Saturday, August 29, 2009
I strongly encourage everyone to read Mark Stricherz’s essay at True/Slant entitled Good Teddy Kennedy, Bad Teddy Kennedy.
In the piece, Mark provides a balanced retrospective on Senator Kennedy: his love for his Senate colleagues and devotion to his children and his nieces and nephews and his notorious carousing and womanizing; his legislative efforts on behalf of the poor, disabled and marginalized, and his reprehensible support for the abortion license and dismissal of the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings.
The question that Mark raises in the essay is how will Catholic prelates “send this most outsized of politicians to his eternal rest. Do they honor his good side, forget his bad one or acknowledge that, maddeningly, he was both?”
My own preference would be for honesty – to acknowledge both his genuine virtues and his real shortcomings. In this regard, I think that, no matter how awkward it might be, it would be a mistake to simply ignore his deplorable change from defender of the unborn to staunch advocate for an absolutist version of the abortion regime. (It will be interesting, to say the least, when his memoirs are published and his Senate papers are made available to historians, to learn the details behind Kennedy’s tragic reversal on this issue). Indeed, for the bishops to remain silent on this point would work to perpetuate the current, sad state of affairs in which many Catholic politicians proclaim their adherence to Catholic principles of social justice while undermining the foundation upon which those principles are based – the inherent dignity and inviolable right to life of every human being.
Regardless of how the bishops (and in particular, Sean Cardinal O’Malley) choose to reflect on Teddy Kennedy in public, we can all join Kennedy's friends and family in praying for the repose of his soul by asking God to pour forth His abundant mercy. Requiem in Pacem.