Ever since Michael Jackson died, and especially since Ted Kennedy died, I’ve been thinking of a feature story Fr. George Rutler had in the November 1997 Crisis: “Speaking Well of the Dead.” Well, Catholicity.com has reprinted it, and here it is!
On July 29, 1997, a representative philosophe of our abortion culture, retired Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, was lavishly eulogized in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where the Requiem Mass for President Kennedy had been sung in 1963. Richard Cardinal Cushing was relatively constrained back then, because liturgical depredations had not yet switched into high gear. It was not thus when President Clinton, who vetoed the ban on partial-birth abortions, was permitted to announce to all corners of the cathedral for consumption in all corners of the world: “Brennan’s America is America at its best.” That is, internecine America is at its best with 39 million fewer children than would have been born were it not for Brennan’s eisegesis of the Constitution. Attorney General Janet Reno later said in a speech to the American Bar Association that the honors paid to Brennan in St. Matthew’s Cathedral inspired her to go on.
. . .
Once in a press conference in which he distanced himself from the angels on significant points of behavior, Senator Edward Kennedy said that St. Thomas More had been “intolerant.” The saint indeed had been intolerant, but of falseness. The logician in him would have found grotesque the Orwellian doublethink of the priest-eulogist who said that one way to honor Brennan’s memory would be to help “a young pregnant girl.” The jurist in him would have raised an eyebrow when the priest declared: “The Brennan mind met the Brennan heart, and in their perfect match was the secret greatness of our friend.” A meeting of mind and heart is anatomically difficult when there is a spine; and when More insisted on this point, his King obliged with an ax. In the majority opinion on Roe v. Wade, Brennan concurring, mind and heart congealed to produce the words: “If the human race is to survive, pregnancy will always be with us.” The twentieth century has taught that such banality can be the diction of cruelty incarnadine.
Senator Kennedy often seems innocent of historical information, as he was in an interview with an Italian reporter in 1982 when he placed the Battle of Lepanto in the Second World War. This has made him a much sought-after eulogist. Except for his recidivistic neglect of verbs, the rhetorical senator can excel Bossuet on the death of the Prince de Condé. At a requiem for Mr. Stephen Smith, he pictured his father and brothers playing golf on a cloud with his spontaneously beatified brother-in-law. The press quoted this recreational account of the Beatific Vision with murmurs of approval.
It is not that Senator Kennedy should have said anything tactless over the corpse, or that he should have mentioned some more vigorous sport instead; he simply should not have been saying anything at all from the pulpit. [emphasis added]
That bit about the mind and heart is one of my all-time favorite quotations.
Read the rest. It is both hilarious and insightful, and just as true about the Celebrity Canonizations of 2009 as of the ones in 1997.