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Senator Edward Kennedy’s funeral: On mercy and misery

  

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
CEO Salt + Light Catholic Television Network
Consultor, Pontifical Council for Social Communications

While I was never a fan of Senator Ted Kennedy for a variety of reasons, I watched his funeral on television last Saturday. I prayed for the repose of his soul, the forgiveness of his sins, the consolation of a large Kennedy family who allowed the world to share their grief and sorrow once again on the public stage. I know of no family that has allowed the entire world into so many moments of personal grief, tragedy and loss over the years as the Kennedys. Among that great lot are some very good people. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who preceded her brother in death only two weeks before left her mark on the world by her championing the Gospel of Life throughout her own life.

As a Roman Catholic Priest who is pro-life, I was proud of my Church last week, and grateful for the courageous and gracious actions of American Church leaders in Boston and Washington, who opened the doors of their Church to reveal a Gospel of mercy and hospitality, in the midst of sinfulness and ambiguity of public leaders who are in need of conversion, forgiveness and prayers, like the rest of us.

Leading up to the Kennedy funeral last weekend, and in its aftermath, many so-called lovers of life and activists in the pro-life movement, as well as well-known colleagues in Catholic television broadcasting and media in North America, have revealed themselves to be not agents of life, but of division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence. Their words and actions vitiate their efforts in favor of life. Their open and public attacks against Cardinal Séan O’Malley, OFM, Cap, Archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C.; the priests involved in the funeral liturgy in Boston’s historic Mission Basilica, (be they Redemptorist, Jesuit or Diocesan) indicate that something is terribly wrong in the pro-life movement. Civility, charity, mercy and politeness seem to have dropped out of the pro-life lexicon.

Through vicious attacks launched on blogs, a new form of self-righteousness, condemnation and gnosticism reveals authors who behave as little children bullying one another around in schoolyards- casting stones, calling names, and wreaking havoc in the Church today! What such people fail to realize is that their messages are ultimately screamed into a vacuum. No one but their own loud crowd is really listening. We will never change laws and bring about conversion of minds and hearts with such behavior. We make the Church and our efforts for life look ridiculous and terribly anti-Christian. Sowing seeds of hatred and division are not the work of those who wish to build a culture of life.

Though we did not even carry the Kennedy Funeral on the Salt + Light Catholic Television Network in Canada, nor did we have any intention to do so, I was shocked at the messages and calls we received over the past few days from those claiming to be “pro-life.” They expressed regret that we did not join in the public condemnation of the Kennedys, the Obamas, the O’Malleys, and the McCarricks of this world. That is not what Salt + Light Catholic Television Network is about. Nor will we ever be about such things. We will not contribute to the misery and division within the world and the Church. We believe in the Gospel of Life and strive to humbly bring the Gospel message to the world. We defend life from the earliest moments to the final moments of natural death. But we refuse to destroy and kill others along the way.

As I reflected on Senator Kennedy’s life over the past few days, and read the reactions and responses to the funeral rites of this public figure last weekend, I could not help but think of John’s Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery [John 8]. There is probably no other event in Jesus’ life that more clearly illustrates the triumph of mercy over justice than this story. We are not to judge others, not because we shouldn’t but because we can’t. It is impossible to know the heart, the motives, the pain, the weaknesses, the struggles, the suffering of another human being, as wrong as they have been with some of their decisions and allegiances in life. To recognize and bring out the sin in others means also recognizing one’s self as a sinner and in need of God’s boundless mercy.

To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Life without acknowledging the necessity of profound personal conversion and the free gift of God’s mercy is to deny the central Christian message of conversion. Jesus’ stance before this woman remains a permanent call and challenge to his disciples and to the Church throughout the ages.

At the end of that powerful Gospel story, everyone had gone, and Jesus and the woman were left standing alone. It is a magnificent scene, described by St. Augustine with the words: “Relicti sunt duo, misera et misericordia.” “And two were left… one filled with misery, and one filled with mercy.” Which person are we at this moment in our own personal journey? There is lot of misery in our world and in our Church, and both the world and the Church desperately need merciful communities, and merciful, joyful, hopeful people. Let us pray that we will become more and more a people, a church and a community overflowing with mercy. That was the image of the Church revealed last Saturday morning in a Boston Basilica, and last Saturday in the fading light of day at Arlington National Cemetery.

Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Senator Kennedy. Now that he is reunited with his brothers John and Bobby, Rose, the Catholic matriarch of the Kennedy clan and her husband, and other members of the Kennedy family, let us learn from what they tried to do in their lives, albeit imperfectly, and work for the building of a culture of life and hope, justice and peace, with God at the center. Let us also pray that some of the Kennedy children and grandchildren, so visibly present throughout last weekend’s ceremonies, and often identifying themselves as Catholic, learn from the gestures of mercy of their Church, and be more courageous in living and expressing their Catholic faith in a society that longs for the Gospel message and their living witness of that message.

Finally, I invite you to read the powerful and provocative words of Cardinal Séan O’Malley shared on his blog:

Cardinal Séan’s Blog
On Senator Kennedy’s Funeral

Saturday was the 39th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, at St. Augustine’s Church in Pittsburgh by Bishop John B. McDowell, who is still going strong today. In the Church’s calendar, the feast day for August 29 is the Beheading of John the Baptist. People usually take note when I tell them that I was professed to religious life on Bastille Day, July 14, and ordained on the feast of the Beheading. Not that I am superstitious.

On Saturday morning I attended the funeral Mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Father Donald Monan, S.J., former president of Boston College, celebrated the Mass and Father Mark Hession, pastor of Our Lady of Victories in Centerville, preached the homily.

