By now, everyone knows Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s role in legalizing gay marriage in the Empire State. Cuomo made the issue a priority, he buttoned-holed lawmakers, and he went so far as to lobby Republican fundraisers.
Less well known is the role of Democratic state Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. According to Michael Barbaro of The New York Times, Addabbo indicated to Cuomo that his vote could be had:
Persuading Senator Addabbo proved trickier. Same-sex marriage advocates had nicknamed him the Counter, after he told them his vote would hinge entirely on a tally of his constituents who appealed to him for or against the measure. By mid-May, Mr. Addabbo sent word to Mr. Cuomo that the numbers were not there for same-sex marriage
Until then, members of the same-sex marriage coalition had deliberately refrained from inundating Mr. Addabbo’s office with feedback from supporters of the bill, fearing it might alienate and offend him. But now, the advocates received a message from the governor’s office: Open the floodgates. Brian Ellner, who oversees the marriage push for the Human Rights Campaign, called the head of his field team, who had compiled an exhaustive list of supporters of gay rights in Mr. Addabbo’s district.
“Bury him in paper,” Mr. Ellner said.
Cuomo’s strategy worked. Addabbo, in a reversal of his opposition to same-sex marriage in 2009, voted on June 24 for the legislation.
Careful though it was, the Times’ story failed to mention that Cuomo and Addabbo share similarities beyond their historic role in upending the traditional definition of marriage. Both men identify as Catholic. Both are graduates of Archbishop Molloy High School, a co-educational Marist school in Queens (Cuomo was class of 1975, Addabbo 1982). And both are members of the school’s Hall of Fame.
The Archbishop Molloy website says that its students “recognize their own self-worth and develop a lifetime of Christian values, critical thinking, leadership skills and service to others.” Only the very best of these are named to the school’s Stanner Hall of Fame (Before it moved to its current location in Briarwood, Queens, the school was called St. Ann’s Academy and its students “St. Ann-ers,” a nickname which became “Stanners.”)
A “Catholic” politician: pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage
Among the honorees are Catholic priests and prelates; victims of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center; and church officials, such as Richard Doerflinger (Class of 1971), the associate director for pro-life activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Addabbo was honored at a school ceremony last November. After participating in a Mass at the Ralph DeChiaro ’31 Theater, Stanner alumni and their family members heard from English teacher Dennis Vellucci, who nominated Addabbo. “He has constantly demonstrated the same intelligence, deliberation, honesty and integrity that characterized him even when he was a high school sophomore,” Vellucci said according to the school website.
Archbishop Molloy officials may not have known of Cuomo’s and Addabbo’s positions on gay marriage at the time. Yet knowing that both were pro-choice would not have been difficult.
After Addabbo was elected to the state Senate in 2008, NARAL Pro-Choice New York hailed his victory . “Anti-choice titans Senators Caesar Trunzo and Serphin Maltese were brought down by pro-choice Senators-elect Brian Foley and Joseph Addabbo. For the first time in over forty years, we gained pro-choice leadership in the State Senate!” In Cuomo’s case, school officials bestowed him the honor after his failed 2002 gubernatorial bid, during which he ran as a proponent of legal abortion.
Honoring Cuomo and Addabbo clearly put the school on the wrong side of the Catholic bishops. In 2004, the USCCB released “Catholics in Political Life,” a document about rules governing the American church’s relationship with Catholic officeholders. It warned Catholic institutions and groups not to “honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
After the gay marriage bill was approved, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn and Queens issued a strongly worded statement about the vote. In addition to denouncing Cuomo for opening “a new front in the culture wars that are tearing at the fabric of our nation,” Bishop DiMarzio also issued a warning similar to that of the bishops seven years earlier: “In light of these disturbing developments and in protest for this decision, I have asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.”
Archbishop Molloy officials have been put in a tough spot. Will the school retroactively strip Cuomo and Addabbo of their awards? It’s difficult to say. Voicemail messages to school officials were not returned.
Archbishop Molloy is hardly alone in its tributes to politicians who favor abortion rights and gay marriage. My beloved alma mater, De La Salle, a Christian Brothers high school in Concord, California, honored slain gay activist Harvey Milk with a bust. On the coasts at least, honoring Catholic public officials whose stands on key issues are not Catholic is not unheard of. But as the public scandal grows, what, if anything, will the bishops do to stop these schools from paying tribute to Catholic public servants such as Cuomo and Addabbo?