Poll – Should Ted Kennedy have a Catholic funeral?

August 29, 2009

kennedyOur post “Catholic comments on Ted Kennedy, pro and con” showed readers were deeply split on whether the late senator should have a Roman Catholic funeral. The naysayers argued that his support for choice on abortion and other disagreements with Church doctrine disqualify him from a religious ceremony. Those for a church funeral argued that he helped advance many causes championed by Catholic social teaching.

Those opposing a Mass of Christian Burial for Kennedy predominated, but not all readers take the time to write a comment. One-click poll questions sometimes give a different picture from comment pages. So here’s a simple question:


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I was raised Roman Catholic. I am divorced. I am now an Episcopalian. It’s a simple matter of conscience: if one is not prepared to follow the membership rules of an organization, the right thing to do is to disassociate. The Catholic Church does not present an a la carte menu of doctrines for its members; officially at least, it insists on full subscription. A Mass of Christian Burial for Ted Kennedy is therefore a pretense.

Posted by Frank Spinella | Report as abusive

Many USA catholics are considered “cafeteria catholics” (choose and pick what they want to follow and what they don’t want to follow). Ted Kennedy (in my opinion) is far less. Unfortunately, our Catholic leadership continually exhibits favoritism throughout the church, usually associated with your social standing (reason why people like Ted can get an annulment while us “catholic serfs” don’t). Burial for Teddy in a Catholic church is no different. Amazing how someone could be married for many years, have three grown children and still get an annulment? The church wonders why the USA has so many cafeteria catholics – they breed them!

Posted by Joe D | Report as abusive

God bless.

Posted by alice thomas | Report as abusive

The fact that you can express a dissent from the Catholic doctrine is what differentiates a democratic religion from the totalitarianism that some fundamentalists advocate, be they christian or muslim. It is because of totalitarians of that like that religions have lost credit. Fundamentalism dwindles religion into a mere opium of the people.

Posted by Oliver | Report as abusive

The Roman Catholic Church is above all an extension of Jesus Christ. Will we ever know the heart of any other person or is that God’s role?

Ted Kennedy’s political views that conflict with the Church’s social teachings should be condemned.

With that said, a priest was with Ted Kennedy in his final hours. I would suspect that Anointing of the Sick was administered. As faithful Catholics, should we still speculate?

Posted by John Placette | Report as abusive

Kennedy never recanted his rejection of Church teaching. In fact up to the point of his death he was trying to manipulate MA law by having influence over who would take over his senate seat. He feared the seat going empty or possibly “God-forbid” go republican. All in effort to push an abortion bill through congress in the name of health care reform. BTW, the democrats now want to add his name to this abortion legislation.

To boot, Obama the most prolific proponent of the culture of death will give his eulogy.

So far the pope has been silent on Kennedy’s passing. This speaks volumes. Only the tortuous cries of the millions of aborted babies speak louder.

One veteran official at the Vatican, of U.S. nationality, expressed the view of many conservatives about the Kennedy clan’s rapport with the Catholic Church: “Why would he even write a letter to the Pope? The Kennedys have always been defiantly in opposition to the Roman Catholic magisterium.”

“Here in Rome Ted Kennedy is nobody. He’s a legend with his own constituency,” says the Vatican official. “If he had influence in the past it was only with the Archdiocese of Boston and that eventually disappeared too.”

I refer anyone who is serious and not just willing to throw out that one liner–Judge not lest you be judged–to this article by Rev. Michael Orsi

Kennedy’s Funeral Further Damages the Church’s Credibility
(find at humanevents.com)
He concludes by saying:

In this case, a subdued funeral service should be offered for the repose of Senator Kennedy’s soul. It should be made clear that, as it is the purpose of every Catholic funeral, the Mass is being celebrated to beg God’s mercy for the deceased. But, then even this solution would be meaningless when the nation’s most pro-choice president ever is permitted to eulogize his ideological soul mate in the Church’s sanctuary. Imagine the accolades that will be lavished on Kennedy’s character and career!
The Church’s credibility has once again been undermined by the hierarchy of the Church in Boston. This scandal is bigger than the one enabled by Cardinal Law because of its bad message & long ranging implications.