The music was outstanding with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus enriching the liturgy along with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who later sang an absolutely striking rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Cellist Yo-Yo Ma graced us with his beautiful solo performance of Bach and later joined Placido Domingo, who sang the “Panis Angelicus.” Placido has a superb voice. I told him how much I like the Zarzuela, the Spanish classical musical theater productions. His family had a troupe that presented Zarzuelas in Mexico and he promised to arrange a performance.

The venue for the funeral Mass was Mission Church, the magnificent Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Senator Kennedy prayed often in this church when his daughter, Kara, was stricken with cancer. It is a church where countless faithful have gone to pray and ask for healing, grace and forgiveness.

In light of these themes, I wish to address our Catholic faithful who have voiced both support and disappointment at my having presided at the Senator’s funeral Mass.

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. Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn. To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished.

The thousands of people who lined the roads as the late Senator’s motorcade travelled from Cape Cod to Boston and the throngs that crowded the Kennedy Library for two days during the lying in repose, I believe, were there to pay tribute to these many accomplishments rather than as an endorsement of the Senator’s voting record on abortion.

The crowds also were there to pay tribute to the Kennedy family as a whole. On the national political landscape, if Barack Obama broke the glass ceiling of the presidency for African Americans, Jack Kennedy broke it for American Catholics.

As a young lad, I saw photographs of both Pope John XXIII and President John Kennedy hanging in the thatched cottages of County Mayo and heard the Gaelic greeting, “God and Mary be with you.” Three of the Kennedy brothers died in service of our country in the prime of life. And Eunice Shriver, who died just a few weeks ago, was an outspoken defender of the unborn and an apostle of the Gospel of Life. She taught us all how to love special children and to make room for everyone at the table of life. In 1992, Eunice petitioned her party’s convention to consider “a new understanding” of the issue, “one that does not pit mother against child,” but instead seeks “policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth.”

Much of what is noble in the politics and work of the Kennedys had its origins in the bedrock of the faith of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. As a young woman she had a profound experience of God’s love that transformed her life. She strove to communicate that faith to her large clan. Since the time of her funeral Mass I have kept her memorial prayer card, inscribed with Rose Kennedy’s own words:

“If God were to take away all His blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me but one gift, I would ask for faith – for with faith in Him and His goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could suffer the loss of my other gifts and still be happy – trustful, leaving all to His inscrutable Providence.”

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. At the Senator’s interment on Saturday evening, with his family’s permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI. It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life. The Holy Father’s expression of gratitude for the Senator’s pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness’ role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.

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. We are people of faith and we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy.

Advocating for the dignity of life is central to my role as a priest and a bishop. One of my greatest satisfactions in my ministry thus far was helping to overturn the abortion laws in Honduras. The person who answered my call for help with that effort was Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who had been a prominent leader in NARAL and the abortion rights movement. His own change of heart led Dr. Nathanson from a practice of providing abortions to becoming one of the most eloquent exponents of the pro-life movement.

Helen Alvaré, who is one of the most outstanding pro-life jurists, a former Director of the Bishops´ Pro-life Office and a long standing consultant to the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, has always said that the pro-life movement is best characterized by what it is for, not against. We are for the precious gift of life, and our task is to build a civilization of love. We must show those who do not share our belief about life that we care about them. We will stop the practice of abortion by changing the law, and we will be successful in changing the law if we change people’s hearts. We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss.

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. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end. Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

President Obama and three former presidents attended Senator Kennedy’s funeral. I had the opportunity to speak briefly with President Obama, to welcome him to the Basilica and to share with him that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future. The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying.

Democrats and Republicans sat side by side in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, praying for Senator Kennedy and his family. It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn.

Comments

  1. Ruth Schiavone says:

    Father Rosica: I am troubled by your remarks, having seen you a number of times on Boston Catholic TV and admired your achievements at S&L TV.
    What we are addressing here, Father, is the lack of leadership on behalf of our clergy and hierarchy in the pro-life movement, aside from an appearance at a walk or a luncheon where one can preach to the choir.
    Witnessing to life as many of us have done for years on the sidewalks of abortion clinics, we struggle with cheap shots, insults, mockery, etc. etc. and wonder why neither our clergy nor our Cardinal Archbishop are ever there to give us support. Being there for the Kennedy family and all the pro-abort Catholic politicians only reinforces for us, the indifference of the Church leadership to the real situations we face.
    Thousands of girls, literally, have had abortions in the Boston area, and do we ever see the Church rallying around this cause? NO. As one Boston Policeman put it to me so succinctly: “If abortion is such a terrible evil, why isn’t the Cardinal out here with the rest of you?”.
    Hard to answer…very hard to answer. I am very saddened at your remarks, Father…

  2. Thank you, Fr. Tom; this chastisement is long over-due.

    The pro-life movement has, quite ironically, “thrown the baby out with the bathwater!” I hope they will think long and hard about that.

    The 250+ comments (and counting) on this post show you’ve clearly riled them up; so now we need other prominent Catholics to unite with you in this message, that “division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence,” will no longer be tolerated by us, their brothers and sisters in Christ.

  3. Tony Pelletier says:

    Oh, what a confusion there is. At the same time, it could be very simple : charity and truth.

    It is not a simplistic repetition of Pope Benedict’s words. Catholicism is about charity and truth, mercy and justice. To us, frail human beings, they seem like opposites. But God knows they are interconnected.

