Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Raymond Arroyo: Whatever Happenned to Scandal????

At the gravesite of Senator Edward Kennedy on Saturday, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, shared a private letter that the deceased Senator wrote to the Pope. The Cardinal also read what he described as a response from the Pontiff. This marvelous bit of political theatre (as so much of Senator Kennedy’s funeral was), should not escape attention. That moment in particular revealed a great deal.
First of all, it must be recalled that Cardinal McCarrick has a rather unfortunate history involving the delivery of letters, particularly those from a certain Vatican official by the name of Ratzinger. In 2004, when the Bishops of the US were anguishing over whether to allow communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion laws, Cardinal McCarrick concealed a letter from his brother bishops. The missive was from the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal (now Pope) Joseph Ratzinger. Had the bishops received the letter intended to help guide their debate, things might have gone very differently. The contents of that letter are still relevant, particularly now when dissenting Catholics have made grandiose pronouncements about what it means to be a Catholic in public life. Below are some excerpts:
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.
 When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."

This last line is critical. “An objective situation of sin.” This I think is the reason that I have received hundreds of e-mails over the last few days from bewildered and scandalized Catholics. They take their faith seriously, and far from judging what Senator Kennedy may or may not have confessed in his final days, or whether he repented or not, they SAW an “objective situation of sin” in his voting record and in his public pronouncements. They also saw a fundamental incoherence between his professed Faith and some of the positions he championed.
“Why is the Church saluting a man who constantly promoted abortion and had no respect for traditional marriage? I thought this was something we were not allowed to do.”
“Watching this coverage of the Kennedy Funeral I keep asking, whatever happened to scandal?”
These people are not upset about Chappaquiddick or the huge lapses in the Senator’s long and storied life. They surely understand that forgiveness for these public and private acts is possible, and well within the merciful reach of the Church. The problem here is one of public witness and appearances-- the corrupting example, the “objective situation of sin.” Even if Senator Kennedy privately confessed his unrelenting public support for abortion and embryonic stem cell research, didn’t he owe the public and his Catholic colleagues-- his family members who still serve the public--some correction? Shouldn’t he have offered them some last admonition that might have led them to the right path, assuming that he found it, late in his life?
Judgment remains the exclusive domain of God and no one should presume to know Senator Kennedy’s eternal destination. Nor should he be fashioned into the exemplar of what it means to be a Catholic public servant.
How his legacy of civil rights, supporting union causes, his defense of immigrants, his commitment to the poor, and his efforts to reduce war would have been morally enhanced had he coupled them with a defense of the most vulnerable members of society: the voiceless millions who have lost their lives to abortion. Unlike his sister Eunice, who tried to turn the Democratic party away from its attachment to abortion, Ted Kennedy pushed the party in other direction. Throughout Kennedy’s funeral many attempted to brandish his poverty legislation or immigration reform as evidence that he had fulfilled his obligations as a Catholic legislator. A close reading of what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote above, shows that it clearly does not. As the Pope has recently written, the foundation of “social justice” and the heart of Catholic social teaching is the right to life.
In a heartfelt letter to His Holiness, Senator Kennedy wrote the following:
I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war… I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone. I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. “
Sadly, it must be admitted that despite the good he did (and I know people who were personally touched by his generosity), Senator Kennedy failed to at least publicly “respect the fundamental teachings of (his) faith”; principally that the right to life is universal, God given, and all are obliged to defend it.
The prayer intercessions at the funeral mass, the endless eulogies, the image of the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston reading prayers, and finally Cardinal McCarrick interring the remains sent an uncontested message: One may defy Church teaching, publicly lead others astray, deprive innocent lives of their rights, and still be seen a good Catholic, even an exemplary one. The casual viewer is tempted to think that Catholicism has become a Church of externals where core doctrines and major teachings are as malleable as they are in the nearest Protestant community. Or worse, to think it all a hollow show.
As a final desperate attempt to stamp the imprimatur of the Pope upon the funereal proceedings, Cardinal McCarrick read what he called the “Pope’s response” to Senator Kennedy. Actually it was a note, very likely from the Secretariat of State. This is the sort of thing any member of laity receives when they send a prayer request or a Christmas card to the Pope. Cardinal McCarrick made is seem as if it had the weight of a new encyclical. It read in part:
"The Holy Father has the letter which you entrusted to President Barack Obama… He was saddened to know of your illness, and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness… His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful Father.”
This was a cordial letter sent to the Senator. It was not meant for public consumption. The Pope issued no public statement upon the death of Ted Kennedy. Nor did he release any public letter to the family as he did, appropriately, when Kennedy’s sister, the very pro-life Eunice Kennedy-Shriver died several weeks ago. The Vatican newspaper did report Ted Kennedy’s passing and noted with displeasure his support of abortion rights. At least one Vatican official was quoted over the weekend, saying: “Here in Rome Ted Kennedy is nobody. He’s a legend with his own constituency. If he had influence in the past it was only with the Archdiocese of Boston and that eventually disappeared too.”
What most in the media and the public fail to recognize is that this entire spectacle—the Catholic funeral trappings and the wall to wall coverage-- was only partially about Ted Kennedy. It was truly about cementing the impression, indeed catechizing the faithful, that one can be a Catholic politician, and so long as you claim to care about the poor, you may licitly ignore the cause of life. The “Common Ground” argument was reinforced this weekend—the notion that supporting a host of “social justice” initiatives somehow cancels out or trumps the “grave”, “intrinsic” evil of abortion and the Catholic commitment to the life issues. As the Pope has described in his letter of 2004, and subsequently, this is an untenable position no matter how many “pro-choice” Catholics on the right or the left attempt to make it.
For those who find this hard to accept, ask Cardinal McCarrick. He has the original letter.
May Edward Kennedy Rest in Peace and in Mercy.
Let me know what you think at
Ross Douthat at the New York Times has written a most perceptive piece comparing Ted Kennedy's legacy to that of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.


  • At 21/12/09 3:45 AM , Blogger lina said...



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