Once Upon a Time in Political Landscape Far Far Away

In the video below Fr. Robert Barron ponders the passing of Edward Kennedy.  He recalls a time, in an era far different from our own that Ted Kennedy was pro-life and that he gave one of the finer defenses for the rights of the unborn child that has been articulated. Here is that quote and then follows the video.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, [D-Mass.], in a letter to a constituent, August 3, 1971
“While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grown old.

“I share the confidence of those who feel that America is working to care for its unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves. I also share the opinions of those who do not accept abortion as a response to our society’s problems — an inadequate welfare system, unsatisfactory job training programs, and insufficient financial support for all its citizens.

“When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”

For the record, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton and Richard Gephardt were all in the pro-life camp once upon a time in a galaxy far far away. You can read some pro-life quotes from them HERE

12 Replies to “Once Upon a Time in Political Landscape Far Far Away”

  1. I am pro-life myself. But isn’t there a more appropriate time and place to focus on others’ shortcomings, inconsistencies, and immoral decisions? The online tombstone the blog of the Archdiocese has given to Sen. Kennedy has been “Pro-choice, inconsistent flip-flopper who doesn’t really care about the little guy like the rest of the Democrats / Pray hard, everybody doesn’t go to heaven…”

    It sends what I hope is the wrong message about the Church and the God it represents. Am I going to get a blog post when I die about my failures as a human being? When I am alive, do I have to worry that Catholic priests in this diocese are going to be thinking about my inconsistencies with Church teachings? Most importantly, is this how God sees me too?

    1. Michael, You’re up pretty late according to the time of your post! At any rate I want to say that speaking for myself I hope the priest DOES mention my short-comings since it might mean I’ll get more prayers. At my funeral I will hope more for prayers than praise. Perhaps, by this post I can put in a request that you, Michael, will come to my funeral and point out to them that among other short comings I was a lousy blogger 😉

      More seriously though, my main concern is that Catholic funeral rites have lost a proper balance. The purpose of the funeral mass seems two-fold: that we worship God and pray for the deceased. One might add that some role exists to console the sorrowful but ALSO to instruct them as to th eneed to pray and to prepare for thier own death too. Many people today just don’t want to talk about the fact that after death we are judged and that judgement is no light matter. Many too wish to ignore or set aside that Jesus repeatedly and consistently warned us to be ready for judgment and taught us that many were not in fact travelling right (cf Mat 7:14, 21ff and many many other places). Hell and purgatory are part of the picture. No time to defend and teach tham all here but I want to remphasize: Jesus taught very clearly, consistently and dramatically as to the reality of Judgment and hell. Surely heaven is the destinaiton for the faithful but I doubt most of us go straight there, rather purgatory is in store for most of us. I stated the reasons for this in the article.

      So, calling for prayers is not so bad. I hope my homilist will do so.

      Finally, we must have the common good in mind when it comes ot funerals too. Glossing over the short-comings of people, especially prominent ones, may harm the faithful and cause a thinking that some how si and dissent don’t ultimately matter. They do. The attitude of pro-choice cahtolics, especially those in power has cuased immense harm, scandal and the at least indirectly the deaths of many millions. It cannot go unremarked. It it more than a “failure” to promote funding and wider availability of abortion. It is more than an “inconsistency” We have to be clearer than that.

      My call that we pray for the repose of Senator Kennedy is made respectfully. Fr. Barron’s work is also respectful. But both of us would surely say that more is at stake here than just saying nice things about people who have died. We must be repectful but clear. S. Kennedy deserves our prayers. He was a public servant and a fellow Christian. But he was horribly wrong about abortion and it is wrong to expect praise only to a man who was more complicated. I am complicated too and when I die please respect me by acknowledging the whole of me: a man who tried to love God but also fell short and appears before the judgment seat of God needing boatloads of grace and mercy.

  2. Amen Father Barron. Democrats can no longer do this flipp- flopping on the issue of abortion, especially in the African-American community. Weather you are Democrat or Republican, the African-American community is in a storm when it comes to the issue of abortion. It is indeed a form of genocide.

    1. Yes there is a lot of evidence that the Black community was targeted by Margaret Sanger. Back in the 1920s she started her “Negro Project” with the goal of limiting the number of black births. She was a follower of the Eugenics movement that saw certain races (white european, fair haired blond etc) as superior to other races and saw “value” in supressing birth rates among members of “inferior” races. This was the apparent motivation of her negro project. So from the 1920s the Black Community was targeted to a certain extent. Margaret Sanger’s organization “Planned Parenthood” became the largest “provider” of abortions after its legalization and to this day over 70% of its clinics are located in minority neighborhoods. Planned Parenthood denies any connection to the racism of its founder but the fruits of what she started echo to this day where 30% of abortions are perfomed on black women who represent only 12% of the population. Many argue that this is the fruit of having been targeted.

