The challenge for us as Catholics in the United States — and it is a challenge both personally and as a community — is to bridge that disconnect [between his strong leadership in helping the poor and downtrodden and his leadership against pro-life causes] and pull that whole seamless garment of the defense of life together, rather than rending that garment in twain and choosing one, while almost, or actually, excluding the other. The social teaching of the Church and her pro-life stance surely are interwoven as a seamless garment.
Here is something I did not know.
Senator Kennedy, a good number of years ago, convened a meeting of priests and very high-level theologians to address the issue of Catholic political leaders and their votes with regard to abortion. . . . Sadly, that meeting simply became another occasion for the development by theologians of the “two-conscience” approach to the faith for Catholic political leaders — that is the approach which says, “privately I’m opposed to abortion, but in the public arena there are other conflicting responsibilities which allow me to vote in favor of legal abortion." . .
[I]f Senator Kennedy was given this advice and this approach, this “catechesis” — false though it is — by prominent theologians, it could at least be said that there was some ground for confusion and ambiguity in his own practice about these matters. The priests and theologians who counseled Senator Kennedy are not free of blame for causing the confusion and the ambiguity through false catechesis.
The bishop goes on to say:
God forbid that I be taken as making excuses for Teddy Kennedy’s behavior in certain areas, yet Senator Kennedy’s having written a personal letter to our Holy Father during his last days, a letter that was hand-delivered by President Obama, is also an indication that he believed that the pope alone was the Vicar of Christ, and he wanted to make absolutely sure that our Holy Father received his letter. And too, since priests were regularly present to him during his final year and final days, it would be more reasonable than not to believe that he had made a good confession.
Regarding concerns about offering Senator Kennedy a public Catholic funeral:
he death of Senator Kennedy has called forth at least an apparent rejection of mercy on the part of not a few Catholics. On the cross of Christ, God’s justice came into conflict with God’s mercy. God’s justice was fully satisfied, but mercy triumphed in the conflict, according to the teaching of Pope Benedict. Without denying any misdeeds on the part of Senator Kennedy, the Church, seeking to reflect the face of Christ, proclaimed God’s mercy for the whole world to see in a subdued but unmistakable way. It was more than appropriate.
Food for thought.