Catholic comments on Ted Kennedy, pro and con
Much of the Roman Catholic commentary on the passing this week of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy — who was a practicing Catholic — has applauded his record on civil rights, immigration reform and economic justice but deplored his support for abortion rights. Kennedy died on Tuesday at the age of 77.
(PHOTO: A photo of Senator Edward M. Kennedy sits at the entrance to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. REUTERS/Adam Hunger)
The Catholic News Agency for example ran a report saying “Ted Kennedy leaves mixed Catholic legacy,” noting clerical discomfort with his support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that granted U.S. women a constitutional right to an abortion and related issues.
“As a Catholic, though he worked hard for the poor, he was criticized by bishops and pro-life leaders for supporting Roe v. Wade, the use of fetal tissue in experiments and for voting against a ban on partial-birth abortion,” the report said.
The line from the Vatican was very much in this vein. In its article about Kennedy’s death, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano praised him for his battles in favor of immigrant rights, gun control and higher minimum wages, but regretted his “unfortunate” support of abortion.
Catholics United, a progressive Catholic organization that supports liberal economic causes and is mobilizing support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare drive, praised Kennedy’s battles on the healthcare and poverty fronts, saying: “Senator Kennedy’s legendary advocacy for justice and the common good – on issues such as health care, immigration, community service, and poverty – spanned more than four decades and touched millions.”
Trolling through there you can find one blogger who said: “Senator Kennedy made the protection of abortion his business. So, will the Catholic Church scandalize its faithful by the pretense that Kennedy was a “Catholic in good standing” and honor him with a funeral Mass?” That blog named several mobsters who had been denied Catholic funeral masses because of their unsavory lives.
U.S. Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden, often face scrutiny and criticism from some of their fellow Catholics. But their commitment to liberal economic and related causes often gels with Catholic social thinking — a point underscored by much of the praise that has come Kennedy’s way this week, even from those within the faith’s fold who took strong exception to his support for abortion rights.
Opposition to abortion rights has brought conservative Catholics and evangelicals together inrecent decades, often under the roof of the Republican Party. But the reaction to Kennedy’s death suggests that there may be some limits in the long run to this political alliance.