Cuomo Meets With Bishops on Catholic Schools

Tuesday, 08 Mar 2011 07:49 PM


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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan emerged from a private lunch with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday with quips, quick reflexes to avoid tough political questions and a pledge from the governor to take a new look at the role of Catholic schools.

Dolan wouldn't discuss with reporters any private discussions he may have had about the recent ruckus sparked by a Detroit-based lawyer for the Vatican's high court. Conservative blogger Edward Peters criticized the governor, who is Catholic, divorced and supports abortion rights, for living with his girlfriend, food TV star Sandra Lee, and for taking Communion.

"That's the kind of delicate pastoral issue that this is probably not the best forum to speak about," Dolan told reporters afterward. "Do we dodge those issues? No, we don't. But there is a time and place for everything."

Dolan described the private meeting as a way to get acquainted, but made it clear he wasn't budging on the church's bedrock issues. He called his opposition to abortion "a premier civil rights issue. Does the unborn child have equal protection under the law? Sometimes it is not the most politically correct cause, but that does not move us to shy away from it."

Cuomo's bishop while living in the governor's mansion, Albany Diocese Bishop Howard Hubbard, said the "worthiness for Communion" is between a pastor and the person seeking the sacrament.

"Was it a theology lecture? No," Dolan said. "We talked in a very open and, I think, a very, very friendly and fraternal way with one another."

Although Dolan said he discussed few specifics with the Democrat, the archbishop said he felt progress was made to support Catholic schools more with state aid after the state "gets its fiscal house in order." Dolan recently testified in a legislative budget hearing that nonpublic schools are taking a deeper hit than public schools in Cuomo's proposed budget, and the state owes Catholic schools money from past years' commitments.

"I said, 'Look, you all tell us in the government that you want quality education, you need to save money, and you need more room,'" Dolan said, relaying his conversation with Cuomo in the executive mansion. "We can help you in all three: We do the best job around, we'll do it at half the price and we got room. It's a no-brainer. Can't we cooperate? He said, 'Yeah, let's do it' . . . So there will be follow up."

Then Dolan turned on his renowned wit to avoid some touchy issues. He said he didn't feel snubbed when Cuomo wasn't in Albany recently to meet with the archbishop earlier.

"It was a bit of a tempest in a teapot," Dolan said. "Hey, it worked out better. We got lunch out of it."

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said the governor enjoyed the lunch and will work closely with the bishops.


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