Albany, N.Y. (AP) - A consultant for the Vatican's high court says he believes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shouldn't receive the Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion because he is not married to his live-in girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee.
Edward Peters, who's also a conservative Catholic blogger and seminary professor in
But Catholic bishops don't agree. Bishops and priests have allowed the Catholic Democrat to receive Communion for years, including at Christmas last year and at a Mass last month marking his inauguration. The practice appears to conform to church law.
"My religion is a private matter, and that is not something I discuss in the political arena," Cuomo said Wednesday.
The bishop in
"There are norms of the church governing the sacraments which Catholics are expected to observe," said Albany Diocese Bishop Howard J. Hubbard. "However, it is unfair and imprudent to make a pastoral judgment about a particular situation without knowing all the facts. As a matter of pastoral practice, we should not comment publicly on anything which should be addressed privately, regardless if the person is a public figure or a private citizen."
The Catholic bishops of
Cuomo is divorced and supports abortion rights. He has said he lives much of the time with Lee in her house. She refers to Cuomo's daughters from his marriage with Kerry Kennedy as her children.
Bishops also decide independently how to approach the issue of abortion in their own dioceses, and a small but growing minority has said publicly they would deny Communion to Catholic lawmakers who support abortion rights. Other bishops, including New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, a defender of church orthodoxy, believe Catholics should privately engage politicians who diverge from church teaching.
Cuomo is not the first politician - he's not even the first Cuomo - to run afoul of some church positions. Then-Gov. Mario Cuomo angered the church in 1984 when he delivered a speech at the University of Notre Dame in which he voiced support for abortion rights.
And in 2009, the bishop in
Peters is a lawyer who practices within church law. He is a consultant for the
He didn't respond to a request for comment.
The conservative Catholic League wouldn't comment on the issue, first raised in January by the New York Daily News after Cuomo received Communion at a Mass before his inauguration.
"We're not one to pass judgment," the League stated then, a statement reiterated Wednesday.
Peters' opinion may conflict with church law.
There are 7.3 million Catholics among
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani also faced criticism from some conservatives for being divorced and having a girlfriend. He still ran for president and remains a major figure in Republican politics.
But Cuomo may face trouble in more conservative swing states if he embarks on what is expected to be a presidential run.
"If either of them (Bloomberg or Cuomo) at some point decides to run for president, will this play in
Associated Press writers Rachel Zoll and Michael Hill contributed to this report.