adiós!

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You are a transparent fraud, Wormwood. George Bernard Shaw was an ardent socialist (an error condemned by the Church), an advocate of eugenics and as for faith was quoted as saying his “religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in Creative Evolution.”

                      Shaw was human detritus of the worst kind.

                    • Arriero

                      So what? Can’t I quote him? (a quote without any moral background, by the way). Besides to what you’ve already said – things with which I agree – he was also a great english writer and a close friend to Chesterton. And very witty, despite being a socialist utopian. His discussions with Chesterton were epic.

                      I do not get nervous with anti-Catholic writers or poets. I can read them. It’s an advantatge of coming from a millenarian Catholic tradition (Latin Church, the most respectable and strong among all Catholic traditions) and being completely sure of what is right and what is wrong. I read Nietzsche and I feel more Catholic and proud of the True Faith than reading any pseudo-conservatist pseudo-calvinist, like Rush Limbaugh, who called the Pope «maxist». Limbaugh, a man who has been married four or five times. Is that what the mainstream american conservative has to offer?

                      I prefer Shaw’s wit or Twain’s sarcasm than this group of nihilists within the so called «American conservatist movement». For millenarian Catholic nations is inconceivable doing what «conservative» catholics did: voting for… a mormon! A joke, and a shame. These are the problems of being a minority within a protestant country. We dont blame you.

                    • Adam__Baum


                      You get to reject every word, say some economist writes for what you perceive as a lack of Catholicity, but you “do not get nervous with anti-Catholic writers or poets.”, even though you “don’t believe in anything which smells protestant, or
                      anglo-saxon, that apart from being unbearably arrogant the majority of time is usually flawed too.”

                      Keep writing Wormwood, please keep writing.

    • Menschenrechte

      Actually Fr. Rutler happens to be a critic of modernity. He has a collection of essays called “Beyond Modernity,” published twenty some years ago, which you may find interesting. Here is a quote from it: “The pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles pretended to make himself a god by plunging into the crater of Aetna; according to one version, the resident gods mocked his suicide by tossing out one of his sandals. Modern man was Empedocles, and the post-moderns are left now holding his sandal and wondering what to make of the whole vacant scene.”

      • Arriero

        Thank you. I’ll check his studies.

        Catholicism, as a pre-modern but enduring religión, is by definition anti-modern. Hence, anti-liberal. Being post-modernism a product of «protestantism until its last consequences» (cfr. Pope Benedict).

        However, I’m somehow disturbed by how Catholicism is assessed by some «conservatives» in America. Those who call a Pope marxist. Socially conservative, yes and proud of it. But what about the rest of the story? The Catholic Church speaks about abortion and marriage, but also about social justice, economy and politics.

  • Mack

    Yes, yes, it’s always someone else’s fault. But you didn’t vote, did you?

  • cestusdei

    Soon enough such governors will convict us of “hatred of the human race” and deal with us as was done in Pliny’s day.

  • Excellent. The one thing you forgot to mention is how Cuomo the Younger has been on the forefront of gay marriage. He pushed it through so that NY was the first state where the legislative branch actually legalized it. If not the first state (not quite sure), then at least the most influential state. Ever since NY pushed through gay marriage the rest of the country seems to be following suit. If any political leader should be ex-communicated, Andrew Cuomo should be the one.

    • John Albertson

      The article does refer to this when it speak of Cuomo’s “redefinition of marriage.” That is a better way than “gay marriage” to describe that travesty because it is a reminder that we are dealing with a total repudiation of the the institution of marriage itself. “Gay marriage” is not merely an expansion of the limits of marriage: it is a destruction of marriage altogether.

      • Thank you. I stand corrected. But I did elaborate on how nationally influential that gay marriage push became.

  • Over It

    I fear testicular fortitude is lacking in most of the prelates in North America, most assuredly those in the Empire State but also in the District of Columbia. Had Mario been a communicant in Lincoln, Nebraska one can be sure there would have been no episcopal presence at his coronation.

  • poetcomic1

    He would have given Mother Cabrini the boot.

    • Adam__Baum

      and replaced her with Cabrini Green.

  • Joseph

    Sadly Governor Cuomo is another man whose life is governed by his penis.

  • Isabelle

    I am not waiting for anyone to get me ready for the day of persecution. That day is here. Thank you for this very enlightening and motivating article. I am grateful!

  • Your summary of Pliny’s dealings with the Christians requires a bit more nuance. First of all, he didn’t go out hunting for Christians — he only had to deal with them because so many complaints (many anonymous) had been lodged that it was causing unrest in the city. Second, his real concern was not that they were worshiping Christ — it was that they were “stepping out” of Roman society, and with their numbers growing, it was (again) causing rifts in the social fabric. (In the part of the letter you omitted, he notes that revenues from the sales of sacrificial animals at the traditional temples had finally started to pick back up, and that this economic growth was threatened by the rival growth of the Christians.)