    Some Catholics are good at putting truth up front. Some other Catholics are good at showing the need for forgiveness. Some ask others for more charity in their talk, others are like watchmen, raising awareness concerning fear of scandal. Why don’t we put our strenghts together? Let’s give an ear to what the others have to say and try to build an even better position out of our complementary positions, not in relativism but in communion. That’s what the Church is all about.

    For my part, I believe both are necessary : to avoid scandal by a clear statement on the sanctity of unborn human life AND to show mercy to frail repentant human beings. Our Lord Jesus did not compromise on truth nor on charity. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us do likewise.

    Holy Mother of God, pray for us.

  4. Josip Vaci says:

    Father I very much respect you and especially the work that you do with Salt and Light.
    It is an awful thing if, as you claim there were “open and public attacks against” the clergy involved in the above mentioned funeral.

    Are you sure they were attacks on the clergy involved or attacks on the action of holding a public funeral, a eulogy [and full of praise at that], thus leaving a canonizing tone? I ask the question since I have not come across the type of attacks you speak of.

    Attacks or not, the majority of contention as I read it, was outrage that the Catholic Church would allow such a misleading message to go out. I will pray that you have a change of mind on this matter, and see the awfulness of this action (public funeral, with eulogy, for a person who held/fought for pro-abortion views).

  5. Catholic Nurse says:

    Nine Ways of Being Accessory to Another’s Sin:
    By counsel. — By command. — By consent. — By provocation. — By praise or flattery. — By concealment. — By partaking. — By silence. –By defense of the ill done.
    Fr. Rosica, by your attack against the pro-life movement; your own preference of praise/flattery of Ted Kennedy; and your silence on Mr. Kennedy’s contribution to the murder of millions of babies—are you now an accessory to all those that commit these grave sins against human life — specifically abortion and euthansia? Do you not have blood on your hands Fr. Rosica? May God have mercy on you.

  6. Dianne Wood says:

    Fr. Rosica wrote: “Now that he is reunited with his brothers John and Bobby, Rose, the Catholic matriarch of the Kennedy clan and her husband, and other members of the Kennedy family …”
    Senator Kennedy did go to confession at the end, and he may very well have said sorry for all his wrongs. That surely gives him the hope of heaven, or none of us will get there.

  7. Dianne Wood says:

    Thank you so much Father Rosica. I have been embarrassed this past week by so many who call themselves pro-life but they have no mercy. You have said what I wish I could say.

  8. Ben Bellotti says:

    Father Tom,

    Please show some even-handedness and attack the public pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians with the same verve you have used against vocal pro-life Catholics.

    That is all.

    Ben

  9. Brett Salkeld says:

    @SteveH
    Neither I nor Father Tom have any doubt that abortion is a grave evil. I can hardly think of a greater one. I know that’s what makes people heated. Of course it does. The question at hand is, “Does all the heat in the world save lives, or does it simply perpetuate the division that pushes the day when abortion will be abolished into the ever receding future?”

    It is my passion for the end of abortion that says we need to start acting like Christians in our struggle to end it, or we will never succeed. What will have a more positive impact on someone who is contemplating the Catholic position: a movie like Bella, or a cartoon like the one run by Lifesitenews? I think the answer is self-evident.

    It is when SOME pro-lifers face up to that reality that we will see genuine cultural renewal on this question.

  10. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Although my original thoughts about Fr. Rosica were negative, I will have to go back and re-read the article. I think a lot of the anger you see in the blogs is more due to the fact that for the most part, down here in the states, most of the bishops put their Democratic views ahead of their Catholic beliefs and we the “sheep” grow tired of being led by “hired hands” instead of shepherds.
    @H Rothstein

  11. Austin Ruse says:

    Sheesh..would that Cardinal O’Malley have condemned Kennedy for his proabortion position in even remotely the same way he attacks prolifers for complaining about his funeral!

  12. Austin Ruse says:

    Father,

    I have never felt so much like a fool for trying to be a faithful Catholic than i did watching the Church give public support for Teddy Kennedy’s lifetime of promoting the death of infants in the womb. Your note is so unfair. I do not know of a single Catholic who wishes anything other than final repentance and at least purgatory for Teddy Kennedy. But we are truly scandalized by what looked like approval from our Church for his support of killing children.

    I am heartsick by the funeral, by send off by Cardinal McCarrick, by Cardinal O’Malley’s defense and attack on prolifers, and by your own.

    This is all so sad.

    Sincerely,

    Austin Ruse

  13. A Catholic says:

    Also, we are not judging his soul…

    We are allowed to say that he took some bad actions, but we cannot say whether or not he was responsible for them and therefore guilty of them…

    but the actions that he took make a public funeral Mass for him scandalous… almost like when “prochoice” candidates receive Communion. Communion is to be refused to them because of their public disobedience of the Church and heresies (whether they are responsible for their beliefs in them or not)…

    I hope and pray Ted Kennedy may join our Lord in Heaven, but the actions taken during the funeral were inappropriate… it is not acceptable to give such speeches at the funeral that were given about him… and one priest there made a statement saying that he wasn’t doubting that Ted was in Heaven (which is very inappropriate for a Catholic funeral)… it sounds like the priest is proclaiming Ted a Saint when he is not canonized and we therefore must pray for the repose of his soul… just as we pray for the repose of the soul of Pope John Paul II who may soon be Beatified and then Canonized.

  14. A Catholic says:

    Father, with all due respect, I disagree… the actions involved with having this funeral has indeed caused scandal, though many are blind to it, and Code of Canon law of 1983 states (in Canon 212 (3)):

    “According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/sep/09090402.html

  15. Its nothing short of scandalous that many of our Bishops and Priests continue the coddling of Pro-abortion “Catholics”.