  3. Msgr., thanks for taking the time to respond.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis of what funerals have become, i.e. only saying nice things. And I agree that we shouldn’t gloss over one’s shortcomings and horrible mistakes, especially if they are in positions of power. We do all need to be held in prayer, Sen. Kennedy, you, me. (You don’t need any prayers for your blogging, by the way. You and the rest of the contributors do a great job.)

    My question might be phrased another way: if former President Bush were to die, should such an occasion be used as an opportunity to write two posts reminding us about hell and unjust war and the sanctity of life? If so, I would voice the same concern. I hope that a person’s death, even if that person contributed to the death of many many many people, would be treated by Catholics as an opportunity to reflect on the gospel, on Jesus’ example and vision of a merciful God who loves and forgives tax collectors, prostitutes, and even worse sinners rather than a vision of a God who needs as many prayers as possible to earn His love and change His verdict (which given the scandalous crime of being pro-choice is eternal damnation).

    I am not interested in comparing abortion and war. I am interested in understanding better what the vision of God is that you speak about. In the eyes of God, are we judged according to what political party we vote for? Our moral action to immoral action ratio? Our hearts? Our beliefs? Do we know?

    From these posts, and from the pews, the Catholic vision is not coherent to me, a Catholic (and I think I speak for many more). One reading is fire and brimstone and the next is unconditional love. One sentence is Kennedy was a good guy and the next is he is a mass-murderer. It seems a mixed message bordering on extreme passive-aggressiveness.

    Is there something I am missing? Or do I need to accept that things aren’t always “either / or”?

    1. I am not entirely sure I understand what you mean by “passive-aggressiveness.” Passive aggressive behavior refers to a way of being aggressive by a kind of inactivity. The classic text-book example is a person being tailgated slows down even more. Another example is that a person who doesn’t want to be at a meeting shows up late and resists any participation. In both cases the person is “aggressive” but not in the usual shouting screaming and throwing things, physically agressive sense but in a “refusing to cooperate” sense. So any rate I am not sure I understadn that part of your answer.

      At any rate your observations are not without merit. One wonders why bring this up now and doen’t it seem suspicious. Yes it does because it is. Ted Kennedy’s death provokes all these thought for me and for many Catholics. I suppose that George Bush’s death might provoke some to write in this way though frankly most of his critics didn’t wait for his death 🙂

      I cannot speak wholly for Fr. Barron and his motives but his whole ministry is to comment on things in the news and culture. That’s what he does. He’s pretty even handed in his observations and he allows things in the news, movies, cutural matters etc all to provoke discussion. That’s also what I try to do, though not as well.

      As I tried to point out my my first post on Kennedy his funeral (poorly celebrated according to me by both liturgical and pastoral standards) was endemic of a larger problem we seem to have in the Church. Now I will say (and did say in the article) that his virulent pro-abortion stand causes me additional concern. I also tried in the article to indicate that I am not singling out Kennedy in this regard but neither can I or will I totally ignore this VERY distressing aspect of his life.

      So I will be more specific as to my critique: 1. For the church to have conducted funeral liturgies with no mention even in passing of this conflict is highly problematic. We are not talking about some hidden fault but something he very publicly professed. To simply pretend it was not there and to also be expected to act that way (which I think the world does expect of us) is to ask us to be untrue to ourselves. And it grieves me that clerics and others often so easily participate in this. We are ask to be silent on certain matters or expected to remain silent and we just cave. It is disheartening to many of the faithful and gives implicit support to the notion that one can be an ardent supporter of abortion rights and still be considered and exemplary Catholic. 2. Some suggest a Catholic funeral should not be offered at all. I do not say that but DO say that any Catholic funeral that fails to appeal to the need for prayer and teach on the certain judgement we all face is poorly celebrated. In Sen Kennedy’s case the obligation to ask for prayers is even greater for two reasons. First he was a high public official and to whom much is given much is expected. Leaders will have to give an account of their leadership to God. Second, he was wrong on the most important moral issue of our times and has not only promoted abortion rights but also voted to fund them. This is a very very serious matter, millions have died, and the senator needs and deserves our prayers.

      I beleive Fr. Barron is being authentic to his role as prophet. I do not think he is unkind in the video but he is clear. I have tried to be the same. But your suspicions are well true. My call for prayers for the Senator and my reminder of judgement awaits are directly tied to his death. I am not his judge and in fact feel a deep call to prayer for him not because I doubt his ultimate salvation but because I ernestly hope for it. I can do no less, if I ask God to be severe with him or anyone I bring that severe standard upon myself and if God is severe with me I don’t stand a chance.

