Ted Kennedy’s funeral: bishops in paralysis
October 3, 2009 (LifeSiteNews) – On Saturday August 29, 2009, the United States' most prominent Catholic politician was buried in Arlington, Virginia, after a grandiose Church ceremony with all the trappings of a state funeral in Boston, Massachusetts, earlier in the day. Edward Kennedy, brother of the late President John Kennedy, murdered in 1963, and Robert Kennedy, candidate for the Presidency murdered in 1968, was given a hero's farewell at a splendid Mass attended by the American President and three past Presidents, Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, various notables, politicians and family, televised all day long by CNN TV.
Apparently to the amazement of Cardinal Sean O'Malley--although he also seems to have expected it--many viewers were critical of the public funeral for a person whom they recognized as a renowned dissenter from Catholic and natural-law teaching on family moral issues. But the Cardinal did not see it in the same light.
In his own blog, on September 3, Cardinal O'Malley published his rejection of those who objected "to the Church's providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator." Said the Cardinal: "In the strongest terms I disagree with that position."
After suggesting first that the funeral was just an ordinary service the Church provides for its faithful, the Cardinal then described the liturgy as "outstanding," with "the absolute striking singing" by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and tenor Placido Domingo as well as "a beautiful solo by cellist Yo-Yo Mam," all in the "magnificent Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help."
"Needless to say," the Cardinal continues without further explanation, "the wake and the funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publicly support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn...." He himself felt "a tragic sense of that lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn. Had he placed the issue of life at the centrepiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he said, "he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished."
The Cardinal then describes how as a youth he had been awed by the Kennedy family and their service to the nation; he notes Senator Kennedy's letter to the Pope and the Pope's blessing in response and his own respect for the Senator and for the Kennedy family.
He points to his own prolife stand, such as his contribution to the ending of abortion laws in Honduras; he quotes the former Director of the Bishops' Pro-life Office, Helen Alvare, as saying that "the pro-life movement is best characterized" by what it is for, not against.... He adds that: "We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss."
The Cardinal then devotes a paragraph against those whose zeal leads "to harsh judgments and imputing the worst motives to one another." These "practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church." The reference here quite clearly is to his critics in the pro-life movement.
Finally, the Cardinal notes that the funeral gave him the opportunity to speak briefly to President Obama and assure him that the Catholic bishops are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but not "a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortion in the future." After this, he expresses his hope that all people who promote the cause of life will pray and work together to change hearts.
ANALYSIS OF LETTER
Let us take the Cardinal's points one by one. First, to my knowledge, having read over three-dozen articles and hundreds of letters and blogs, nobody seems to have objected "to the Church's providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator." The objections, instead, centred on replacing an ordinary private Catholic funeral with an extraordinary public spectacle which showed the Catholic Church in Boston virtually canonizing one who many found wholly unworthy of such acclaim.
Secondly, those in charge allowed the Catholic funeral liturgy to be gravely distorted. It adhered neither to the letter nor to the spirit of the rite. Not to the spirit because the Catholic liturgy seeks the mercy of God for the forgiveness of sins and the repose of the soul of the deceased. There was none of this in Boston. Instead, it was a celebration of a man's life who, in fact, was declared to be already in the presence of Christ in heaven by the homilist and therefore no longer in need of prayers, at once a falsification of the truth and a tremendous disservice to the deceased.
Thirdly, the liturgy did not follow the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) which reads in #382: "At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind." (Instructions on the Eucharist, Redemptionis sacramentum, March 2004). Eulogies may be delivered at the Wake, or at the graveside or at the reception afterwards. The Boston Mass had three lengthy eulogies.
The Prayers of the Faithful were not properly supervised. Two of them called for the success of the late Senator's political views in conflict with Catholic teaching.
The entire service was subservient to the TV spectacle it was meant to be, including the splendid music which Cardinal O'Malley was highly to praise in his blog. The picture sent out to the world was that of the Catholic Church in Boston glorifying a powerful politician, a member of an almost mythical dynasty of politicians who supposedly symbolized the emancipation of immigrant Catholics to the status of social and political equality in American society.
