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Gov. Cuomo, Cardinal Dolan Spar Over New York Abortion Law Amid Bishops' Calls For Excommunication

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — There's been a distinct chill in the relationship between New York's top Catholic and governor, with the leaders of church and state engaged in an unusually harsh public war of words.

A relationship that's always been polite, if not downright chummy, is on the rocks of late. Timothy Cardinal Dolan criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo on the front page of the New York Post, and on his SiriusXM radio show.

"It's a battle that I didn't 'start, that I do not enjoy, and that I hope doesn't continue," Dolan said.

Dolan took issue on several fronts, including the State of the State presentation when Cuomo claimed he was more in tune with Pope Francis than the bishops when it came to advocating for victims of sex abuse.

"To say Pope Francis is right on the issue and these obstinate bishops in New York are way behind, that's just not true," Dolan said. "I found that very hurtful, I found that very disappointing, and most of all I found it terribly inaccurate."

Cuomo on Tuesday shrugged off the criticism from Dolan, and additional calls from Roman Catholic leaders for his excommunication from the Church over his support of a new state abortion law.

Saying he is duty-bound to separate his religious views from his work as governor, Cuomo, a Democrat, defended his support for the state's Reproductive Health Act, which he signed last week. The bill mostly codifies abortion rights protected in Roe v. Wade and other federal abortion rulings.

"I have my own Catholic beliefs, how I life my life... That is my business as a Catholic," Cuomo said. "I don't govern as a Catholic. I don't legislate as a Catholic."

Catholic bishops in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Tyler, Texas, tweeted support for excommunicating Cuomo from the church after he signed the abortion bill last week.

"Excommunication is to be not a punishment but to bring the person back into the Church. It's like medicine for them," tweeted Knoxville Bishop Rick Stika. "But this vote is so hideous and vile that it warrants the act."

Dolan rejected those calls in a statement, saying excommunication "should not be used as a weapon" against politicians who support abortion rights. Another possible sanction would be banning Cuomo from receiving Communion, something Dolan wouldn't discuss.

Reviewing footage from the 2015 funeral of Mario Cuomo, it's clear the current governor remained in his pew and did not take Communion.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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