    Moreover, Trajan’s reply must be read in the context of other letters he wrote to Pliny that indicate that the development of factions, conspiracies, and “secret societies” that fomented unrest and even rebellion was a cause of significant concern in Bithynia-Pontus. Indeed, it appears to have been among the major problems that Pliny was sent there to fix (the other being general financial mismanagement and fraud).

    Ultimately, however, this means that threat that Christians posed to the Roman system was perceived to be political, not religious — and in that sense, your analogy is quite apt.

    • michael susce

      They were TORTURED and killed for not offering sacrifices to the gods and Caesar because he was considered a god, but the perception was not religious!!! I think this statement, should be responded to the same way Alexander Solzhenitsyn asked the reader to respond to Lenin’s admonition to include terror in the legal system… We will not undertake to comment on this statement. What it calls for is silence and reflection………

      • Well, yes, their refusal to participate in the state religion was viewed by the Romans as primarily a political decision, because the role of the state religion was primarily political — it was the socio-political glue that held the vastly diverse areas of the Roman Empire together.

        The Romans were extremely tolerant of many diverse religious practices, because their religious system was highly adaptive and elastic. Whenever they came into contact with new religious practices, they would simply find places to accommodate them within the traditional Roman system, whether by identifying new deities with already existing Roman gods (e.g. identifying whatever the local sky god was with Jupiter), or by adding the new deities into the system (e.g. by worshiping the Celtic mother goddesses alongside Father Jupiter, or by adding in the eastern mystery cults of Isis, Mithras, etc.)

        What caused problems was when a group chose to absent themselves from the political exercises of the state religion, which were designed to establish a common loyalty to the Emperor regardless of regional cultural differences. This is why the only two groups who ever faced severe “religious” persecution in the Roman Empire were the Jews and the Christians, because their religious principles refused to participate in the political-religious theater.

        You have to understand the context and structure of the Roman religious system in order to understand the mindset that Pliny and Trajan took. If you refuse to understand that context, you will completely misunderstand their mindset.

        • Evagrius

          Well yes and no. Neither the Romans nor any other ancient peoples made the distinction between what we now call “religion” and “politics” that you describe above. This holds true for the Egypt, for Mesopotamia, for Hellenistic polities, and yes for pagan Rome. Julius Ceasar held the title of pontifex maximus and was formally divinized following his death (divus Julius). Octavian also held the office of pontifiex maximus. On his death the Senate voted him divine as well (divus Augustus). How indeed would one categorize the Roman Senate’s act (consecratio) of voting to deify a deceased emperor? By even trying to categorize it, one commits an egregious anachronism. The fetiales are another example. These were the priestly college (collegium) responsible for foreign relations, i.e. declaring war, making peace, confirming treaties. I actually think Michael Susce comes much closer to the true “context and structure” of Roman thinking than you do through an ahistorical projection of thoroughly modern concepts of “religion” and “politics” onto Pliny and Trajan.

          • michael susce

            Evagrius, you are in good company with your response. Christopher Dawson states as much in his Gifford lectures and the book which followed, “Religion and the rise of Western Culture”. He has had a profound effect on my historical perspective concerning religion. Modern philosophy states that religion is a dimension of culture, whereas most of history, all cultures were grounded in religion and were therefore a dimension of religion.

            • Evagrius

              Thank you. I know and admire Dawson’s “The Crisis of Western Education,” but wasn’t aware of the Gifford lectures or his “Religion and the rise of Western Culture”. Thanks for the tip.

  • NoreenD

    New York is the city where I was born. I enjoyed growing up there; Central Park was my backyard. It was a wonderful place to grow up, contrary to what many would think. I love to go back and visit but I’m glad I don’t live there anymore and it makes me sad.

    • Gilbert Jacobi


      I know what you mean. I still have cousins there, the last links to my maternal grandparents. My mother and several of her siblings were part of the early 20th century exodus of farm people for the cities. Mother lived for awhile on the Lower East Side with her elder married sister, who had left their Connecticut hill country farm a few years before and married a recently arrived Italian immigrant. The last of the offspring of that marriage, my last surviving first cousin, still had a rent controlled apartment just outside of the Village, last I heard. The tales my mother told me of the early days left me with a soft spot for New York, long after most other conservatives had consigned it to the lower depths of hell.

  • wraithby

    Cuomo the Elder was/is the sophist. He helped promote the moral/cultural rot in public Catholicism. He set the stage for Cuomo the Younger. Cuomo the Younger furthers the work of the father by aggressively implementing anti-human public policy and using his bully pulpit to browbeat.

  • Vinnie

    About 98% of New York IS west of the Hudson river.

    • Art Deco

      No. About 2/3 of the state’s population is east of the Hudson River.

      • Gilbert Jacobi

        @Vinnie & Art Deco

        And both your comments, following as they do the gracious and true one of “me”, are classic examples of going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

    • Mark Hamilton

      Thanks for the geography lesson. Now how about theology?

  • me

    Father, your words are always inspiring, and fierce. Keep up the good work.

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