I love this quote so I’ll repeat it in closing: Here in Rome Ted Kennedy is nobody. I’ll think they’ll be saying the same about him in the afterlife.

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

Baptized Catholics are never refused a Catholic burial service. The naysayers are focused on one issue and one issue only. Most don’t even know Church doctrine on committal services for members of the Roman Catholic Church.
I am offended each time I read the news and see a poll such as this. Senator Kennedy may have been at odds with the Catholic Church regarding abortion but how many rank and file are also– regular attendees and the so called “cafeteria” Catholics!
If only those who are so vocally opposed to Senator Kennedy truly walked on the path of social justice as he did. What not poll the Right to Life group on the question of the death penalty, immigration rights and health care. Now that would be an interesting study.
Safe home, Senator Kennedy.

A funeral Mass does not – and should not – eulogise a dead person. It begs mercy for his or her soul. No-one should be denied a funeral Mass. I’m sorry the question should even be asked.

Posted by Brendan | Report as abusive

The issue should be whether or not TK, decade after decade, led his life in such a way that he got closer to what God expects from us human beings. The idea of denying catholic funerals to TK sounds unreal. Do we catholics deserve political leaders like him, if we are busy arguing about ceremonies instead of saying thank you for half a century of battle for more justice and a life long struggle to overcome one’s own weaknesses?

Posted by Geneviève | Report as abusive

Kennedy should have a Catholic funeral Mass ONLY if he made a good confession prior to his death. He had lots of time to prepare his soul to meet his maker. One hopes that he did make a good confession. Eternity is a long time.

Posted by Paul Starzynski | Report as abusive


The differentiation between ‘democratic’ and ‘totalitarian’ religions is not a distinction that applies to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is not, and never has been ‘democratic’ or ‘totalitarian’. It doesn’t operate on that axis of analysis. It has many places where democratic principles apply– i.e. election of Abbots, election of the Pope by the Cardinals– but others where it claims to teach what has been revealed by scripture and tradition as guided by a hierarchy. Not everything yields to being analyzed with modern western political categories. If the Church were to become totally democratic it would cease to be the Church. It appears you think that would be a good thing. I, for one, would think the world would lose a great gift, and the preaching of the good news that God has become man would be severly muted.

Posted by Tim Dawson | Report as abusive

Considering his actions and positions in life, a catholic funeral should not have been granted in death unless he sought the sacrament of reconciliation and was truly sorry for his sins. Murder of an innocent child is always serious sin! While Kennedy’s support of Catholic social teaching is commendable, he is by no means a model Catholic.

Posted by Justin Meyer | Report as abusive

People should check their catholic canon law: funeral services are almost never denied ANYONE! only in the rarest cases. this is probably based on the belief that people can repent even on their deathbed. God is merciful and forgiving– we should be too. (Isn’t that repeated time and again by Jesus?)

Posted by David Center | Report as abusive

Jesus said to his would be followers, let those who have not sinned, cast the first stone. God,s kingdom will be the one to judge Ted Kennedy, not us. He has done more for the little guy then you can mentioned. how many of you have done that. He wasn’t perfect, he never said he was. but when there needed a shoulder to lean on, he was there alot more then is mentioned, there was too many walls for laws to be made, he was one to break them down with no fan fare, you asked all the ones that he helped along the way, he and his whole family, let that count put next to yours, and see where you stand now. no contest, hands down. now lets try to carry on with ourselves as a people, not color. and help this great nation carry on at a time most crucial, for all of us to benifit as a people, He would have my vote to be honored in a Catholic Church. No Question.

Posted by Darrell Guay of Sanford Me | Report as abusive

Sometimes people in good conscience disagree with some tenet of their faith. If Jesus condemned us to eternal hell because we have a crises of conscience, how would the majority of us reach salvation? Not everyone in this country is a Roman Catholic – in his political life, Ted represented them all. We should commend him for that.

