Two Kennedys in a very short time have died, which has to be a sort of heart-wrenching 1-2 combo for a family that’s used to its share of tragedy. There’s little or nothing I can say on this blog that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating that you should keep the late Senator and his family in your prayers. I try and avoid speaking any ill of the dead, but I also dislike dishonest hagiography.
If you’re interested in what Catholics are saying on the subject, Patrick Madrid and Frank Beckwith have been sparring against the uber-liberal “Catholic” weekly America. Pat explains the backstory here, and the comments on America’s site were worth the read. Because a lot of Pat Madrid friends and readers were commenting on America’s blog, they, combined with the regular America readers, created an interesting cross-pollination. Non-Catholics can take a peek into the world of intra-religious squabbling, for better or for worse: there’s the usual internet snark, unfortunately, and the basic question is, “Should a man who was proudly, avowedly, even fanatically, pro-choice be honored by a Catholic publication, if his record was fantastically Catholic in numerous other areas, like immigration, concern for the poor and sick, etc.?” It’s a question worth asking, and I’m happy to leave it up to them to answer.
There’s an uglier question that has to be asked as well: should the late Senator be given a Catholic funeral? The two sides of the coin are either no, because to do so would scandalize the faith, and make it seem that a Catholic can hold the values that he is publicly known for holding; or yes, because he showed at least some signs of repentence (lots of time spent praying and with his priest) before he died, and because to deny him a Catholic funeral could itself create scandal. The canon law in question, if you’re curious (by curious, I mean “nerdy”), is 1983 CIC 1184 — not everyone baptized Catholic is entitled to a Catholic funeral. Famed canonist Ed Peters says Kennedy should get a Catholic funeral, but notes in passing that Obama shouldn’t be giving the eulogy, which apparently, he will be doing. Regardless of the correct interpretation of 1983 CIC 1184, the canon is rarely enforced by Catholic bishops anyways: they allowed a joint Catholic funeral for Steven Sueppel and the wife and children he murdered on Easter. So I’m going to go with Ed Peters here: Kennedy should get a Catholic funeral, but allowing the non-Catholic president the chance to do the eulogy risks turning it from a religious into a political event.