  4. Msgr, by passive-aggressiveness I mean this: rather than directly voicing judgment and a clear focus that Sen. Kennedy is horribly wrong on abortion, a mass-murderer, and in danger of going to hell because of abortion, it is veiled in reflections about funerals, the need for prayers, and his (as well as other mass-murdering Democrats) former morally correct position. You can see the face under a veil, but it’s hard because it has a pretty disguise. The veil was much thinner in the second post, but the face in both was “Ted Kennedy was wrong about abortion, which is extremely wrong.”

    I don’t take issue with the sentiment. I take issue with the tone and timing in the same way I would if your only two posts about either Bush when they died had to do with just war, the death penalty, and hell. Pro-lifers haven’t waited until Kennedy died to criticize him, just like anti-war advocates haven’t waited to criticize Bush. When someone dies, I don’t believe it’s an appropriate time to turn up the volume on the critique and zoom in on the dark side of an individual, though neither should be silenced or ignored. It’s a time to turn down the attacks and zoom out to see the bigger picture.

    I am still interested in what that bigger picture is, Msgr. You clarified your critique of Kennedy and funerals but that wasn’t where I was confused. I am confused about the Catholic vision of God. To quote from my last response: “I hope that a person’s death, even if that person contributed to the death of many many many people, would be treated by Catholics as an opportunity to reflect on the gospel, on Jesus’ example and vision of a merciful God who loves and forgives tax collectors, prostitutes, and even worse sinners rather than a vision of a God who needs as many prayers as possible to earn His love and change His verdict (which given the scandalous crime of being pro-choice is eternal damnation)…I am interested in understanding better what the vision of God is that you speak about. In the eyes of God, are we judged according to what political party we vote for? Our moral action to immoral action ratio? Our hearts? Our beliefs? Do we know?”

    I know that’s a more than a few cans of worms, but if there’s any way you can make sense of it for me I would appreciate it.

    1. Your concern about the vision of God is understandable. I would answer than the Scriptures are a very balanced body of writings that usually present things that need to be help in delicate balnace. So I would argue that your statement: “Jesus’ [gave] example and vision of a merciful God who loves and forgives tax collectors, prostitutes, and even worse sinners rather than a vision of a God who needs as many prayers as possible to earn His love and change His verdict” is not untrue but it needs to be balanced with other scriptures wherein Chirst warns quite dramatically of the day of judgement and be caught unprepared. [e.g. Mat 7:13ff; Mat 7:21-23; Mat 25:1-13; Matt 25:41-46; Mark 13:35-37; Luke 19:22-27 and many mnay more). These texts present a very serious prospect of the Day of Judgement and most of them indicated that many if not most will be found unfit for the kingdom of God, that many will be excluded. Texts like these need to balance your description of God only in terms of mercy. It is ultimately a myster as to how God’s mercy and justice interact but both are surely described in the Scriptures. Jesus warned quite dramtically of hell and and judgement as you’ll see if you look up these passages. How can passaged like these be squared with God’s mercy? Again, something of a mystery here but I think the word “respect” gets us somewhere. In the end God will respect that fact (though not like it) that there are simply some (if not many) who do not wnat to live in the kingdom he offers. The kingdom of God in Heaven is about Love even of enemies, forgiveness, justice, love of the poor, life, worship of God in the heavenly liturgy, truth, and so forth. There are some he have consistently indicated that they do not want some or all of these things. I remember once a woman who told me “I don’t like Black People!” Well, I warned here then you won’t like heaven because there are black people there. But thats OK if you don’t like heaven and what it is then you don’t have to go there! In the end I think this is what God does, he respects our choice but does not like it.

      Another aspect of God’s mercy is the notion of purgatory. You seem to have alighted on to a reference to hell but missed the fact that most of my post was about purgatory. I suspect that most of us will need purgation after we die. We all die with stuff we can’t take to heave. Sins, yes but also hurts, regrets etc. We cannot take these to heaven and so the Lord faithful to his promise that we would be perfect purges us of these sorts of things. and then welcomes us to heaven. This is why prayers at funeral are important. If a person is in hell they can’t use our prayers, if they are in heaven they don’t need them. But the souls in purgatory can surely use them. This is really why we pray and we’ve got to get back into the business of praying for the dead.

      In the end Balance. Mercy yes, Justice and Judgement too? yes and yes. We cannot simply tear pages out of scripture that talk of judgement and even damnation by appealing to God’s mercy. The same Jesus who taught us of God’s mercy teaches of judgment and hell as well as purgatory (cf Mat 5:25ff) . It’s all of a piece.