He conducted his life as best as any of we sinners can – it is not ours to judge. He deserved the prayers of our Church at Mass.

Two other thoughts. President Obama spoke Ted’s eulogy because he respected Kennedy as a man and a Senator and because he IS the President. Are we that bigoted that only those who believe exactly as the Church requires are allowed to speak to the congregation? He was not preaching, he was speaking.
Second, I personally know 2 couples, mere “serfs” in our faith, who had their reception of the SACRAMENT of matrimony annulled. In civil terms, the marriage was valid, but not in the Church.

None of us know the state of TK’s soul. I also say “JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED”. May he rest in peace.

Posted by Ronald | Report as abusive

Of course he should have a Catholic service. You can
t pick and choose who gets this. He is deceased and its the proper thing to do. Besides a big part of Catholicism is forgiveness.

Posted by GK | Report as abusive

Senator Kennedy should not be buried as a catholic for
2 reason. He was not punished for killing an innocent
woman, and because of his power he was not punished.
second, he supported and promoted BHO to be the leader
of the most magnificent country in the world, knowing
his background(radical,) and not being a natural born
citizen, and a supporter of late term ABORTION. Unless
he confessed to these crimes before he died, he does not

Posted by soraya sussman | Report as abusive

This is a question that shouldn’t even be asked. It is NOBODY’s business – but the family and their church. How utterly disrespectful and crass to conduct a poll in the midst of a funeral. Have you no decency? Did you miss your mother’s lecture about saying no evil of the dead. Shame on you, and shame on each and every one of the posters who thinks they know the heart of someone you don’t even know. It is disgraceful. Grow up. Act like a respectful American citizen.

Posted by Ellen Scott | Report as abusive

Judge not, lest you be judged.

I find this question in very poor taste. Many that answer will not even be Catholic, or think they know the standing of the Church on burial. We must be believe that Senator Kennedy, had made his peace with God and died in a state of Grace. Jesus teaches us to not judge others so we will not be judged. Senator Kennedy followed Jesus and only he has the right to judge him. The Church in it’s wisdom allows Christian Burial for all baptised Catholic. I personneling believe it is better to show compassion for all rather than taking a chance of slighting a good person because of our judgement.

Posted by Shirley | Report as abusive

Absolutely. Ted Kennedy was a devout Catholic, and it\’s the type of funeral that he wanted. You can poll public opinion all that you want, but it doesn\’t matter what the public thinks. He wanted a Catholic funeral, and that\’s what they gave him today. The most decent thing you can do for any man is honor his dying wishes.

Posted by JoeB | Report as abusive

who are all you people to judge whether Ted Kennedy should have a catholic burial or not? I am shocked by all those negative comments. What did Jesus teach us? Please go back to the new testament and read about how compassionate and forgiving Jesus is, and how he taught us not to judge our neighbor as this was not for us but for the father in heaven to judge. Amen.

Posted by Patrick Kessler | Report as abusive

One person I know in particular was denied a catholic burial and his family held the service in an Episcopal Church.

Why are all you people casting stones. Are you a model Catholic? Are you perfect? Get over yourselves. Bury your pomposity and go feed the hungry and we are commanded to do.

Posted by Phillip O. Hamilton | Report as abusive

Shame on the Christian right-wing for using Kennedy’s funeral as a means to spread their invective… How many of your Republican Catholic senators truly embrace Church social teaching? There is more to our faith than the one issue of abortion, and it is in no way just for anyone to pass judgement on the soul of a lion for the working class, except God himself. May Teddy today join with Bobby and John in the kingdom of heaven.

