New York has attained a deserved status as a failing and broken state. Residents are fleeing the Empire State for sunnier climes like Florida, and the state’s dominant center, the formerly world-class New York City, faces problems of crime and immigration. Recent headlines showcase the state’s sad plight. LifeSiteNews reported on New York’s enshrinement of wokeness (DEI, LGBTQ+, etc.) in schools, making dissent a potentially punishable offense. And the New York Post recently reported:
Nearly 160 Wall Street firms have moved their headquarters out of New York since the end of 2019, taking nearly $1 trillion—yes, that’s trillion with a ‘T’—in assets under management with them, according to data from 17,000 companies compiled by Bloomberg.
As a native New Yorker who eagerly returned to the state in 2017—from fifteen purgatorial years in the Pacific Northwest—I don’t find these trends scary enough to make me move. After all, there’s really no place safe anymore. Red staters, I’m talking to you. While I want to look at religious and spiritual reasons for New York’s current predicament, let’s first consider those not primarily spiritual in nature.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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How do you destroy a state? Politicize everything and install one-party rule. Tax, tax, tax. Treat every problem from an unnaturally huge urban perspective and use one-size-fits-all solutions to everything. Keep increasing the size of government and the state work force. Keep finding ways to interfere with the rights of property owners to use their own property as they see fit. Inculcate learned helplessness in vast numbers of the state’s residents and push policies guaranteed to corrode and tear families apart. Destroy one of the greatest cities in the world by overregulation, permissiveness, social engineering, and neglect. How do you destroy a state? Politicize everything and install one-party rule. Tax, tax, tax. Treat every problem from an unnaturally huge urban perspective and use one-size-fits-all solutions to everything.Tweet This
But the death blow to this great state comes with the help of what should be our ally against all these attacks: the Catholic Church. A consideration of the life and death of retired Albany bishop Howard Hubbard will serve as a suitable introduction to this sad fact that New York has been betrayed by Catholic authorities. (For coverage of Hubbard’s career, see here, here, and here.) Hubbard was proud of his stances against Church teaching, as indicated in the obituary he paid a PR firm to publish. It said, in part,
For 50 years Hubbard was a leader of the liberal wing of the American Catholic Church and a leading voice in public life in New York, an activist and outspoken advocate for peace and social justice, respect for life, care for the poor and marginalized, and friendship with other faiths, particularly the Jewish community.
He vociferously advocated for ordaining women and for the Church to confess to racism and anti-Semitism. In his early days as a “street priest,” he helped establish Hope House (crisis intervention) and Providence House (drug rehabilitation). Consecrated a bishop in 1977 at age 38, he ruled the Diocese of Albany (New York’s capital city) for thirty-seven years. During that time, he controlled the state’s Catholic policy and was also prominent on national committees and even the Vatican’s Secretariat for Nonbelievers. Notably absent from the obituary is any mention of Christ or the Gospel.
In the past few years, Hubbard was investigated for neglectful oversight of predator priests and himself engaging in abuse. He asked for release from the priesthood in 2022 (which was denied) and attempted civil marriage earlier this year. In the life of one prominent New York prelate, we have a summary of all the ills of post-conciliar Catholicism and a primer on the malpractice of Catholic leadership which contributed to New York’s downfall. But Hubbard’s wayward trajectory could be a case study for other states.
To mention a few other examples of this Catholic malpractice, we could quickly name several high-profile New Yorkers who ascended the ladder to the heights of the state’s Democratic Party while claiming they were faithful to the Church. The current governor, Kathy Hochul, is one. Her immediate predecessor, the disgraced Andrew Cuomo, is another. Unlike his father, Mario, Andrew made no pretense of agonizing over moral aspects of policy and law, and he defiantly installed his mistress in the Governor’s Mansion. Even the pugnacious Daniel Patrick Moynihan bought into the Democrat agenda.
Lawmakers have targeted the Church in legislation such as extending the statute of limitations on sex abuse allegations, which has resulted in hundreds of new cases against the Church in New York. Subsequently, most of the state’s dioceses have declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
My own rural corner is not immune to these problems, but the biggest problem is probably demographic. The people who go to Church are dying out and not being replaced. The nearest diocesan-affiliated Catholic school is at least an hour away. Religious orders have evaporated, and increasing numbers of priests are foreign-born. Covid restrictions kept many away from Mass; and of those, many never returned.
All these problems would be enough, but they are compounded by a loss of a sense of mission, of proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified. In June, the month of the Sacred Heart, a “Pride” celebration was held at the village’s main park, which happens to sit directly in front of the Catholic Church. Neither the pastor nor parishioners responded, but a group of local traditional Catholics did. An organizer badgered the pastor’s office until he finally replied, begrudgingly consenting to a Rosary gathering inside the Church building. He averred that the “Pride” celebration was “just about mental health.” The group prayed all fifteen decades of the Rosary in reparation for the offenses nearby against the Sacred Heart.
In August, my wife and I visited the annual county fair. I noticed at least two faith groups with volunteers on-site reaching out to fairgoers. The local parish had an unmanned exhibit inside a hall that featured outreach services—not the Gospel. But at the local historical society’s display of uniforms, we happened on a beautiful set of vestments (“fiddleback”) from 1939. The message seemed to be that Catholicism here in my hometown is either just another social service or a museum piece.
A letter to the bishop was responded to by the Vicar for Clergy with a defense of first feeding body and not soul that echoed Dostoevsky’s damning “Grand Inquisitor.” “It reminds me of the lessons learned by Catholic missionaries years ago,” he wrote, “that you cannot share the Faith with a starving and naked person until you feed and clothe them! Only then can that lead to conversion.” That would surely be news to the North American Martyrs, St. Boniface, or St. Paul.
However dismal the politics of my state may be, the role of Catholic malpractice is the final nail in the coffin. I only pray readers in other states may pay attention where they live—because it can happen to them too. The history of life under totalitarianism shows that people can persevere when the Church is with them; but when the Church’s leadership and priests are largely co-opted, what chance do we have? Perhaps the only choice left is to find the right spot for a final stand.
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