    They bring scandal to the church by failing to follow the Canon Laws of the church. (Canon 915)

    They bring honor and glory to a man whose politics lead to the death of 50 million innocents. There is just no way that Kennedy should have been given a “public Mass”. How much monmey did the Kennedy family pay the Ardiocese of Boston to put on this “circus”? How much did the Jews pay Judas to betray Christ? Do you see any similarities here?

    I am not aware that Kennedy made any public confession, which he must do because his sins were very public. As far as the fact that he is now with his brothers, I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Only God knows.

    It’s more than high time that we purify our Church by “casting out” the heretics, whether they are “religeous” or lay people.

    It’s very easy to proclaim that you are pro-life, but your actions and your rants speak louder than your words.

    Let’s start enforcing the Canon laws on which are church was established.

    People who don’t like the requirements of the Catholic church have numerous other options.

  16. Maueen Lawrence says:

    Perhaps Ted Kennedy did repent to the Pope and the powers to be keep it from going public .This could have affected the whole world ,especially those who continue to value life. What is wrong in Canada? A real power struggle to control. Where is the charity? Perhaps our Bishops and priests are off track is because they themselves do not make use of the sacrament of confession. In the year of the priest , let all who believe offer up sacrafices and prayers for the clergy.

  17. Greg McNeely says:

    The problem with Ted Kennedy’s funeral being performed by the Catholic Cardinal in a Catholic church started long before the funeral: Kennedy very publicly denied/contradicted/worked against the teachings of the church on various issues including the sanctity of life and marriage, but he was never ex-communicated. Ex-communication is not something the church “imposes” as it is the public clarification of the choices made by the person being ex-communicated. Since the church allowed his scandalous behavior to go on without excommunicating him, the funeral would not have been the time to do it, after all, he is dead and now is eternally committedto the positions and decisions he held @ the end of his life.

    Regarding Fr Rosica’s public scolding of pro-lifers: Yes some pro-lifers go too far in attacking the church, however, if we are going to such extreme lengths to be compassionate and understanding of politicians or others who use their very public stature for very scandalous and anti-Catholic behavior, then it would be logical to at least extend at least the same effort to those who fight to promote the protection of innocent life in our society. What I have seen and heard of the relatively few pro-lifers who probably have gone too far in criticizing the church for perceived and/or actual refusal to defend the unborn is that they can be irritating and/or insulting. If a bishop does not have the humility to tolerate this expressed frustration from relatively few, then that would seem to invite more introspection than condemnation of pro-lifers.
    There have been very public and well documented cases of attacks by local churches against pro-life people, including Bishop Sherlock’s public letter condemning pro-lifers claiming pro-lifers wanted us to all “live in ghettos”. Bishop Sherlock published a second letter in an attempt to end the controversy but failed to apologize in that letter. He subsequently published an actual apology, then Ron Pickersgill of the London diocese re-published almost the exact letter that the bishop had originally published, but this time Pickersgill put it in the London Free Press and used his official office to identify himself in the public editorial. Pickersgill was never fired or publicly reprimanded. We see the expressed official outrage over pro-lifers who could at most be described as irritating, but where is the expressed official outrage against those who work agains the unborn but claim to be Catholics?
    If the officials of the Catholic church refuse to hold pro-abortion politicians accountable for the grave scandal they cause and the actual number of abortions that they have legislated, tax-funded or otherwise enabled, then I personally thank God for even those pro-lifers who err on the side of being rude or irritating for the cause of life. No apologies to Fr Rosica, because even Jesus demonstrated that there was a time for strong wordsand tipping tables.

    Kennedy had far too many years when the local Catholic bishop allowedhim to call himself Catholic while enacting and advocating for pro-abortion legislation. Now that he is dead we pray for his soul and lets hear from Fr Rosica and others about John Kerry and others who call themselves Catholics but practice otherwise.

  18. Dear Father Rosica,

    I was shocked by the content of your article. In particular, your reference to Pro-Lifers who cause “division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence.” I thought I was reading a blog for Planned Parenthood. I am a life long pro-lifer who respects life from conception to natural death. To whom are you referring to specifically?
    Ted Kennedy in his life did a lot for the underprivileged but at the same time he opposed the teachings of the Catholic church and publicly supported abortion legislation. His support for abortion has contributed to a genocide that is unparalelled in history.

    In fact, so called “Catholics” in the US and Canada are as responsible as any other group for the level of abortions taking place. As far as I know he did not make any public statement to counter his support for abortion.

    According to those knowledgeable in Canon law, Ted Kennedy met all the requirements for a Catholic funeral, I pray for his eternal soul and I know that he will face perfect justice and mercy as all of us will.
    In summary, it should have been a private family affair and not one that gives such a scandal. It ignored the voices of the 50+ million unborn.
    As a Catholic am I not supposed to speak out when I see scandal in God’s
    Church? The leadership in the Church is giving mixed messages. My understanding is that being Catholic and pro-abortion are mutually exclusive. Am I mistaken?

    Respectfully Yours.

  19. Gayle Koren says:

    @H Rothstein
    I do understand the reason that you have great respect for Fr. Rosica; however, many Catholics do not agree with his views in this matter. We are upset about the large public funeral Mass that was celebrated for Senator Edward Kennedy, and we do not feel that these were “courageous and gracious actions of American Church leaders in Boston and Washington”. We do not understand why any politician who so strongly supported anti-Catholic legislation throughout his career until the time of his death, would be so publicly honored in the church. It was indeed a very sad event within the Church. I do hope that Senator Kennedy was forgiven, but we should not just ignore the fact that many lives were affected by the misguided anti-life and anti-Catholic legislation sponsored and promoted by this man throughout his political career! I am very happy that he felt the need to petition the Pope for prayers during his illness and that he chose to confess his sins prior to his death. Christ did teach us that any truly penitent person will be forgiven!