What about this politician? Cardinal O'Malley himself indicated uneasiness by observing that "needless to say, the wake and the funeral were controversial" Why so? Because," he continued, "of the fact that he [the Senator] did not publicly support Catholic teaching and advocacy of the unborn. If only he had placed this issue of life at the center of his efforts, the Cardinal adds, "the immensely valuable work" he accomplished would have been multiplied.
Here one faces two questions. How does the Cardinal's observation that all Senator Kennedy did "was not support Catholic teaching on the unborn," correspond to the reality of the Senator's career? And what was the Senator's other "immensely valuable work?"
THE KENNEDY FAMILY
Because of the Kennedy family's fame, much is known about their private life ... and everything about their voting records.
Throughout the 1960s the Kennedy brothers lived a libertine lifestyle encouraged by their father's example. By the mid-1980's, however, their "womanizing," notably the Marilyn Monroe affair, was splashed all over the newspapers of North America (e.g., Toronto Star, Oct. 6, 1985). In 1991 Catholic commentator Joseph Sobran wrote: "The Kennedy 'legacy' is not a continuous commitment to liberalism, but a gradual disassociation from Catholicism, first in Jack's secret hypocrisy, then in Ted's open advocacy of abortion and other evils, along with his flagrantly debauched private life."
Sobran also pointed out that the idea of virtue had been replaced by that of victimhood so that politics was now conducted in the name of special interests, especially of aggrieved groups, women and minorities ... constantly creating double standards, privileges, exemptions, quotas, payoffs. "Ted Kennedy will serve as a symbol and exemplification of this sort of politics," he concluded (Wanderer, June 27, 2991).
In 1982, after being married for 22 years, Senator Kennedy obtained a civil divorce from his wife, Joan. He married a divorcee, Victoria Reggie, outside the Church. Catholics were uncertain whether the Senator had asked and received an annulment of his marriage to Joan. It seemed settled only when he received Communion at the funeral of his mother, Rose, in 1995. Later on, his wife Joan revealed that she did not oppose the annulment because his "marriage vow to be faithful had not been honestly made." In other words, as the vow of fidelity had not meant anything to him, his subsequent "womanizing'--i.e., the abuse and exploitation of women--made him even more insensitive to Catholic family moral teaching. Scripture, and the saints, tell us that lust darkens the intellect and weakens the will.
In 1971 the Senator could still present himself as pro-life, but after the Supreme Court's ruling of Roe vs Wade, that abortion is a right and therefore legal (Jan. 1973), he switched sides, and not only on abortion. Earlier, in the sixties, some Jesuit theologians had visited the Kennedys at Hyannisport, Massachusetts, to show how they could redefine Church teaching in order to support abortion and contraception (See Patrick Madrid blog, Aug. 26, 09; Flashback, LifeSiteNews.com, Aug. 28, pp. 17-18).
THE VIEW TODAY
Today, the Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, C.J. Doyle, has summarized the Senator's political career as follows:
"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. He defended Roe v. Wade, endorsed the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), and opposed both the Human Life Amendment and the Hyde Amendment. Kennedy maintained a 100% rating from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood. In 1993, he received the Kenneth Eddin Award from Planned Parenthood, and in 2000 received the Champions of Choice Award from NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts at the hands of the same Dr. Kenneth Edelin, the infamous abortionist."
"During his 1994 re-election campaign, Kennedy said 'I wear as a badge of honor my opposition to the anti-choicers'. His successful obstruction of the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 effectively prevented the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Beyond his specific positions on human life issues, Senator Kennedy, along with the late Congressman Robert Drinan, provided the cover and the example for two generations of Catholic politicians to defect from Church teaching on the sanctity of innocent human life." (News Release [email protected])
Senator Kennedy's Senate record on abortion and abortion-causing contraceptives, over the last ten years, reads as follows:
* Feb. 1998: Voted NO on banning human cloning
* Oct. 1998: Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions
* June 2000: Voted NO on maintaining the ban on Military Base abortions
* March 2003: Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions (In these abortions the brains of the baby ready to be born are sucked out the skull)
* March 2004: Voted NO on a criminal penalty for harming an unborn foetus during another crime
* March 2005: Voted YES on $100M to reduce teen pregnancies by education and contraceptives
* July 2006: Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who have out-of-state abortions
* Sept. 2006: Sponsored bill for emergency contraceptives (MAP-Morning-after Pill)
* Feb. 2007: Co-sponsored bill to ensure access to and funding for contraception
* April 2007: Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines
* March 2008: Voted NO on prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion
* March 2008: Voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
* May 2008: Fell ill
* Jan. 6, 2009; Signs Prevention First Act (Focus is on preventing pregnancy, plus "emergency contraception.")
