Kathryn Lopez: Cuomo’s misdeeds reflect larger problem

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 2021

As you’ve likely heard by now, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is resigning in the wake of allegations of utter disrespect, to put it mildly, of women on his staff. He should have resigned much earlier for his cover-up of how the state handled nursing homes during COVID-19. But on both fronts, our problems go beyond Cuomo.

His behavior with women is totally in keeping with the politics of expanding abortion, in which he has been a leader — in a place already described by some as the abortion capital of the world, no less. But while he unapologetically claims that the accusations of sexual harassment are just generational misunderstandings, the problem is really the sexual revolution and its accompanying disrespect for women. Just about every time I pray outside an abortion clinic, I see it — in the form of boyfriends who often won’t even bother to open the car door for their supposed partners — but as the #MeToo movement hinted, it’s everywhere.

But as Jennifer Roback Morse, president of the nonprofit Ruth Institute, puts it, “the #MeToo movement is not enough.” Nor is getting Cuomo out of Albany. Morse contends it’s not Cuomo who created a “toxic workplace,” it was the sexual revolution, which “issued hunting licenses to predators.”

She writes: “Too many men have internalized the revolutionary message that they are entitled to have sex as often as they choose, with whomever they choose. Until that changes, we are going to continue to have these problems. Shameless men will continue to prey upon vulnerable women and men under their power.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued a famous encyclical on human life and love. And he was unfortunately prophetic: He was concerned that the widespread use of contraception “could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.

“Not much experience is needed,” he wrote, “to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings — and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.”

The pope continued (and here’s where I see parallels to Cuomo): “Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

The Cuomo behavior brings to mind something that John Paul II said in “The Gospel of Life,” describing the widespread use of contraception and abortion as often being intertwined: “(S)uch practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality, unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”

Hedonism certainly seems to describe the Andrew Cuomo story. It wouldn’t hurt to consider: What led to Andrew Cuomo? Certainly, in no small part, his father and predecessor as governor, Mario Cuomo, did — by openly defying the Catholic Church’s position on abortion, saying he was personally opposed to it, but publicly for it. The problem with that, from a leadership point of view, is that the Catholic Church was actually offering helpful wisdom to the public square.

You don’t have to be a practicing Catholic to see that something has gone extremely wrong in our society, and it started when women were encouraged to have sex like lecherous men can: without consequences. That inevitably pitted a mother against her unborn child. And here we are in this painful state. And I just don’t mean New York, but life under sexually revolutionary values.

The fall of Andrew Cuomo should be an examination of conscience for a culture that has set women and girls up for predators. Women deserve better, and we should be able to expect better from men. That’s not a generational problem: It’s a human one.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author. Contact her at klopez@nationalreview.com.