Mario Cuomo, 1932-2015: His Controversial Legacy

by Joan Desmond  |  published on January 9, 2015

Mario Cuomo, the three-time governor of New York who sought to justify Catholic lawmakers’ tolerance of abortion rights, died on Jan. 1; he was 82.

A self-identified Catholic who quoted Thomas Aquinas, challenged Ronald Reagan’s optimistic vision of economic opportunity in America and cited Church moral doctrine as he vetoed legislation enacting the death penalty, Cuomo’s policy positions and rhetoric often resonated with his fellow believers.

Cuomo served as the governor of New York from 1983 to 1995 and emerged as the standard bearer of his party’s liberal wing. But he resisted efforts to make him a candidate for president and also turned down President Bill Clinton’s proposal that he be nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yet, even as the New York governor inspired intense loyalty from the Democratic Party base, he also drew criticism from Catholic and pro-life leaders for his stance on abortion, articulated in a landmark 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame.

“Approval or rejection of legal restrictions on abortion should not be the exclusive litmus test of Catholic loyalty,” Cuomo stated in his address at Notre Dame.

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