Ignoratio Elenchi

November 2009

In our New Oxford Note "Why the Double Standard?" (June), which examined the Obama-Notre Dame scandal, we posed a simple question: Why is it that prolifers who protested the university's decision to honor the most pro-abortion President in U.S. history are demonized as religious fanatics? We agree that Notre Dame's decision was not only controversial but scandalous. More alarming, however, was the vehement reaction to those concerned Catholics who raised their voices in protest. Critics in the media were clear and consistently on message. They were saying: You prolifers have no right to protest!

The death of Massachusetts Senator Edward D. Kennedy and his ensuing Catholic funeral generated just as much controversy. Prolife voices and conservative Catholic media personalities criticized the decision of Sean Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, to accord the longtime Democratic Senator a Catholic Mass of Christian Burial. Again, the reaction to the protests is arguably more alarming than the funeral controversy itself. But this time it's not just pundits and media personalities who are demonizing prolife critics. This time it's the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston himself.

The Kennedy funeral controversy is a continuation of a long-running debate over denying the sacraments to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Canon lawyer Edward Peters has explained in a number of his "In Light of the Law" columns (www.canonlaw.info) that canon law is clear on the matter: Catholic politicians who work in open contradiction to Church teaching on certain grave issues are ineligible to participate in the sacraments (like the Eucharist, under canon 915) and sacramentals (like funerals, under canon 1184). The pro-abortion track record of the so-called Lion of the Senate is well-known. Ted Kennedy has consistently and publicly flouted Catholic teaching on life issues: Not only did he consistently support a woman's "right" to abortion, he voted no to prohibiting minors from crossing state lines for abortion; he voted no to notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions; he voted no to criminal penalties for harming an unborn child during the commission of other crimes; he voted no to banning partial-birth abortions; he voted no to maintaining the ban on military-base abortions; and he voted no to banning human cloning. Senator Kennedy also sponsored a bill making emergency contraception available for rape victims and co-sponsored a bill ensuring access to and funding for contraception. He voted yes to expanding research to more embryonic stem-cell lines; and he voted yes to spending $100 million to reduce teen pregnancy by providing them with free contraceptives. Kennedy received a perfect 100 percent pro-choice rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and a zero percent prolife rating from National Right to Life. Kennedy was unequivocally pro-abortion. It is also no secret that he was a supporter of same-sex marriage: He voted no to prohibiting same-sex marriage in 1996 and no to a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage in 2002.

Obviously there is solid evidence for the conviction that Ted Kennedy was a public sinner (by working in open contradiction to Church teaching) and solid reasons why Catholics might question whether Kennedy deserved a Catholic funeral. More to the point, as Catholic World News editor Philip Lawler noted, "The relevant question is not whether the Massachusetts Senator deserved a Catholic funeral, but whether he deserved a ceremony of public acclamation so grand and sweeping that it might, to the untutored observer, have seemed more like an informal canonization." The fact is, Kennedy's funeral at Boston's famous Mission Church was no less than a celebration of the Senator's life and political career.

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New Oxford Notes: November 2009

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The respective contrary views of Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Burke are more evidence that the Church hierarchy needs to get its act together. Between Notre Dame honoring President Obama with an award (to which only 80 or so of nearly 500 American bishops publicly objected) and Ted Kennedy being honored with a lavish Catholic funeral, it would seem that the Catholic hierachy in America has invested thoroughly in the secular and liberal camp. More and more we have to wonder if Bishop Fulton Sheen's remark, that the laity alone could save Catholicism in America, is not absolutely right on target. Posted by: Charlemagne II
November 24, 2009 10:25 AM EST
Testing Posted by: AynRand1970
November 10, 2009 01:35 PM EST
Testing 1,2,3 Posted by: tschray
November 11, 2009 06:28 AM EST
The Catholic Bishops have long ago gotten into bed with politicians and lost their authority in the bargain. With politicians passing governmental funds to selected welfare and 'social justice' programs supported by the Bishops. Looks alot like Judas accepting 30 pieces of silver to sell out Jesus. In fact, the Bishops have sold out Jesus and even if they wake up now and throw the 30 pieces back at the politicians they will not recover their authority. I wonder just what Jesus will do with Bishops that sold him out? Maybe a public funeral extravaganza then ... Posted by: fenton101
November 25, 2009 04:30 PM EST
The current bishops and cardinals are post-Vatican II, which explains why they don't seem to know very much. Posted by: bbaker
November 29, 2009 01:09 AM EST
Cardinal O'Malley should have been the only speaker, and he should have given a short but relevant homily: "Senator Edward Kennedy did some good things in his life, but no matter how many good things we do they do not give any of us the right to marry outside the Church and support legalized abortion. Let us now pray for him and hope that he repented before he died." If the Cardinal had done that, the families of some prominent Catholics might choose a memorial service in a Unitarian-Universalist chapel rather than a funeral Mass in a cathedral. Posted by: macroom2
December 28, 2009 09:38 AM EST
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