With All Due Respect ... [UPDATED]
... to Cardinal O'Malley, for whom I have great admiration, Fr. Z, Red Cardigan, and Larry D. are correct: the Cardinal's explanation - which, among other things downplays the role and extent of Sen. Kennedy's rabid abortion advocacy in causing much of the political divisiveness that exists among Catholics (a divisiveness that His Eminence appears more eager to blame, instead, on those who are outspoken in opposition to abortion) - leaves much to be desired.
Yes, Sen. Kennedy was entitled to a Catholic burial Mass. And, given the prominence of the Kennedy family, I have a hard time arguing against the presence of the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston at his funeral. So, I don't take issue with His Eminence on those matters. Still, the celebratory and overtly political aspect of the funeral was deeply troubling to many, and Cardinal O'Malley has done absolutely nothing to address that. In fact, I believe his explanation, by focusing on how "uncharitable" Sen. Kennedy's pro-life detractors are, makes things worse.
But perhaps the Cardinal's blaming the pro-life zealotry of Kennedy's detractors is understandable if one takes at face value this particular exercise in understatement from Cardinal O'Malley, which makes Sen. Kennedy's postion on abortion sound downright benign (emphasis and commentary are Fr. Z's):
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. [That is certainly one way to put it. Another way to put it is that he aggressively promoted laws expanding abortion.] 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. [There is also a tragic sense of lost life of 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.(I like Red Cardigan's fisking of this passage even better, but in the interest of brevity, I went with Fr. Z's. But definitely check out Red Cardigan's.)
Commenting at Red Cardigan's blog, Sr. Lorraine responds to Cardinal O'Malley, and perfectly captures what I find most troubling about his explanation:
Sr. Lorraine said...I'm beginning to get the feeling that our own Bishops don't really, themselves, believe about abortion what they claim it to be.
Dear Cardinal O’Malley,
I have been pondering Pope Benedict’s words in his new encyclical “Charity in Truth”:
“To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity.”
To speak the truth is an indispensable form of charity, especially when that truth is unpopular. Our society does not want to hear that the unborn child must not be killed.
Despite whatever good he did, Senator Kennedy spent the better part of his long political career actively working for legislation that would favor abortion. That is not a judgment; it is part of the public record. He even voted in favor of partial-birth abortion, a horrendous procedure in which the baby’s brains are sucked out.
He did immense damage to the pro-life movement. Is that of any consequence in the eyes of the bishops?
While we pray in charity for his soul, it is indeed a deep scandal for the Church to imply that his record on abortion is of no consequence. I realize you were in a difficult position, but I am deeply disappointed that the overall impression given by the funeral was that it doesn’t really matter if a Catholic politician ardently supports abortion.
Who is speaking up for the millions of innocents who have been slaughtered and continue to die every day?
While Ted Kennedy had a magnificent funeral, these innocent children are thrown into dumpsters. And no one weeps.
September 3, 2009 9:33 PM
Seriously, I'm really starting to wonder - if our Bishops are unwilling to do the heavy lifting of taking to task even those publicly prominent Catholics who are the most radical advocates for abortion, and if all that pro-lifers get for our efforts is a kick in the teeth from our own shepherds - why we even bother. Why should we take upon ourselves the derision and scorn that our fellow countrymen, that our fellow Catholics who are more "enlightened" and "thoughtful" than we, and that, quite often, many of our own Bishops heap upon us?
In the end, I suppose we bother because, while the Princes of the Church are busy rubbing elbows with and paying homage to Caesar, someone needs to weep for those innocent dead children in the dumpsters.
(Hat tip: Don McClarey at The American Catholic)
UPDATE (7 September)
Carl Olsen hits the nail on the head!
... Once again, it's interesting how easy it is to chastise pro-life Catholic bloggers for being "vicious" and "bullying" and "sowing seeds of hatred" and being "agents of destruction and violence", but how hard it is to state the facts about Sen. Kennedy's public record. I suppose it was Kennedy's good fortune that he was never a pro-life Catholic blogger, otherwise he might have had to face public criticism from Catholic clergy.