Wednesday 2 September 2009

Ted Kennedy's virtual state funeral sent the wrong message to the world

Fr Brian Harrison, a respected theologian, has emailed his feelings of indignation following last Saturday's virtual state funeral for Edward "Ted" Kennedy, the late anti-life US senator. Firstly, let me say that I, Fr Harrison and other concerned pro-life commentators are at pains to emphasise that neither we nor anyone else can judge Senator Kennedy or his soul, nor do we object to the fact that he was granted a Catholic funeral. I have prayed for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his loved ones. The main issue of contention here is the high honour paid to the senator by the granting of a virtual state funeral, during the course of which he was lauded as a hero and almost as a saint.

In his email letter Fr Harrison cited Senator Kennedy's strong anti-life/anti-family record; and argued that the funeral
"effectively communicated a tacit but very clear message: the Church does not really take too seriously her own ‘official’ doctrines on these matters! I feel impelled, therefore, to make known to anyone willing to read these lines that there are many other representatives of the Catholic Church ... who take those doctrines very seriously indeed."
Fr Harrison added that the Church leaders who granted and presided at the funeral would never have done so had the late senator been a white supremacist or an anti-semite or a Holocaust denier.

Pro-life supporters wonder why pro-life groups such as SPUC sometimes criticise the words or actions of Church leaders on pro-life issues. Shouldn't we encourage rather than criticise, and present a united front in public, with any mistakes addressed in private? Fr Harrison's letter provides the reason why such a well-intentioned approach is not enough. Public words and acts send public messages, in these days instantly to billions all over the world. The honours paid to Senator Kennedy undermine the Catholic Church's message on pro-life and pro-family issues. Bad examples of Church leadership on pro-life issues, such as the Kennedy funeral, therefore need to be corrected, immediately, publicly and charitably.

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