By Kathleen Gilbert

BOSTON, Massachusetts, August 31, 2009 ( – Despite the warnings of pro-life Catholic leaders that the public honoring of pro-abortion Sen. Ted Kennedy by the Catholic Church would lead to an enormous scandal, the Boston Archdiocese hosted an elaborate televised funeral Mass for the senator this past Saturday. The service, presided over by Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, included prayers of the faithful endorsing health care reform and homosexualist policies, and a eulogy by President Obama, who remembered Kennedy as a “champion for those who had none.”

The Catholic Sen. Kennedy, one of U.S. Congress’ most powerful legislators against the right to life for unborn children, died of brain cancer Tuesday night at the age of 77. Ecclesial participants included Rev. Raymond Collins, Rector of the Basilica; Rev. Mark Hession, Kennedy’s parish priest from Our Lady of Victories Church in Centerville on Cape Cod; Rev. J. Donald Monan, Chancellor of Boston College; and Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston.

Hession referred to the section of the gospel reading in which Christ tells the just why they are bound for Heaven: “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.” (Mat. 25:35-6)

“These works of the kingdom were daily concerns of the public life of Teddy Kennedy,” said Hession. “They were the fabric of his mind, heart, and hands as he sought to realize them in a society dramatically more complex than the society in which Jesus spoke these words.

“Our hope, our confident Christian hope, is that the fruits of his work as a political and public figure have well prepared him for God’s kingdom,” he said.

Kennedy’s “strong suit,” said Hession, was “the faith of the great Hebrew prophets” who “stood in defense of the widows, the orphans and refugees of their time.”

The Prayers of the Faithful, read by many of Kennedy’s younger family members, included endorsements of many of Sen. Kennedy’s policy goals. On health care reform, grandson Max Allen prayed “for what my grandpa calls the cause of his life … that every American will have decent quality health care, as a fundamental right, and not a privilege.”

Great-nephew Jack Schlossberg prayed that America “close the book on the old politics of … straight against gay.”

It remains unclear, however, whether any of the several intensely pro-abortion politicians in attendance – including Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry – received communion. At communion time, “every camera suddenly developed an intense interest in the musicians, the organ, or the ceiling,” noted Examiner writer Christopher Nowak.

Following two eulogies from Kennedy’s sons, President Barack Obama gave his own eulogy, praising Kennedy as “a champion for those who have none.” Obama also alluded to Kennedy’s support for ending the ban on open homosexuality in the military, noting his defense of “the young soldier denied her rights because of … who she loves.”

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who presided at the Mass, greeted President Obama and other dignitaries in the pews at the kiss of peace and thanked the president for his words and presence. The cardinal also met with the President for a brief conversation, but the details of the discussion have not been disclosed. O’Malley has in the past been strongly critical of President Obama’s pro-abortion agenda.

At the final commendation, O’Malley called Kennedy “such an important part of our history and our country” who “shared our belief in prayer and in eternal life.”

Noting the constant presence of Kennedy’s family at his deathbed, O’Malley said, “We die in dignity when we are surrounded with love and such care.”

The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts decried the scandal of the funeral, where they say the diocese celebrated the life of “one of America’s most notorious opponents of Catholic morality.”

The Catholic Action League called the event “a tragic example of the Church’s willingness to surrender to the culture, and serve Caesar rather than Christ.”

“Senator Kennedy supported legal abortion, partial-birth abortion, the public funding of Medicaid abortions, embryonic stem cell research, birth control, federal family planning programs, and so-called emergency contraception,” noted Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle.

“No rational person can reasonably be expected to take seriously Catholic opposition to abortion when a champion of the Culture of Death, who repeatedly betrayed the Faith of his baptism, is lauded and extolled by priests and prelates in a Marian basilica,’ said Doyle.

“The right to life will never be recognized by secular society if it is not first vindicated and consistently upheld within the institutions of the Church itself,” he said.

See related coverage:

Pro-Life Leaders to Cardinal O’Malley: Do Not Honor Pro-Abortion Kennedy with Public Catholic Funeral