Editorial by John-Henry Westen

BOSTON, September 3, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In an entry on his blog last night, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley defended his participation in the grandiose funeral for Senator Ted Kennedy.  "There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church's providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator.   In the strongest terms I disagree with that position," he wrote.

The problem with that of course is that the leaders of the largest and most significant Catholic pro-life groups in the United States never criticized having a funeral per se, just a public one which would be made into a mass-media extravaganza.

Fr. Tom Euteneuer, of Human Life International, the largest pro-life organization in the world issued a statement prior to the funeral noting: "Senator Kennedy needs to be sent to the afterlife with a private, family-only funeral and the prayers of the Church for the salvation of his immortal soul."

Dr. Monica Miller, director of the pro-life group Citizens for a Pro-Life Society (CPLS) also called on Americans to respectfully urge Cardinal O'Malley not to allow the passing of the notorious abortion advocate to be honored with a public Catholic funeral.

Once the public funeral was announced with forthcoming eulogy by President Obama, American Life League President Judie Brown wrote the Cardinal begging him to "stop the travesty."  Brown also noted that at the very least, if the rumors of Kennedy's repentance were true it should be made known. 

"If we are led to assume Kennedy was remorseful of his pro-abortion past and repented, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley should make this known to the Catholic faithful clearly - before the media and pro-abortion politicians turn Kennedy's death and Mass honoring his memory into yet another victory," said Brown. "If this remains unclear, what will millions of Catholic Americans be led to believe as Obama canonizes Kennedy's pro-abortion legacy on live television?"

EWTN's Raymond Arroyo also expressed dismay about the funeral extravaganza. On his blog he wrote, "The prayer intercessions at the funeral mass, the endless eulogies, the image of the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston reading prayers, and finally Cardinal McCarrick interring the remains sent an uncontested message: One may defy Church teaching, publicly lead others astray, deprive innocent lives of their rights, and still be seen a good Catholic, even an exemplary one."

With the public funeral done and the worst fears of Catholic pro-life leaders realized, Cardinal O'Malley has now mounted a vigorous defense of his actions.

"I wish to address our Catholic faithful who have voiced both support and disappointment at my having presided at the Senator's funeral Mass," he wrote.  "Needless to say, the Senator's wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn."  No mention was made of the Senator's vigorous work to dismantle the traditional definition of marriage.

"As Archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time," he said.

In his remarks the Cardinal had much praise for Kennedy, his work for social justice and especially for his family.  Addressing Kennedy's working against the life of the unborn, the Cardinal called it only a "great disappointment".  He said: "there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn."

The Cardinal reserved his harshest criticisms for pro-lifers who complained to him.  "At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another.  These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church," he wrote.  "If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure."

First off, if anyone did send angry or vindictive comments to Cardinal O'Malley, while they may have been understandable given the perception of betrayal, they were - as are most such communications - unhelpful at best and likely harmful.  You may even want to issue an apology, and review our suggestions for writing effective communications.

Unfortunately in this case, those angry communications may have given Cardinal O'Malley an excuse for his false compassion regarding Kennedy.  I don't mean to insult the good Cardinal - and I do mean good. 

I had a personal encounter with Cardinal O'Malley years ago, just after he came to Boston.  We had a conversation marked by sincerity and open love of faith.  He is a good man.  He also has a very soft heart.  He is a man of great compassion.

But in this case, the Cardinal's compassion is misguided.  In fact, it can easily be argued that while it may seem charitable, giving Kennedy such a funeral was an act of cruelty for him and for the Church rather than one of compassion.  

The funeral itself seemed to canonize Kennedy rather than have people beg for God's mercy on his soul.  It set a bad example for Catholics, particularly Catholic politicians, it gave a false impression that the Church does not take seriously its teachings on life and family etc, etc.

It would have been hard for the Cardinal to deny Kennedy a public funeral.  He would have received the ire of the world's elite.  He would have been called mean and uncharitable, horribly lacking in compassion.  Very much like the reaction he would have received by denying the Senator Holy Communion.

However, as a father of seven children I can assure you that discipline, while hard to carry out, is an act of love.  Yes it gets complaints, but it is done out of love and for the good of the child and the rest of the family by the loving parent.  It is far easier to ignore bad behavior than to correct it, but in doing so parents harm their children, sometimes causing 'irreparable damage' by their omission.

Especially given Cardinal O'Malley's caring heart, denying the Senator Communion while he lived would have been an act of heroic charity.  It would have been the strongest call to Kennedy to come back to fullness of faith, and away from spiritual harm.

And while as an earthly father I am protecting my little ones from physical harm, the bishop is guarding his spiritual sons from the Eternal version.

As the Archbishop of Ottawa explained to me once in an interview: "The Church's concern is for anyone who persists in grave sin, hoping that medicinal measures may draw them away from the wrong path to the truth of our faith." He said that "medicinal" remedies such as "denial of communion" are employed to "draw them back to the way of Christ, Our Lord, the Way, the Truth and the Life."

In the final analysis, Cardinal O'Malley's answer to those requesting no funeral is an answer to a straw man.  Another answer must be given to those who wrote him charitably begging the good Cardinal to avoid the scandal of a grandiose public funeral.

In the words of Phil Lawler the editor of Catholic World News: "A week after the death of Ted Kennedy, the relevant question is not whether the Massachusetts Senator deserved a Catholic funeral, but whether he deserved a ceremony of public acclamation so grand and sweeping that it might, to the untutored observer, have seemed more like an informal canonization."


See Cardinal O'Malley's full blogpost

See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Reflections on the Kennedy Funeral

ALL President on Kennedy Funeral: "Beyond Anything I have Witnessed in 65 Years"

Priest: Imagine the Funeral if Kennedy was an Anti-Semite Rather Than Pro-Abortion

HLI Priest-President Re: Kennedy Funeral Scandal: "Private funeral, family only - period"

EWTN's Arroyo Takes Cardinal McCarrick to Task over Kennedy & Pope Letters

The Kennedy Funeral - A Golden Opportunity or Capitulation for the Catholic Church