I can easily recall being in and out of New York City, often in my earliest days, from the 1930s through the 1970s. No one even hinted that the day would arrive when my absolute commitment to reverence for human life from the moment of conception until natural death would make me, or anyone with the same commitment, persona non grata, as the Governor of New York insists.
As a native of Fairfield County, I learned to like New York from childhood. My parents had worked in New York, and my father, an alumnus of Seton Hall College, did graduate work at N.Y.U. He was a native of northern New Jersey, which I also frequented from childhood. By the time I was in the fifth or sixth grade, I could ride the Staten Island Ferry like a veteran commuter. Saturdays in summer, I could be found at Yankee Stadium with my father or sister or cousins. When the Yankees were not home, I might be at the Polo Grounds watching the Giants; I even accompanied my father on occasion to Ebbets Field when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.
Like a veteran commuter, too, I knew the best express trains to the City from Bridgeport on the old New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, and I remember riding the subways prior to air conditioning, when underground soot used to blow in through the windows. I knew the automats; I especially liked the one at the Canal Street station; perhaps because I liked downtown New York so well (e.g., Barclay Street).
Over the years, first with my father, then with other members of the family, I was in and out of many New York museums, including the famed Cloisters uptown. And we hardly ever entered the City without visiting a well-known church, especially, if possible, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
I also saw my first operas in New York, at the old Metropolitan – Aïda, Lohengrin, La Traviata; as well as my first Broadway musical, Oklahoma! (followed by My Fair Lady and The Music Man; it was there, too, that I saw Paul Scofield in Robert Bolt’s masterpiece, A Man for All Seasons).
But now, I guess, I am no longer welcome there, as countless others are not, because I am among those committed to the Bible as read within the Church. I reject abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
So much for the City. There is New York State’s Southern Tier – places like Nineveh, Afton, Harpursville, which I began exploring in the 1940s, just after World War II. Is there more beautiful a landscape than exists there, where the Susquehanna River flows, and Route 17 leads? (I began traveling there before the new Route 17 was constructed.) And what about upstate areas, around the Finger Lakes or the Catskills? Is there any region on earth more impressive? Manhattan and Queens are unique, but so is the Southern Tier and the Mohawk River area and Rochester.
New York, like Connecticut, ratified the Declaration of Independence. Connecticut may be beautiful in many ways, but so is New York. An American is a citizen of both, and, historically, both welcome any American of good will proud to be a native of either. But New York and Connecticut have a longstanding respect for valid religious tenets, for God and Country. Marriage and family life, as founded on Sacred Scripture, constitute one of these key tenets, regardless of current aberrations. Reverence for human life, from conception to natural death, is another. No one has ever been legitimately ostracized from either State for holding fast to these tenets; no one could ever be justifiably exiled for holding fast accordingly.
“Ostracized” is the past tense of a Greek derivative verb that properly belongs to the dark, superstitious past. It has no place in a forward-thinking-and-moving, democratic, representative republic.
If anything, citizens who understand all of the above can contribute to the greatness of both States, fixing them on the right track again, for God and Country.
In many ways, New York City has deteriorated from its character in the 1930s and 1940s. At least, I think it was more civilized when I associated it with Pope Paul VI’s visit to Yankee Stadium, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with the opening of Radio City Music Hall, with the newly raised Empire State Building, with Barclay Street, with the Bronx Zoo; and with the magnificent circle of churches reaching upward toward the heavens.
Think about the New Yorkers who have aspired to sanctity: Saint Elizabeth Seton, Saint John Neumann, Saint Isaac Jogues, Pierre Toussaint, Rose Hawthorne, Dorothy Day, Fulton Sheen, Carlton Hayes, Saint Francesca Cabrini and Flannery O’Connor. Are they now “ostracized”?
Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of The Catholic Transcript and censor librorum for the Archdiocese of Hartford.