Persuade or Coerce?

A response to Kenneth Woodward

Ken Woodward has decided it’s time to challenge a speech I gave at Notre Dame twenty years ago, and John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for president who, he says, may have been influenced by it. He does so by excerpting the speech selectively and, I regret to say, carelessly. He also finds it useful to review my life since 1984, probe my psyche, and announce that he has discovered I lacked “political courage,” was guilty of “sophistry,” and generally have not been as sincere about my religion as he is. I will not respond in kind. I am not interested in discerning Ken’s hidden intentions, political preferences (I have a guess here), private ambitions, or character weaknesses. He has been for a long time a successful professional writer on religion whose writings I have read and learned from without needing to wonder what he truly believed or only says he believes, judging instead only the words he has chosen to write.

My speech echoed the teaching of great American theologians like John Courtney Murray who told us it is a “foolish position to say all sins ought to be made crimes.” Murray’s position was consistent with Aquinas’s observation that although civil law is concerned with leading everyone to virtue, it does so prudentially—...

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About the Author

Mario M. Cuomo is a former governor of New York.