Safe home, Senator Kennedy

Posted by Sean McBrearty | Report as abusive

Clearly, Kennedy’s pastor saw him as a good Christian. Kennedy was a faithful, church-going, Catholic. Imperfect, as we all are, he did not live a sinless life. He disagreed with some “official” pronouncements. But, to cut him off from the Church because of that is to short-change its vision. In my view, Kennedy did more to advance Jesus’s counsel to Love God and our neighbor (the only rules that Jesus pronounced) than so many with a “strict constructionist” view of a papally dominated, rigidly controlled, male-dominated autocratic institution. Many of us still love the Church, warts & all, an institution that doesn’t know everything (but doesn’t know that yet), that needs to be open to new thinking rather than re-proclaiming old edicts that Jesus never preached. It is an institution we love for the richness of its history and liturgy. Yes, we are unashamedly “cafeteria Catholics.” And the cafeteria door will remain open, I believe, as long as the Church lives.

Posted by Anne | Report as abusive

I am so sorry for Ted’s family, children, wife…however, Ted promoted abortion, which is against the teachings of Christ, he promoted same sex marriage, which is an abomination to the Lord, and although these sins against God are foregiveable, they have to be sincerely repented for, and only the Lord knows the heart of a man at death. The Senator did many good works, but it is not our works that get us into heaven. Our “works”, that is, the good things we do in life are a result of our faith. And to know the scripture and know what it says about the creation of life, that only God has the right to give it and take it, and to support abortion, is contrary to what the Lord teaches us. I am sad about this where Ted is concerned. So sad…for the Lord God did not make Ted take the stances he took on these issues, so thus, Ted made his own decisions given free will, to go against the Lord’s teachings. May the Lord have Mercy…of which I believe he does show us that mercy …. I can not judge the heart of a man…only the Lord can do that.

Posted by Sue | Report as abusive

forget the annulment and choice issues. what about Mary Jo Kopechne? that alone should disqualify him.

Posted by Dianne | Report as abusive

Kennedy did not “support” abortion. Noone supports abortion. As a Catholic, I am sure he was deeply against abortion and the number of children in the Kennedy family is proof positive that the Kennedy’s were deeply Catholic and pro life. But being pro life does not mean you have to support government regulation of abortion. I am Catholic and consider myself pro life in that I would never have an abortion, counsel anyone else to have an abortion, or support the death penalty for anyone. However, I do not believe it is the government’s place to make these decisions for women, or impose a religious view on the public in general.

Kennedy’s life was very pro life – he actually supported education and civil rights and health care and did everything to MAKE PEOPLE’S LIVES BETTER, no matter what their race or background. He was a champion of the poor and less fortunate. He was a good Catholic.

Posted by Joanna | Report as abusive

A better question may be “Should the family allow the Catholic Church to handle the funeral?” People make the church, not the other way around. People need to ask if a church represents their beliefs. Are your beliefs represented by an all male clergy who rejects the equal leadership of women? Are your beliefs represented by an all male leadership who maintains significant amounts of internal secrecy so as to cover abuses that have only been made public in recent years due to secular legal actions the Church continues to spend millions of dollars of donated money on to fight? When does it happen that a church no longer represents your beliefs and you want your funeral handled elsewhere?

The Kennedy family made a choice. Only they could make that choice. It should be respected that they allowed the Catholic Church to handle the funeral.

Alsa, the real question should have been whether he truly made peace with his God before his death. Although it is true that his political views did not respect the laws of the Catolic church, or, for that matter, any truly christian denomination, he now stands before a God who will judge not only his public actions, but also his private ones. His divorce from his first wife and his subsequent marriage to his present wife. Most catholics have taken on a “Pick and choose” attitude with regard to God’s laws, namely those handed down to Moses in the form of the 10 commandments. No mattter what, as a catholic I can only say, “May God have mercy on his soul.”

Posted by N.M.R. | Report as abusive

King David married Bathsheba, after having Uriah, her soldier husband, “killed”. The people “judged” him for his actions. God did not condemn him. In fact, King David is our example of what God wants from us: “all heart”. How dare we put ourselves equal with God and judge him! The same ruler we use will be used against us! Rethink this…put the best construction on everything. Let God judge! Have a heart…like King David had!

