Published August 17, 2022
Barring a startling lurch to starboard in the Empire State, Kathy Hochul, who as lieutenant governor succeeded the unlamented Andrew Cuomo on his political demise, will be chosen governor of New York in November—the first woman elected to the office once held by such worthies as John Jay, William H. Seward, Samuel J. Tilden, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Al Smith, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Students used to know that three of these men were subsequently elected president of the United States. Real students of history know that Tilden almost certainly was, too, but lost the White House in a deal to end Reconstruction after a closely contested election. An honorable man who didn’t want to enflame a country recovering from a bloody civil war, Tilden accepted his fate rather than carrying on like a five-year-old deprived of his creamsicle.
But I digress.
I’m told that Kathy Hochul is a gracious person in conversation, even with those with whom she disagrees (which would never have been said of Andrew Cuomo; but I digress again). However, she is strongly supportive of what are euphemistically called “reproductive rights,” which in fact terminate the process of reproduction (but I digress yet again). And when challenged on how she squares her pro-abortion radicalism with her Catholicism, Gov. Hochul has been known to reply, “I’m a Matthew 25 Catholic.”
This relatively new attempt to render more plausible the implausibility of “pro-choice Catholicism” by coating it with a biblical veneer takes its name from the Lord’s separation of the blessed sheep from the condemned goats: the former being those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and welcomed the stranger; the latter being those who didn’t. The implication of declaring oneself a “Matthew 25 Catholic”—and what faux-clever theological con artist invented that sound bite, one wonders—is that supporting a broad range of social services for the poor and needy, welcoming the immigrant, and ticking all the other boxes on the Biden/Pelosi Democrats’ domestic policy agenda constitutes a moral “get out of jail free” card that can be played, first with the electorate, and then, presumably, with the Lord.
Sorry, but it won’t work.
Matthew 25 also refers, twice, to “the least of these my brethren” (Matt. 25:40, 45). And when one willfully, actively, and even aggressively promotes the killing of what are indisputably the “least” of the Lord’s brothers and sisters—those ultra-vulnerable human beings who happen not to have been born yet—it is not easy to imagine that the Lord is pleased, irrespective of one’s voting record on, say, reducing carbon emissions or raising the minimum wage. This is, after all, the same Lord who memorably said that it would be better for anyone who tempted his “little ones” to sin to have a “millstone . . . hung round his neck” and be “cast into the sea” (Luke 17:2). What will that Lord have to say about anyone who deliberately creates public policies aimed at terminating the lives of those “little ones” before birth?
The “Matthew 25 Catholic” dodge is also an implicit insult to the champions of pro-life policies who have worked for decades to provide compassionate care for women caught in the dilemma of an unwanted pregnancy and for their children, both before and after birth. Does “Matthew 25 Catholicism” include generous public support for pre-natal care in crisis pregnancy centers, well-child pediatric services, and job-training programs for single moms who carry their children to term but who’ve been abandoned by the kind of male irresponsibility the abortion license has facilitated? I hope it does. But I am waiting for the first “Matthew 25 Catholic” public official to make a big deal about that, rather than burning incense to the Moloch of NARAL Pro-Choice America in the aftermath of the heroic Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision of this past June 24.
I have no window into the soul of those Catholic public officials who declare themselves “Matthew 25 Catholics,” as a counter to the suggestion that their Catholicism is defective because of their support of the abortion license. They may be sincere, but ill-catechized. They may have been advised by unscrupulous progressive clergy, or by left-leaning Catholic political activists for whom the pro-life position has always been an embarrassment. But whatever their subjective moral condition, they are using biblical imagery as political cover for the indefensible. And they should stop.
I like to think that at least some of them, the ones who actually take Matthew 25 with the gravity it deserves, are better than that.
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and one of America’s leading public intellectuals. He holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.