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  Religious Belief and Public Morality -- A Catholic Governor's Perspective - Mario M. Cuomo
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ContributorThomas Walker 
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DescriptionI would like to begin by drawing your attention to the title of this lecture: “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective.” I was not invited to speak on “church and state” generally. Certainly not “Mondale versus Reagan.” The subject assigned is difficult enough. I will not try to do more than I’ve been asked.

It’s not easy to stay contained. Certainly, although everybody talks about a wall of separation between church and state, I’ve seen religious leaders scale that wall with all the dexterity of Olympic athletes. In fact, I’ve seen so many candidates in churches and synagogues that I think we should change Election Day from Tuesdays to Saturdays and Sundays.

I am honored by this invitation, but the record shows that I am not the first governor of New York to appear at an event involving Notre Dame. One of my great predecessors, Al Smith, went to the Army-Notre Dame football game each time it was played in New York.

His fellow Catholics expected Smith to sit with Notre Dame; protocol required him to sit with Army because it was the home team. Protocol prevailed. But not without Smith noting the dual demands on his affections: “I’ll take my seat with Army,” he said, “but I commend my soul to Notre Dame!”

Today I’m happy to have no such problem: both my seat and my soul are with Notre Dame. And as long as Father McBrien doesn’t invite me back to sit with him at the Notre Dame-St. John’s basketball game, I’m confident my loyalties will remain undivided.

In a sense, it’s a question of loyalty that Father McBrien has asked me here today to discuss. Specifically, must politics and religion in America divide our loyalties? Does the “separation between church and state” imply separation between religion and politics? Between morality and government? Are these different propositions? Even more specifically, what is the relationship of my Catholicism to my politics? Where does the one end and other begin? Or are the two divided at all? And if they’re not, should they be?
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