Posted by Hanne | Report as abusive

I agree totally with a previous post, that it is not our place to judge. I am tempted though to judge the self righteous judgers who sound so shallow a hateful. TK You were loved by so many, and accomplished so much. I am not qualified to understand God, let alone to speak for her.

RIP Teddy. And God bless you.

Posted by mpf | Report as abusive

People make the Church? I thought Jesus made it?

Posted by Sean Preston | Report as abusive

Devout Catholic? Devoted to what? Abortion? Certainly not ANY of the 10 Commandments.

Devoted to re-election maybe…

Finally! A true “shovel ready” project that I can get behind.

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

Two things. That any of you presume to have the right to judge that question calls into question your own religious values and understanding. In particular, those of you who are Catholic have no right to question as your own church’s leadership up to and including the pope have counted him as a friend. So follow their example instead of, as you say, picking and choosing.

Secondly, if Mary Jo Kopechne were alive, none of you would care about her. You don’t give a damn about women and children who die from lack of health insurance, killed by political indifference. You don’t give a damn about the thousands who have died in Iraq. You didn’t give a damn about the tens of thousands murdered in Africa. And really, you don’t give a damn about Kopechne either. You just exploit her death for partisan ends.

Posted by Kija | Report as abusive

Ted Kennedy supported more government control over American lives. Welfare and the WIC only make more people become ever more dependent on the government instead of working and making decisions on their own. Illegal aliens do not respect the laws of Ceasar as they come into this country like thieves in the night. Illegal aliens also bring in drugs, gangs, rapists and muderers—please stop painting them like innocents, they have broken the law. All countries must protect their countries’ sovereignty. The democrat party was the KKK party and the Catholic Church has been ill advised to associate with it and applaud its dependency programs just as many cafeteria Catholics have supported the Democrats and their self-proclaimed communist members of Congress.

To me, it doesn’t matter what kind of a funeral someone has or if they have a funeral at all. It only matters what kind of a life they led and if they tried to help others during their time on earth. It is important to leave a positive aura behind and good influences on others.

Posted by Martina Pappas | Report as abusive

Senator Kennedy abandoned his Catholic Faith long ago, to get the liberal vote on abortion. During his early career, he clearly opposed it by saying, “Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized.” And by the end of his political career, he was regularly awarded a 100% positive rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America for his abortion-related votes. Even-though, Senator Kennedy championed many social-justice issues; his public stance regarding abortion, placed him in direct defiance to the Holy Magisterium of the Church. The Doctrine of Faith declares that anyone who advances the cause of abortion, merits immediate excommunication and the loss of eternal salvation.

Ironically, in his final days, he spoke about “everyday being a gift”. At least Teddy had a life to live and he recognized it to be a gift. What about the victims of abortion? They had no life or chance to live it. Catholics like Ted Kennedy are delusional about their liberal faith. They think, just because they answer the call to public office and attach themselves to social issues, they will buy themselves a free ticket to heaven. Yet, no amount of good works will save them, if one act of evil is committed by their actions. Sadly, how could Senator Kennedy ask for the sacraments of his faith, if he failed to have conviction by standing up for the unborn? Ted Kennedy had a chance to work out his salvation much like the “good thief”; but instead, publically remained silent regarding this matter. His legacy remains in tact. He died a true liberal right up to the end. No wonder the Holy Father has remained silent on his passing! I’ve heard it said that we can not find true happiness, if the things we do are different from the things we believe in.

Romans 2:5 states: But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. ‘God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.’

So much for his politics-at what cost!

Posted by Rueben | Report as abusive

to Sean Preston: you are W.R.O.N.G.! Jesus never made any Church whatsoever. Christianity was founded by the followers of the Nazarene AFTER his death. He would not have permitted it in his lifetime. I recommend a book that might be of some help to you. It is called the Bible.

Posted by Oilibheir Álain | Report as abusive

The spiteful pettiness of the question, it’s utter lack of grace, in fact, demeans to person who poses it.

