A leading canon lawyer has criticized Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany for administering Communion to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, a proponent of legal abortion who is openly living with a female partner to whom he is not married.
Edward Peters, a canon-law professor at Sacred Heart seminary in Detroit and a consultant to the Vatican’s top court, Apostolic Signatura, said that Cuomo’s “public concubinage” is clear and highly public violation of moral norms. He said that "as long as he persists in such conduct, he should refrain from taking Holy Communion" and "if he approaches for Holy Communion, he should be denied the august sacrament in accord with Canon 915." Peters added that Cuomo’s support for legal abortion could also be grounds for exclusion from Communion.
The fact that Cuomo received Communion during a Mass for his gubernatorial inauguration was a “grave scandal,” Peters told the CNSNews. He said that Bishop Hubbard’s homily during that Mass seemed to be “a failure in pastoral care, but more for what he did not say, than for what he did say.” In his homily, the bishop had said that Governor Cuomo would be "deeply immersed in the work of evangelization" in his new post.
After the comments by Peters were reproduced in the New York Times, Bishop Hubbard responded by saying that it is “unfair and imprudent” to comment on the situation “without knowing all the facts.”
The bishop’s statement did not provide any indication for what facts, if any, might have been missing from Peters’ analysis. Instead, Bishop Hubbard said: “As a matter of pastoral practice we would not comment publicly on anything which should be addressed privately, regardless if the person is a public figure or a private citizen.”
The bishop’s reference to private matters did not respond to the canonist’s criticism, since Peters was speaking about the public scandal caused by the governor’s public reception of Communion, in light of his public espousal of abortion and his public concubinage.
Governor Cuomo, however, followed the bishop’s lead, issuing his own statement to say: “My religion is a private matter and it’s not something I discuss in the political arena.”
[The New York Times said that Peters had declined a request for an interview. He did not. When contacted by the Times by telephone, Peters said that he did not have time for an interview at that moment, but could answer detailed questions later. The Times reporter did not call back.]