* Rated 100% by NARAL (North American Rights Action League)
* Rated 0% by NRLC (National Right to Life Committee)
Senator Kennedy's Senate record on homosexual issues over the last twelve years:
* Sept. 1996: Voted YES on prohibiting refusal of jobs for "sexual orientation"
* Sept. 1996: Voted NO on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Kennedy was one of only 14 Democrats who called for the removal of marriage defined as between one man and one woman. He opposed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
* June 2000: Votes YES on expanding hate crimes to include remarks about sexual orientation
* June 2002: Voted YES on adding remarks about sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes
* June 7, 2006: Voted NO on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage
* Kennedy scored 100& by the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) on gay "rights." (Source: Edward M. Kennedy, Source Watch, Center for Media and Democracy)
SOME OTHER EVENTS
In 1987 Kennedy delivered a vitriolic speech denouncing Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork as a right-wing extremist and warned that "Robert Bork's America" would be one marked by back-street abortions. The two previous nominees by President Reagan had been approved without controversy. From then on in, however, nominations to the Supreme Court became focal points for the Culture War, with pro-abortion as the litmus test for Democrats. Commentators have blamed Kennedy more than anyone else for causing these bitter divisions.
According to the Boston Globe, during the 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings Kennedy's career reached an all-time low, with his reputation as a womanizer making him "an inappropriate and non-credible witness." In June 1994 Senator Kennedy introduced an Amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include "sexual orientation" as a protected minority. As Georgetown University Law Professor Chai Feldblum, author of the Kennedy Bill, explained to The Washington Blade (a homosexual paper), "We are following in the footsteps of a traditional civil rights struggle by beginning in the workplace and moving on to other sections later." (Wanderer, Aug. 18, 1994)
What about the Senator's other initiatives? Many of them seem were contaminated by his disregard for human life. For example, he favoured worldwide population control through American subsidies for "reproductive technologies"--i.e., abortion, contraception, sterilization, etc. As Pope Benedict points out in his latest encyclical, Charity in truth, (Section 28), "Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for men's true good."
Pro-life observers have shown that from the mid-seventies onwards Senator Kennedy, as the leading crusader for abortion-on-demand, influenced many Catholic politicians to follow his leads. He also took initiatives, using his wide influence to advance the radical homosexualist agenda. Less than 48 hours after the Senator's death, the Massachusetts homosexual newspaper, Bay Window, revealed that in July 2007 Kennedy had used all his influence to defeat the state's proposed ban on same-sex marriage by seeking out and speaking to everyone in favour of the ban (Americansfortruth.com, Sept. 2, 09).
BACK TO THE CARDINAL
In light of the above facts, Cardinal O'Malley's statement on his September 3 blog that the funeral would be controversial because the Senator "did not publicly support Catholic teaching" must be seen as an extraordinary understatement. It is completely out of touch with the reality of Kennedy's career. How could the Cardinal be so wrong?
If one accepts that Cardinal O'Malley sincerely held this belief--and I do--then there is only one conclusion. The Cardinal is ignorant of American politics and unaware of what is going on. This state of oblivion is by no means unusual for clergymen who necessarily have little interest in political affairs. That is why the pro-life movement in North America, in the United States as well as Canada, is stymied. Even the Popes of recent years despite their strong pro-life positions, appear to have failed in moving many of our bishops, including cardinals.
Nor do our Bishops seem anxious to consult sincere and devout lay Catholics who are politically knowledgeable an this issue and others like it. As long as this situation continues, the defence of the dignity of human life from conception to natural death will continue to flounder in North America.
The author is a priest and member of the Congregation of St. Basil (C.S.B.)
This article originally was published October 1, 2009 in Catholic Insight magazine, founded and managed by Fr. Alphonse de Valk, and is re-published with permission from the author.