      So to answer your question. Our view of God should be scriptural not just wishful or vengful, but scriptural.

  5. I think you articulate the balance well, Msgr. God is ultimately a mystery, merciful, but also the ultimate judge. What I might throw out there in addition is that we can get a clue as to what God’s judgment might be like by looking at the judgment of Jesus. If Jesus is God, and Jesus reveals who God is, then some of the mystery can be taken out of the judgment experience.

    Though Jesus does warn that most people don’t want the kingdom of Heaven (when they are alive or dead) and are not going to ever make it there, I don’t see many examples in the gospel of the need for complete purification / perfection in order to be considered worthy of Jesus’, and therefore God’s acceptance, love, forgiveness, and presence. Sure, Jesus does encourage us to be perfect as God is perfect, but it’s by no means an expectation or requirement, especially in light of his repeated demonstrations of God’s spirit dwelling in unexpected, seemingly “unholy” people and places. Your post “Feeling Worthless?” speaks to this reality beautifully.

    This is to say that if God’s judgment is like Jesus’ judgment, we shouldn’t be scared because we’re not perfect or because we make mistakes. In the gospels, Jesus had the harshest judgments precisely for the religious people who thought that they were perfect, that it was their job to judge. Of course we would never do such a thing, you and I, but the message does need attention in a time when liberals judge conservatives, conservatives judge liberals, religious judge non-religious, non-religious judge religious, and so on. My hope is that the Catholic Church calls people beyond such narrow stereotypes rather than enforces them.

    1. Perfection isn’t necessary to be a disciple. Indeed it would fairly limit the number of disciples! However perfection IS necessary before entering heaven (Rev 21:27) Hence the Catholic teaching on purgatory. Most if not all of us die imperfect. Thus we must receive final purification from Jesus prior to entering heaven. Thus will the text be fulfilled which says, “You must be perfect as the heavenly Father is Perfect.” (Mat 5:48) and also the saying of Paul “May God who has begun a good work in you bring it to perfection (Phil 1:6) and the promise of Jesus regarding the dead who die in faith “He will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev 21:4). This is why we pray for the dead. We hope they have died in faith and then pray for them that any necessary purgation be accomplished well and that they enter the full glory of heaven soon. We do not know of how time exists after we die so wha tis meant by soon is a mystery to us but it nevertheless remains our prayer for those who have died. Catholic funerals ought to take all this into account: God’s mercy, his judgement, the need even for the saved to be purified and our duty to pray for the deceased.

  6. How good to see Senator Kennedy’s original position on abortion! What “carambas” went wrong?????

    I was at a meeting some days ago and we began talking about Senator Kennedy at some point. The opinions were divided. A wise woman said, “I am glad I do not have to do the judgment, God will do that” and another wise woman reminded us to pray for his soul, thank God (did she read the blog?). I had the impression during the conversation that we were arguing about who was right and who was wrong on Kennedy’s salvation! We learn to do this, don’t we.

    I have noticed the tone of voice we sometimes use when speaking about a person’s salvation. I agree with the Church that there is a Heaven and a Hell and Purgatory and there is a Savior who came to seek and save the lost and warned us about not letting our lamps go out for lack of oil. This savior also gave us the questions to the Final Test (what teacher does that?): “When did I see you hungry?” (Or without health care? Or without a voice for being a foreigner? 😉

    So I am praying for Senator Kennedy because I believe in a merciful God who would listen to our prayers to aid his soul find at last its rest. What we do in life, as Catholics is crucial: do I keep reaching out to those whose lamps are low on oil and warn them so they may have the light of Christ in this life and the next? Do I resist the temptation to cut off all who do not agree with me? I hope that I will always try to be helpful and careful to try to correct them and when all fails, to look at them as if they were tax collectors or sinners, that is, to bring the gospel to them repeatedly. This I think many of us can try harder, until it hurts! So lets pray for balance to stay on the road, courage to stand for the truth even when politically incorrect and love of God and neighbor to keep us in the right direction until the end! The scriptures are clear on the Lord’s intentions, he came that we may have life and he took the necessary steps to make it available but the choice has to be personal. I pray not to misrepresent Christ and the good news he died for.

  7. Well Msgr., I can’t really contest the Catholic teaching and the string of quotes. All I tried to offer is a faithful vision of the gospel and of God that calls into question some of the assumptions and contradictions I saw reading the Kennedy posts. Given the numerous disagreements about God and what that means within the BIble itself and throughout Church history, I’m okay with that and thankful for the time you’ve invested explaining the Church’s point of view. I look forward to future posts and one day meeting you in person.

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