Saturday’s grandiose Catholic funeral for Senator Ted Kennedy has the potential to be a scandal that will make Notre Dame’s Obama Day a walk in the park. With all four living former Presidents in attendance and an address from President Barack Obama, the funeral is set to be a royal crowning, right inside a Catholic Church, of a man who betrayed the most fundamental moral teachings of the faith.
What example will this give to Catholics and the rest of the world looking in? It will surely belie the Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life and sexuality. “Surely,” they will say, “if one of the most vociferous proponents of abortion and homosexuality in politics is so feted in the Church, the Church cannot possibly regard abortion as murder.” Would anyone so honor one who so advocated what the church officially considers an “unspeakable crime“?
The Church in the US has suffered a dangerous precedent with the recent Notre Dame award to President Obama. However, President Obama is not Catholic. Therefore, the impact of the scandal was blunted. Regarding Senator Kennedy, however, the stakes are much higher in terms of scandal and public relations.
Kennedy, began his life as a Catholic in great ceremony. At age seven, he received his First Communion from Pope Pius XII in the Vatican. He was also pro-life early in his political career. “Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized – the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old,” he wrote in 1971.
However, abandoning the practice of faith is regarded as worse than never having known. The Bible, in the second book of Peter teaches: “For if, flying from the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they be again entangled in them and overcome: their latter state is become unto them worse than the former. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than, after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21)
Rev. Patrick Tarrant, pastor of the Church where Kennedy is to be buried has informed the media that he was present at Kennedy’s death and thus hopefully the senator made a last confession and was reconciled with the Church.
However, only a public repudiation of his militantly anti-life and anti-family actions would serve to lessen the scandal of the upcoming funeral extravaganza.
I don’t discount that that might be coming. After all, Kennedy did have President Obama deliver a letter to the Pope when Obama made his visit to the Vatican in July. Although unlikely, given the Senator’s recent, intense support for Obama’s health care reforms, perhaps there was a public confession in the letter waiting to be released. We can hope and pray.
If we assume a private confession was made there could be a private funeral Mass for the family, without politicians and media. And of course there would still be a secular memorial event, with all the pomp and ceremony for this star of the secular world.
Such a deliberately subdued Catholic liturgical event for the Senator would, at this time, with the announcement of the Catholic funeral already out, come at the cost of enduring the rage of those who have become used to the Church giving in to their demands. However, the eternal benefit would be to send a clear message to Catholic politicians in particular, and to the public in general, that the Church is actually serious about the sanctity of human life.
It could also be an opportunity for Church leaders to repent of having failed to work hard enough to bring wayward Catholic politicians back to faith, or even of having in many cases led them away from the faith, as some clergy are known to have influenced Kennedy.
It would not be the first time the Church has apologized for not living up to it’s pro-life convictions. In 2000, when Pope John Paul II was making his much touted “Universal Prayer” of “Confession Of Sins And Asking For Forgiveness” one of the ignored apologies concerned the unborn.
Then-Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân prayed “let us pray for those who are most defenseless, the unborn killed in their mother’s womb or even exploited for experimental purposes by those who abuse the promise of biotechnology and distort the aims of science.”
The Pope responded in prayer, “God, our Father, you always bear the cry of the poor. How many times have Christians themselves not recognized you in the hungry, the thirsty and the naked, in the persecuted, the imprisoned, and in those incapable of defending themselves, especially in the first stages of life. For all those who have committed acts of injustice by trusting in wealth and power and showing contempt for the “little ones” who are so dear to you, we ask your forgiveness: have mercy on us and accept our repentance. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”