  20. Anonymous says:
  21. I cannot thank you enough for your commentary here, Father. Every time I read something that is seething with hatred (albeit, in the name of life and correctness), I find it so discouraging. There is such an experience of sadness in the face of the anger. Your focus (and, of course, Augustine’s!) of the misery and mercy inherent in all we are and do strikes a chord in reality and tilts me, as a reader, back to mercy. Thank you.

  22. Brett Salkeld says:

    The suggestion by many of Father Tom’s critics that his different view on the Kennedy funeral means he takes abortion less than seriously is gravely mistaken. Anyone who reads the post dispassionately will see that Father Rosica is very concerned about abortion. It is, in fact, this concern that motivated his criticisms of SOME (another word that has been basically ignored) of the pro-life movement. His concern is that speaking the truth doesn’t matter much if you don’t speak it in a way that your opponents can hear it. Does anyone really think that a cartoon of a Cardinal trampling dead babies is going to convert hearts and minds? All it does is further entrench those who support legal abortion and innoculate them from our reasonable arguments. This is the good Father’s concern, not the approval of the wealthy and the powerful as has been so crassly, and uncharitably, suggested.

    Jesus taught us how to struggle against the world. He used words like ‘meek’ and ‘humble’ and suggested turning the other cheek. And, wonder of wonders, it worked. He was meek and humble to the end and he destroyed the power of death. The question to us is, “Do we really think Jesus’ strategy will work, or do we think it is too idealistic?”

    As far as I can tell, if we engage the world with the logic of the world we will lose before we have begun. Violence of language and imagery, however truthful in the bare factual sense (i.e. ignoring the truth of how human persons can hear a message), do not convince anyone of the justice of our cause because we look like hypocrites from the start. If we use the language of war and the means of war, then war is what we will get. But as our beloved John Paul II taught us, the real truth about war is that no one wins.

  23. With respect, without a public announcement that the senator had expressed a conversion from those views he had which were so directly in opposition to the Catholic faith – even if these were sincerely held by him, allowing a very public, very sanctioned, and very Catholic funeral is a scandal. This action may have been done out of apparent charity but if it in fact ties a millstone around those ones still young in their faith (even if old in years) will not result in growth in love. A culture of love and life can only be advanced through loving truth and truthful love. Again with respect, having been a long-time member of the pro-life movement I have unfortunately seen times lacking in charity amongst its activists (though like Kennedy, motivated by apparent zeal); the proper response it would seem however is to express fraternal correction in that same charity, not with sensational language and in a forum that one imagines can only lead to greater scandal. Peace.

  24. Ben Bellotti says:

    Well said Scott.

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where we cannot take a stand against someone’s actions. In doing so, we are accused of judging “them”, judging their “soul” or judging the “person”.

    Love in Truth. True charity is speaking the truth, no matter how difficult it is for someone else to hear.

  25. @Brett Salkeld
    If you look at the Catechism you will see that our Church’s teaching does not characterize abortion as a mere tragedy: rather, it is an EVIL. When you understand that, you will appreciate better how easily is it for the debate to get so heated.

  26. It saddens me that all the commentators who are accusing prolifers of judging Edward Kennedy just don’t get it. As several commentators have explained, we are not judging him, we are judging his actions. Only God can judge what was in his heart through his life and ultimately when he died. It is not “mean” to state the truth – Jesus did it very clearly many times when challenging the Pharisees. It is _charitable_ to state the truth even when it is difficult.

    Pro-lifers are weary of being betrayed by our own. Yes there are emotions triggered as a result, but the core message is that our Church simply has to stop praising anti-Catholic Catholic politicians.

  27. Fr. Rosica wrote: “Now that he is reunited with his brothers John and Bobby, Rose, the Catholic matriarch of the Kennedy clan and her husband, and other members of the Kennedy family …”

    Sadly, this is the tenor of too many homilists at Catholic funeral Masses lately. The congregations are being told from the pulpit the deceased in the casket is in heaven, along with all the family members who have gone before him/her. As well, attendees at the funeral Mass are assured they will one day be reunited with the deceased in heaven. ‘Tis a grand and hopeful thought – but certainly not Catholic teaching. While it is obvious that some homilists are seeking to offer comfort to the grieving, the problem here is that to imply to congregations that we are ALL going to be reunited in heaven is heresy.

    I cannot recall the last time I heard the words purgatory or the potential of hell from the pulpit.

    It is regrettable the good Father made the statement quoted above. It seems to suggest he accepts this current hazy compassion theology which offers a Jesus who is mercy alone, forgetting he is mercy and justice. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28, Psalm 111, Proverbs 9).

  28. Pat Conway says:

    Abortion is hideous behavior. Exposing it is the gift of truth.@Mary

  29. When did Ted Kennedy say he was sorry “publicly”? When did he say publicly that abortion is an intrinsically evil act and for over (30) years I voted for and even expanded to allow for this horrific travesty?
    When did Ted say he was sorry publicly? I must have missed it.
    To be a good Christian one must try to help “bring Souls” to God. Not lead the Souls astray. How did Jesus teach? Example, Example, Example.
    Anyone claiming to be a Roman Catholic should be a good Christian or it is all for not. Either you Love and Believe Jesus or you don’t.
    Clearly, Jesus would condemn abortion and would Protect the Marriage Act, after all, His first Miracle was at the Wedding at Cana.
    What did Jesus mean when He said, “let the dead bury the dead”?

