Ross Douthat on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent legalization of abortion up to birth and the problem Cardinal Tim Dolan faces in New York:

In the case of Dolan, Cuomo’s right to be blasé. New York State still has millions of baptized Catholics, but the faithful are divided and adrift and accustomed to tuning out messages from their bishops that don’t fit their partisan preconceptions. (This goes for messages that criticize Donald Trump as well.) Dolan has tried to answer secularization with gregarious good cheer, but a bingo-hall winsomeness would be no match for cold indifference even without the church’s scandals.

And yet it remains the case that deep inside the ransacked, decaying basilica that is American Catholicism, you can find the only vision that might transform the abortion debate, so that we don’t end up with a permanent red-blue divide, in which the Supreme Court allows conservative states to pass restrictions but liberal states are radicalized toward eugenics and infanticide. …

That vision … would put the goal of outlawing abortion at the center of a web of pro-family policies — adoption support, child allowances, wage subsidies for breadwinners. The goal would be to make the end of abortion seem less utopian by making the burdens of motherhood less daunting, and to link the pro-life cause to a larger revolt against sterility.

… the Catholic Church should act as though this vision, their vision, is more than a wouldn’t-it-be-nice synthesis in bureaucratic documents, a generic humanitarianism that informs the smorgasbord of charitable programs mentioned in annual appeals.

Suppose that tomorrow Cardinal Dolan made two conjoined announcements. First, that Andrew Cuomo is excommunicated. Second, that a specific collection would henceforth be taken up at every Catholic Mass, every day, all year, to fund an annual family allowance administered by the Sisters of Life, available to any parent in the state who asked the church for help bearing and raising their child.

I have no idea how much money this would raise, no confidence in how effective it would be. But the church needs leaders who act as though they have confidence, not only in the church’s teachings, but in its capacity to vindicate those teachings on its own, rather than through supplication to indifferent or hostile politicians.

Confidence alone cannot arrest decline.

We need in America first to create and to see what a spectrum of life-affirming choice looks like in practice in our public life, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has handed Cardinal Dolan a golden opportunity to witness to both Christ and the public good, if he’s bold enough to do it.