Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When this man speaks, I think I'll listen

Following today's theme of being late to the party, I just came across a terrific letter from Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison on the subject of Ted Kennedy, his funeral, his life and his Catholicism. (I, myself, am guilty of sniping at the Senator on, yes, this very blog, so the issue has significance for me.) I commend it to your reading if you are, like me, interested in parsing the nuance of important issues rather than picking a good-sounding bandwagon to jump on. (Scroll down through the first part of this good blog post to get to the letter in its entirety.)

Some excerpts:
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.


Marie said...

Such a hard one -- I'm inclined to think the hoopla about Senator Kennedy is akin to the hoopla about gay marriage -- the horse is out of the barn, are we now arguing with each other about how far we're going to let the horse go? Let's go fix the barn, then we can all go looking for livestock together.

Senator Kennedy took a public position and made public actions that supported sin. He had a funeral that was in many ways contrary to the spirit of Catholicism. Heaven knows, he wasn't the first. If we don't like public support of sin, let's work on the folks still performing it. If we don't like funerals that are about the achievements of the deceased instead of about his immortal soul, let's make sure our own are not that.

As for whether Senator Kennedy sinned or not, repented or not, found absolution or not -- that's something no man who knows him can know. Certainly those of us who only read news accounts can't have a clue.

Thanks for the excerpts.

Marie said...

Oh, and I didn't read your last post as sniping, but I'm probably not one to set the standard!

TS said...

Good stuff...I linked it and belatedly credited you with the find!



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