  30. Frank Hannon says:

    I dare say that your rant is pretty much a contrivance, Father, and little more than that!

    The vast, vast majority of the objection against the Kennedy funeral had to do with its public nature and canonizing tone; there is absolutely no mutual exclusivity between extending mercy and celebrating a private funeral Mass, which was the only appropriate response, given his lengthy track record in diametric oposition to doctrinal teachings.

    With opinions like yours and Cardnial O’Malley’s, there is little wonder why catechsis today in our Church is a complete shambles, and vocations are so scarce! There is little motivation to give one’s life for a Church whose leadership lacks the courage of Her supposed convictions.

  31. Pat Conway says:

    The events commemorating the death of Senator Kennedy did not simply show the world the “mercy” of the Catholic Church as Fr. referred to but lifted Ted Kennedy high and celebrated his life and achievements. Fr. even refers to him as being “reunited with his brothers John and Bobby, Rose, the Catholic matriarch of the Kennedy clan and her husband, and other members of the Kennedy family”.

    No need for any mercy when he has already “arrived” according to the way the eulogies went. I’m afraid what all our pro abortion Catholic politicians learned from all of the events is that the Church in America says one thing and it doesn’t matter. In the end we can do whatever we want. I’m not at all certain that the culpability will lie with the politicians in the end. We need to pray hard for our clergy to speak the truth in love even when it is hard and unpopular. If the politicians never hear the fullness of the truth and suffer from invincible ignorance they may indeed arrive before most of us… but the clergy and others who failed
    to tell them the truth will need to answer some day. Lord have mercy on us who remain silent to keep the peace at such a great cost!

    It is very disappointing to hear Fr. attack pro life people who have been trying to be faithful over the years. Perhaps if Senator Kennedy had been spoken to similarly he might have had a conversion of heart instead of remaining steadfast in his dissent!

  32. Fr. Rosica,
    I can not express how heartsick I am at reading your comments. The Universal Catholic Church, and those who dissent from Her, need courageous crystal-clear guidance and example by our shepherds in these times.

    The funeral in Boston was a politically controlled event and if you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand the Kennedy’s or American politics (or perhaps you choose not to understand). The Machine has once again shown the Church in the US to be a “toothless lion”.

    No matter how strongly the hierarchy in the US speaks about the “innocent unborn”, they are unwilling to take any corrective action. Any harm done to the Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Pro-Marriage effort is overwhelmingly thanks to the scandalous waffling on the part of the US hierarchy, not the frustrated and betrayed laity in the trenches.

    Please think back to the unwillingness of bishops in Nazi Germany who, early on, could have changed the course of history if they had been willing to put their lives on the line against the political regime. How many innocent lives could have been saved…

    You, as well as Cardinal O’Malley and all our priests, will be prayed for intensely!

  33. To the Webmaster,

    You may find it strange that a Jewish person would be writing to a Catholic blog. We first encountered Fr. Rosica when he became the pastor of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto in 1994. He had just returned from studies in Jerusalem and was acquainted with our Jewish friends who run a bakery not far from the Newman Centre at the U of T. Fr. Rosica and his colleagues, especially some elderly nuns working with him, and several of his congregants, were the first Catholics we ever befriended.

    We are all observant Jews. Catholics are not the only people who have a monopoly on pro-life issues. When we learned of Fr. Rosica’s strong efforts for the causes of life, we offered our assistance. What transpired was something unforgettable: a joint outreach, through the Newman Centre, to young women contemplating abortions and many of their young male friends.

    Over the course of Fr. Rosica’s term at the centre, a quiet effort was launched to intervene with many young women who had visited the sex-ed centre on campus and were advised to have therapeutic abortions. Fr. Rosica and his nun friends and several of his congregants would contact us and we, a small group of Jewish friends, would provide clothing, furniture, and on several occasions temporary housing for the young women. All of this had to be done with discretion to protect the young women. Some of the outreach took place through a coffee shop that Fr. Rosica eventually installed in the lower floor of the Newman Centre. Upon his departure, the coffee shop was closed.

    My wife and I believe that we assisted Fr. Rosica with at least six young women in preventing abortions. Our circle of friends assisted him with many more who procured abortions and dealt with the tragic aftermath. We found in this priest someone who was clearly on the side of life, and who fought for it. Having attended several of his masses in a small chapel on the campus, we were struck at how far reaching was the message of the safeguarding of life… from its first moments until death by natural causes.

    We bid farewell to Fr. Rosica in 2000 when he was called to manage a large endeavor for his church that involved many young people coming to Canada along with the Pope. Having attended his farewell at the Newman Centre on a June day in 2000, we received from him a lovely gift and a bound document of the Pope with the title “Evangelium Vitae.”

