Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Different Kind of Liberal

Earlier this month, John Breen noted that the New York Times in its obituary for Eunice Kennedy Shriver, as well as the Washington Post obituary linked by Rick Garnett (here), had conspicuously neglected even to mention that she had been "forthright and courageous in maintaining that one could be true to the fundamental values of the Democratic Party and a principled opponent of abortion."

By way of an editorial column today, the New York Times partially attones for that omission.  Michael Perry, who does not have access to posting at the Mirror of Justice at the moment, passes along the following column
by Ross Douthat, contrasting the two eldest Kennedys of their generation on protection of unborn human life.  With the full column available by this link, herewith a couple of excerpts:

"Liberalism’s most important legislator probably merited a more extended send-off than his sister. But there’s a sense in which his life’s work and Eunice’s deserve to be remembered together — for what their legacies had in common, and for what ultimately separated them.

What the siblings shared — in addition to the grace, rare among Kennedys, of a ripe old age and a peaceful death — was a passionate liberalism and an abiding Roman Catholic faith. These two commitments were intertwined: Ted Kennedy’s tireless efforts on issues like health care, education and immigration were explicitly rooted in Catholic social teaching, and so was his sister’s lifelong labor on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired.

What separated them was abortion.

Along with her husband, Sargent Shriver, Eunice belonged to America’s dwindling population of outspoken pro-life liberals. Like her church, she saw a continuity, rather than a contradiction, between championing the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed and protecting unborn human life.

* * *

It’s worth pondering how the politics of abortion might have been different had Ted shared even some of his sister’s qualms about the practice. One could imagine a world in which America’s leading liberal Catholic had found a way to make liberalism less absolutist on the issue, and a world where a man who became famous for reaching across the aisle had reached across, even occasionally, in search of compromise on the country’s most divisive issue.

That was not to be. And it’s entirely fitting, given his record, that Kennedy’s immediate legacy is a draft of health-care legislation that pursues an eminently Catholic goal — expanding access to medical care — through a system that seems likely, in its present design, to subsidize abortion.

But his sister would have written it a different way."


Sisk, Greg | Permalink

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