Posted by Julia Dover | Report as abusive

I didn’t even read comments after the first one about shovel-ready projects! How tragic that such a heartless sentiment might express someone who THINKS he is standing up for his faith. Every devout Catholic, Protestant and/or Jew should cringe. I’m not catholic nor am I a Democrat! I’m a conservative evangelical….but I thank God for Ted Kennedy’s good works and his family’s many sacrifices for our country. I pray God will confort them now. They clearly love God and each other. I hope they don’t read the comments on this site, and somehow cannot imagine they weill bother…at least they prob. won’t make it past Patrick either.

Posted by DG | Report as abusive

Typographical error on last comment: ‘demeans THE person who poses it.’ Apologies.

Posted by Julia Dover | Report as abusive

Julia Dover, this question was already being debated or hinted at in the comments by readers on our earlier Kennedy post. This post simply poses the question directly. The ones who lack grace are those who give spiteful and petty answers to it.

As a Catholic myself,I say yes he should have had a Catholic Funeral. Find one person who agrees with 100% of anything! He did so many good things for the people of this country during the many years he served us. Let him rest in peace, he is with God now. He has met his maker!

Posted by RM | Report as abusive

Senator Kennedy spent his life defending the poor, providing for those without voices for themselves, bringing good changes to individual’s lives. Hm… who else did that with their entire life? Ah, yes, Jesus did! When Christ gave the instructions to help the poor, he didn’t amend it or curtail it or condition it. Anyone who believes anything else is not a true Christian. Anyone who believes there are conditions set to those instructions do not themselves deserve a Catholic funeral for they seek to divide by self-aggrandizement, a sentiment not given to us in instructions from Christ.

Posted by Kim Mc Cain | Report as abusive

Folks, for me the bottom line is what the Word of God says. The Lord is so patient, kind and forgiving and full of Agape love for us that we can’t even understand it in our own sinful human form – remember, he died for our sins…they were all nailed at the Cross…past, present and future sins, for all times and for everyone….but, there has to be true repentance44444w4.

And so I say, as far as Mary Jo is concerned, I would venture to guess that Teddy has repented with such remorsefulness in his heart over the years and been on his knees to the Lord to beg forgiveness with a true repentive heart. When a person repents, he is forgiven by the Lord, and the sin is remembered no more by our Lord. Perhaps it is best said, that we should not judge, lest we be judged also (paraphrased) and who among us has not sinned? As it is written: Romans 3:10 – “There is none righteous, no, not one; Rom 3: 23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

The Word of God says
Luke 6:41 and 22: And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that [is] in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that [is] in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Because Ted was so adamant about supporting abortion, regardless if he personally approved, his support of abortion still counts – babies died because of Rowe v. Wade. However, even to the end, anyone can repent over decisions and support of laws that were put into place that costs lives of millions of babies…even to a persons last breath…we don’t know how the Holy Spirit ministers to those who are dying or what final decisions are made that are just between that person and the Holy Spirit as one is prepared for what lies beyond…we just don’t know…we just trust in the Lord…ask for mercy and pray for those left behind to comfort them with the peace that passes all understanding.

Posted by Sue | Report as abusive

When I think of Ted Kennedy, I can only think of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, his drinking, his womanizing, his support of late-term abortion and his divorce. How in the world did the Catholic Church ever grant him an annulment? What crap.

Posted by Concerned Citizen | Report as abusive

The man was a lifelong practicing Catholic, from the most famous Catholic family on this, or any other planet.

What was he supposed to do, have a Hare Krishna funeral?

The mere existence of this poll is a great insult, and I’m not even Catholic.

Posted by Sebastian Doyle | Report as abusive

Of course he should! What kind of question is this? He was a lifelong practicing Catholic!

This question is more about politics than religion.

The right-wing nutters who hated Ted will vote no.

And the liberals who loved Ted will vote yes.

This poll has been an enlightening waste of time.

Posted by Snorky the Giant Squid | Report as abusive