    You can imagine our surprise when we reconnected with Fr. Rosica this past spring after not having seen him for nearly nine years except for some appearances on television when the Pope died. My wife and I and our friends had heard that the new Pope would be visiting Eretz Israel in May 2009. We discovered through Rogers Cable that we could subscribe to a Catholic Television Network named “Salt and Light” to watch the Pope’s visit to Israel. We were delighted to learn that Fr. Rosica was behind this initiative. Initially we planned on subscribing to the network for one month only. Our initial delight with the coverage of the Holiness’ visit to Israel developed into a fascination with things Catholic. The presence of young people offering significant reflections, the welcome commentaries of Fr. Rosica, the intelligible presentations of the faith, led from curiosity to reflection to interest in the Catholic faith. We realized the deep love and respect Catholics have for Judaism. We viewed on numerous occasions a documentary on Euthanasia and were moved to tears in hearing the testimonies offered by many people caught in this debate. We found a new perspective about the myths surrounding Pope Pius XII. We heard consistently a call to safeguard life. While others ranted and raved in the public sphere about abortion, on Salt and Light we heard about the mitzvah given to each of us to uphold life. We regularly read the Salt and Light blog and discover many things about the Catholic Church and about our own Jewish traditions.

    We followed with great interest a national march for life in Ottawa. What surprised us was that there was no mention whatsoever on any national news networks of such an event in Ottawa. Salt and Light provided excellent coverage in a driving rain in Ottawa. We mused that if pro-life organizers in this country spoke with a more intelligible and clear voice, they might be heard in public.

    We found it striking that at the conclusion of the Holiness’ visit to Israel in May, Fr. Rosica offered an in-depth commentary on the Papal visit on the national news of CBC on the morning that coincided with the March for Life. Fortunately Fr. Rosica told the woman commentator why he was in the Ottawa CBC studio that day: “to cover the March for Life.” We would have otherwise not known about such an event in Canada.

    All of this to say that as outsiders peering in to your Church and Catholic world, and as people who cherish the gift of life as you say you do, there is something wrong with the picture you are offering the rest of the world these days. It seems to us that our G-d wants us to speak with one clear voice about life, about mercy and hope.

    Anyone who loves life knows that figures like Senator Kennedy are terribly weak and flawed, and that they let us all down in their efforts to protect and defend human life. But there are many Edward Kennedy’s, not only in the United States but here in Canada. What do we do to help such individuals to recognize their blindness and choose life? Condemning such people, in life and in death, is not the answer.

    As we read the Salt and Light blog these past days, and other sites authored by those who are “pro-life” we are chagrined and shocked to see such meanness, anger and venom directed at your own Church leaders. There is something wrong with this picture. And we are deeply saddened that the priest who enabled us to work together to save some human lives, and the television network he helped to launch, would be maligned and judged falsely.

    We can only work toward a so-called culture of life when we put down our arms, abandon self-righteousness, and build one another up. This is the tikkun ha’olam we need bring about together.

    Thank you for Salt and Light Television that reunited us after all these years. On behalf of my family and those who helped Fr. Rosica years ago, we want him to know that we are still there when he needs us. When we return to Canada in a few months, we will be sure to visit with Fr. Rosica.

    Shalom.

    H Rothstein

  34. Roberta Young says:

    Mrs. Kathie Hogan :
    Fr. Rosica,
    I was distressed by the Kennedy funeral. However, I was more distressed by your attitude towards Catholic pro-lifers who cause “division, destruction, hatred, vitriol, judgment and violence.” The ad hominem attack is unwarranted, and unChristian. It is ironic that you accuse pro-lifers of “violence”. I wonder how the millions of unborn children would feel about that?

    I couldn’t agree more. I watched the funeral and did feel sympathy and pity for his family, but to object to such a public funeral attended by so many priests, is not hatred and violence. Kennedy should have been given a private funeral.

  35. We aren’t judging Ted Kennedy, but we can judge the things he did. He promoted the culture of death in order to further his political career going against true Catholic teaching and setting a bad example for many others who follwed him. Many Catholics do not want to face the truth about what he really stood for and critisize prolife Catholics for expressing the plain truth when we remind others that he voted to continue a procedure that involved suctioning the brains from babies as they were being born. If this isn’t wrong—what is? Instead they prefer demonize true Catholics that say he shouldnt have been given the honor of public Catholic funeral as if that is the greater evil. We hope he made his peace with God before death but it doesn’t seem like he did anything here on earth to make restitution for all the harm he caused during his long political career so the most we can hope for is purgatory. The Bishops have an obligation to correct those Catholic politicians that continue to publically oppose Catholic teachings, as an act of charity not only to the unborn, but for the salvation of the soul of the politician.

  36. @Carolyn I agree with you. It’s extremely disheartening what’s going on these days in our world and in The Church.

  37. Vincenza van der Pol says:

    Mary, The hideous behavior is that of abortionists who do exactly what you describe and politicians who enable them. Brains being vacuumed out is not fiction, it is reality. Babies about to be born cannot scream while being murdered so they need our voices. We will not be quiet until the evil law of abortion is eradicated from the face of the earth.

  38. Cradle Catholic says:

    The only important concern is where Ted Kennedy’s soul is now. We cannot buy our way into Heaven. Entrance into God’s Kingdom is *not* based on who we know, and we *cannot* work our way in.

    If Ted Kennedy was not completely surrendered to Jesus during his life, and based on the “fruit” of his life, it does not look as if he was, then no priest, no bishop, no cardinal and no pope’s endorsement will be of any good to him now.

    Ted Kennedy had to face God, just as we all will have to do, giving an accounting for our lives. Ted either had Jesus as an “Advocate” to God the Father, on his behalf, or… Ted was on his own, left to face God the Father, by himself.

    Ted lived a priviledged life, with a famous family, wealth and power. But it is a level field at the foot of the Cross. No amount of money, power, fame or rubbing elbows with the hierarchy is worth a bit of good to Ted now.

  39. Ben Bellotti says:

    Father Tom,

    You have righteously defended the Church and it’s leaders from the unwarranted and uneducated attack from members of its “flock”. Since when were the laity given the right to question the actions of the Magisterium? More so a member in good standing such as yourself.

