Yet Pope Benedict XVI blessed the terminally ill Senator Edward Kennedy, according to correspondence made public at his burial in Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday.
Kennedy, whose political career was marred by scandal, asked for the Pope's prayers in a letter that was handed to the pontiff by President Barack Obama in Rome on July 10.
"I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and, although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life," Kennedy wrote.
"I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path."