No matter what your opinion of Senator Ted Kennedy, Christian charity demands we pray for the repose of his immortal soul and for his grieving family. It is also bad form to speak ill of the dead, especially before they are buried. I have no desire to go through a litany of issues I feel the Senator was on the wrong side of the fence. His political affiliation was different than my own. de gustibus non disputandum est. While I feel it is inappropriate and improper to demonize someone just as they leave this earth to meet their particular judgment, at the same time, it is important that his supporters not canonize him this week, either. His accomplishments need to be noted. He did write and support legislation for the poor and disadvantaged. He did help the working man by supporting unions. There was a lot of good the man did. While we can quibble about economic policies and political stategies, one sad reality remains. Like other Catholic politicians, Kennedy supported abortion. There is a latitude of debate on health care, the economy, the environment, defense, the war on terrorism, immigration, public education (and vouchers for parochial schools), et al. Where there is no gray area and no room for compromise, however, is the right to life, especially the innocent unborn. I will pray for Senator Kennedy's soul because only the Good Lord can and will judge his motives and actions. We who remain here on earth, however, cannot take comfort when any of our elected public officials espouse our holy religion and defy our most sacred tenet, that innocent human life must always be protected. Patrick Madrid wrote an excellent response to an article in America Magazine. While, I, too, could empathize with Senator Kennedy since we both buried two brothers and a sister, I could not identify with his staunch pro-abortion position. While it is laudable to fight for the rights of women and minorities, the right to life is a basic and inalienable right which no person or group has the authority to rescind. Whether we call them zygotes, embryos or fetuses, those unborn are HUMAN and they are human beings with an immortal soul, made in the image and likeness of God.
We should acknowledge the good done by this public servant. We should not trash him the very week he died, least of all until his funeral Mass and Christian burial. Once the mourning subsides, however, we cannot let history be silent about the facts. Good was done but also much harm to the pro-life cause. I truly pray that in the midst of his terrible suffering from cancer, the Senator found full repentance and firm purpose of amendment for his prior support of abortion. I hope and pray he died in the state of grace with all his sins forgiven. That should always be our prayer for everyone who dies.
Sadly, as a priest, I have seen too many funerals become canonization events where the person is literally declared present in heaven because he or she was a 'good' person or because 'we all end up in the same place, don't we?' Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being 'good' or just being a 'nice' guy will NOT get you into heaven. One must be HOLY to enter the Holy of Holies. Holiness comes from grace which comes from God. Look at the obituaries in your local paper today. Most if not all tell you esoteric things about the deceased like: they belonged to the Rotary Club, or the Elks, the Moose, Loyal Order of Waterbuffalos, etc. He or she liked fishing, shopping, travel, sewing, playing cards, ice cream cones, etc. They tell os of mundate and trite things the person did. The most important aspect, however, is not their extracurricular activities, their employment or their social life. Bottom line is their FAITH. Did they BELIEVE in God? Did they faithfully WORSHIP him every day and every Sunday? Did they OBEY his moral laws and Ten Commandments? Yes, I agree that those who served our nation and defended her in times of war and peace via our military ought to be recognized. That is a commendable act of patriotism. But we also need to hear about those brave souls who bore the cross of Christ in their own bodies and did so with dignity and deep faith. We need to hear about the sacrifices made for marriage and the family. We need to hear about those who struggled and persevered to live a devout life close to their God. I would rather read that than see a bunch of hooey telling me the hobbies of a dead person.
The doctrine of Purgatory is GREAT. It allows us to be purified when we are not fully detached from all stain of sin. The temporal punishment due to sin for an entire lifetime may be great or it may be small. While most of us are not Mother Teresas ready for the Pearly Gates the day we die, hopefully we are not Lucifers either, ready for the pain and torments of hell either. Purgatory is where most of hope to end up with the sure and certain hope we will eventually get to Paradise. Whatever sins we may have committed in life can still be remitted while there is still air in our lungs and blood being pumped from our heart. Pray for the dead and pray for the conversion of sinners. The battle to end abortion and euthanasia is far from over.