    The American Church leaders reached out and provided a man of stature, integrity and good Catholic Christian morals such as Senator Ted Kennedy with a funeral mass befitting someone who willing to confront the “difficult” issues such as abortion with an open mind.

    These people, (the laity) these peasants really, do not quite understand that although they were taught that protecting innocent life is a fundamental belief of the Church, the only pass one needs to be celebrated with all the pomp and circumstance of a ceremony of one’s life is simply power and social connections. You made this message quite clear.

    You have taught us, Father, that we can be at odds with the Church, we can publicly disavow a fundamental teaching and we will be no worse off. Indeed, with enough money and the right connections, we can be celebrated in death to the extent that we defied the Church in life.

    Yours affectionately,
    Screwtape

  40. John Schuh says:

    Beg pardon, but is what you describe, Mary, the vacuuming out not only of whole brains but the bodies of babies, is this not happening every day? But you don’t want to hear about it? Because it causes you discomfort?

  41. Jose Torres, MD says:

    Dear Father Rosica enjoyed your article re “Senator Edward Kennedy’s Funeral: on Mercy and Misery” I was fascinated by your calling to mind John 8 and the woman caught in adultry. Jn 8-11 “No one sir,” she answered. Jesus said, “nor do I condemn you. You may go. BUT FROM NOW, AVOID THIS SIN. It seems you forgat to comment on the last sentence of Jn 8-11.

  42. Maureen Khan says:

    Dear Father,
    Senator Kennedy should have been sent to his God with a private funeral Mass. Anything more is a scandal. This man in life was not on the side of the angels. In death, only God knows. I pray that you will speak privately to Pope Benedict for guidance on this subject before more damage is done to our Holy Catholic Church.

  43. With all due respect Father, the woman that was forgiven by Jesus was SORRY for what she did, and recognized her errors. THAT is why she was forgiven. If we could be forgiven of our sins, simply because somebody knows what we did is wrong even if the person committing the sin is oblivious, then there would be no need of the sacrament of confession. Senator Kennedy never asked for forgiveness, because he never acknowledged that his stance on abortion was wrong. If he had, I would have been the first to say, you are forgiven.

    The church teaches that to be forgiven for your sins, you must first ADMIT them. It’s elementary.

  44. When Prime Minister Trudeau was given his grand Catholic funeral he carried with him the legacy of ushering abortion into Canada. Now Ted Kennedy is getting his big farewell as an elitist among political abortion promoters. What a sham! These Catholic politicians are public supporters of killing off human life in the womb. As such, they deserve no Catholic funeral, nor any Roman Catholic accolades. Supposed Pro-Life Catholic leaders involved in the Kennedy funeral send a milquetoast mixed message to their followers. It is time for North American cardinals, bishops and priests to grow a backbone but I fear it is too late. The culture of death is in full bloom. We are entering into a remnant Catholic Church.

  45. To Mary #30 Why do you feel that it is hideous behavior (probably from Geronimo #1) to state that a babies brains are being vacuumed out in an abortion? This is exactly what happens. This is the issue for those who realize what an abodmination abortion is to small babies….it is MURDER. Would like to come home and see your 2 year old child or grandchild lying dead with their brains sucked out. What is wrong with people! If people were speaking out about the horrors of the nazi concentration camps, trying to tell the unknowing public, would you have considered this hideous behavior? It is division, destruction and hate to you, because you don’t like the words or the tone…let us just keep the horrid details to ourselves…but then how is anybody going to know the truth…these babies arent’t sweetly put to sleep and then laid in a pretty casket..and even if they were it is all so wrong. Sorry, but for me knowing the details has helped me realize that this terrible act of murder is wreaking havoc on the moral fiber of our world.

  46. William Onstein says:

    Fr. Rosika,
    I only wish you would rail against the evils of artificial contraception, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stemm cell “research”, etc. with the same passion, as you inveigh against prolife-activists, many of whom have paid dearly for their deeply held, christian convictions. When was the last time you were jailed for defending the life of the most innocent, the unborn or standing up for truth in the face of powerful but corrupt authority? It takes real christians to do so! God bless.

  47. I respectfully disagree with you. Abortion is America’s holocaust and he supported and help fund abortion not just in the USA but around the world. May God have mercy on his soul. If I was a young woman and chose to have an abortion I would be excommunicated from the Church and not allowed to be buried in the Church. How many abortions was he responsible for???

  48. Cavaliere says:

    Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Senator Kennedy. Now that he is reunited with his brothers John and Bobby, Rose, the Catholic matriarch of the Kennedy clan and her husband, and other members of the Kennedy family.

    Excuse me Fr. but why is it that those who castigate others for judging ill of their fellow men are so quick to judge that a person(s) is in Heaven? Personally I expect a long sentence in Purgatory if I am so lucky to get even there. Actually we do a great disservice to the holy souls in Purgatory by assuming they aren’t there. Like the man in the Gospel who had no friends to lower him into the pool when it was stirred up and therefore unable to be cured, the souls in Purgatory must suffer a much longer time because they have no one to pray for them. If we believe the Catholic teaching on Purgatory wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that a public sinner might need some cleansing before going to Heaven? Really we only know one sinner who went directly to Heaven when he died and that was the Good Thief.

  49. Cavaliere says:

    @jojo
    You want to do something….start with forgiveness. Then go to the back door of the abortion clinics and offer mercy and a new start. Programs like Project Rachel do good. Offer love. Offer comfort.

    Are you suggesting that we don’t?