The problem I have with Cardinal O’Malley: Ted Kennedy

There is a lot of buzz about Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap, who is apparently a popular choice in European circles as the next pope. O’Malley has a lot of strong points: expertise with new media, “JPII bishop,” ecumenical background, international experience/multilingual, reputation as an authentic reformer in terms of the scandal. I’m not sure about his reputation among traditionalists, except that he did perform a Confirmation according to the extraordinary form a few years ago. However, when, now more than ever, we need a Holy Father to stand against the worldwide conspiracy against life, O’Malley is not that man.

It’s bad enough he engaged in the public funeral and insta-canonization of Ted Kennedy, he even defended it on his blog.

Now, let me be absolutely clear: whether Kennedy deserved a Catholic funeral is between him and his confessor. Whether Kennedy is forgiven for his sins is between him and God. However, there is a big difference between being a personal sinner and a public heretic. There is a big difference between private sin and public scandal. This is an age-old principle of Catholicism that has been all-but abandoned since Vatican II.

In the comments on O’Malley’s blog, we see a lot of references to forgiveness–often from people whose context otherwise indicates they don’t think Kennedy needed forgiveness. This is not about forgiveness but about teaching. I certainly hope God has forgiven Ted Kennedy, because that means I have a chance. That’s not my issue.

There’s a big difference between forgiving someone and “honoring his life.” There’s a big difference between giving a quiet, private Catholic funeral to someone who should have been publicly excommunicated and giving him a public funeral with a bully pulpit on what a great public Catholic he was.

Another common comment from Kennedy’s defenders is that we shouldn’t mix religion and politics. However, they’re just as quick to say that Kennedy’s “other political positions” show him to be a great Catholic.

Another defense of Kennedy is that supposedly abortion is one exception to being otherwise Catholic in his positions, and this is also untrue.

Let’s start with those “other issues” we so often hear about in Catholics defending their support for the Democratic Party. I’ve addressed these many times, of course, but apparently people just can’t comprehend the truth.

Does the Church give a “preferential option for the poor?” Yes. Does the Church emphasize the “common good”? Yes. But the Church also gives a wide range of options on how to apply those teachings, and emphasizes that Catholics must show a certain charity to one another where economics is concerned precisely because this is a matter of prudential judgement. However, when numerous Popes, from Leo XIII to John Paul II, have explicitly condemned socialism as such, and when Catholic teaching clearly emphasizes subsidiarity, I fail to see how anyone can seriously claim the Democratic positions are perfectly in line with Church teaching. Look at the list of ideologies Leo XIII condemned as “Americanism,” and you will see the positions that “Catholic Democrats” in America have held since the 19th Century. Explain to me how that’s “Catholic teaching.”

Then there’s abortion. To hear Kennedy’s defenders, including Cardinal O’Malley, reducing abortion to “just one issue,” Bernardin-style, makes me sick. It also goes against the teaching of John Paul II in _Evangelium Vitae_, who said that abortion should be the #1 priority of voting Catholics. That attitude expresses an inherently dismissive attitude to the pre-eminent moral crisis of our day, as does the notion that condemning abortion is “just about politics.”

But even so, even if somehow we can contort the Social Justice encyclicals to support the kind of Socialism the Kennedy family supported, and even if we can reduce abortion to one concern among many, Ted Kennedy had three other major black marks, as well.

Kennedy was very publicly divorced and remarried, for one, and thus it’s no wonder he once condemned St. Thomas More for being “intolerant.” When the public divorces of people like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are brought up, liberals like to respond that annulments are supposedly a “private” process. Well, no, the whole point of an annulment process is to ensure that there’s no scandal in a remarriage, and if a Catholic is publicly divorced and remarried, that Catholic needs to publicly announce an annulment, as was done with numerous monarchs throughout history. Otherwise, it’s just “wink, wink, nudge, nudge,” sending the message to the public that Jesus Christ’s condemnation of divorce is an outmoded rule that can be ignored.

Speaking of Catholic teachings that are morally vital to society but largely ignored, Kennedy was personally responsible for ensuring that contraception remained legal in the US by single-handedly derailing the Bork Supreme Court nomination, and *precisely* on Bork’s position that _Griswold v. Connecticut_ was bad law.

Did Kennedy ever publicly repent of these public offenses against Church teaching? If not, he shouldn’t have been publicly honored as a “Catholic” public official.

Yet if people point out these basic principles of Catholic ethics, we’re labelled angry RadTrads, and ignored.

On top of that, as far as Cardinal O’Malley goes, there’s the issue of John Kerry. Ted Kennedy may be dead and buried, but O’Malley has failed in his duty of formally excommunicating John Kerry.

4 responses to “The problem I have with Cardinal O’Malley: Ted Kennedy

  1. Your link to his blog gave a page not found on yours as being caught behind your own url:

    http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/2009/09/02/on-senator-kennedys-funeral/

  2. Quoting from it:

    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. ­­­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. 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.

  3. Yes, and I suppose I’m confusing his statements with the comments a bit (since almost all the comments are pro-Kennedy, and he apparently allowed or received no articulate anti-Kennedy comments).

    However,
    1) That’s why I emphasized how abortion is just one of several key, prominent areas Kennedy was scandalous or heretical regarding,
    and
    2) My questioning how his interpretation of “Social Gospel” (or apparently Cardinal O’Malley’s) squares with Leo XIII’s condemnations of positions very similar to the ones that Ted and his older brothers held.

  4. I agree. I pray he is not elected.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s