The faith of New York’s governor is in the spotlight these days, and the New York Times shines even more light on it:
He goes to Mass, though not every Sunday. He considers himself a practicing Roman Catholic, yet avoids calling himself devout. He opposes the death penalty, as church leaders do. But he is divorced. And he supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights, stances sharply at odds with church teaching.
In other words, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York shares the churchgoing habits and social views of a sizable number of the 68 million Americans who have identified themselves as Catholic in recent surveys. His brand of faith is so commonplace — at least in New York — that it was barely mentioned during his campaign last year for governor.
But now that he is the governor, the everyday complications of Mr. Cuomo’s religious identity have become a lightning rod in a decades-old culture war between conservative Catholics and those, like Mr. Cuomo, who disagree with the church’s positions on various issues, including abortion and divorce.
Just how fierce that struggle remains became evident last week, when online criticism from a Catholic canon lawyer led to an awkward impasse that threatened to derail the governor’s first official meeting with the state’s Catholic bishops.
Mr. Cuomo understands the order of battle as well as anyone: His father, Mario M. Cuomo, the New York governor from 1983 to 1994, delivered a seminal speech at the University of Notre Dame in 1984 that laid out the moral argument that Catholic politicians have used ever since to justify being personally opposed to abortion while supporting a woman’s right to choose.
Still, it is an uncomfortable position for a son steeped in Catholicism. Andrew Cuomo was raised in a Queens household where priests and the occasional bishop were guests at dinner. Education meant the neighborhood parochial school, then Archbishop Molloy High School followed by Fordham University. His father’s favorite books were by Catholic theologians.
“This is a very traditional Catholic family,” said the Rev. Edward Beck, a family friend who led the extended family in saying grace on Christmas Eve before the traditional Italian “feast of the seven fishes” at the home of the governor’s sister Maria Cuomo Cole.