The end of January can be freezing weather-wise, but it annually brings two highlights of the year, which help warm my spirit. The first is the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., in which we come together on the somber anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, to advocate and pray for the noble pro-life cause. The second is Catholic Schools Week, celebrating the excellence of Catholic education.
Somberly, both usually happy and hopeful events have more than a touch of sadness this year, due to issues in the New York State budget.
On Jan. 18, I had the honor of celebrating Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., in anticipation of the March for Life. As I looked out at the congregation, I was inspired by the great number of young people who packed the enormous basilica, an inspiration that was doubly reinforced the next day at the March itself, as hundreds of thousands from all across our great nation came together in defense of all human life, especially that of the innocent baby in its mother’s womb. At the Mass, I called attention to my home state of New York, where the life of the pre-born baby enjoys no rights.
How disappointing, then, to return home to learn that there is a move to expand abortion even more radically, particularly late-term abortion, in what is, tragically, already the abortion capital of the country. The Governor has pushed this radical agenda for several years, but so far has been unable to secure the legislative votes to make it law. He is now trying a new strategy, by including abortion expansion language in his state budget proposal, a tactic that would make it more difficult for the many pro-life legislators to vote their conscience and protect the dignity of all human life.
This proposal would go far beyond the provisions set out in the Roe v. Wade decision, by removing our state’s current limit prohibiting abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy, permitting non-doctors to do abortions, eliminating all penalties for abortion—so even if an abortion was involuntary or coerced, or if the unborn child was targeted for an act of violence, it could not be prosecuted as an illegal abortion—and would allow abortionists to let die from neglect and starvation any child born alive during an attempted abortion. The blood runs cold just thinking about it!
Unfortunately, this is not the only bad news in the 2018 budget.
In recent years we have advocated fervently for our elected officials in Albany to pass the Education Tax Credit legislation, which would substantially assist parents in covering the cost of tuition. Despite enjoying early support from Governor Cuomo and the majority of legislators, the Assembly leadership backed away in deference to the powerful public school teachers’ unions.
More recently, the governor publicly stated that private schools in New York would receive a 3 percent increase in state reimbursement for “mandated services,” those activities, like standardized testing, that the state requires our schools to perform. In reality, the proposed budget will actually cut state funding to many Catholic schools by an average of 4 percent! This would not have been the case had the governor not vetoed legislation to restore the funding formula to our schools, something he had earlier laudably supported. Unless the formula is restored, additional costs will be passed on to our schools and families. This is especially egregious when you consider the amount of money Catholic schools save taxpayers every year through the sacrifice of tuition-paying families. We do not want any other of our beloved Catholic schools to close. Our elected officials tell us neither do they. But our schools need the promised mandated services revenue to keep going.
In 2015, the bishops and Catholic families statewide praised the Governor for appropriating $250 million to help settle long-standing delinquencies in state reimbursement to non-public schools. Unfortunately, the current budget proposal would require the schools to give some of that money back. Our schools had already budgeted the money, due them by law.
There can be no question that the power of the teachers’ union and abortion industry both receive great deference from elected officials, and that Catholic and other religious sensibilities are often ignored.
(The New York State Catholic Conference, the representative of the bishops of New York State on legislative matters, has issued action alerts on each of these items. If you’d like to let your elected officials know your feelings on these matters, visit www.nyscatholic.org and click on the Take Action! link.)