Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

On Senator Kennedy’s Funeral

Saturday was the 39th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, at St. Augustine’s Church in Pittsburgh by Bishop John B. McDowell, who is still going strong today.  In the Church’s calendar, the feast day for August 29 is the Beheading of John the Baptist.  People usually take note when I tell them that I was professed to religious life on Bastille Day, July 14, and ordained on the feast of the Beheading.  Not that I am superstitious.

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

On Saturday morning I attended the funeral Mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  Father Donald Monan, S.J., former president of Boston College, celebrated the Mass and Father Mark Hession, pastor of Our Lady of Victories in Centerville, preached the homily.

Patrick E. O'Connor photo

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

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The music was outstanding with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus enriching the liturgy along with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who later sang an absolutely striking rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”  Cellist Yo-Yo Ma graced us with his beautiful solo performance of Bach and later joined Placido Domingo, who sang the “Panis Angelicus.”  Placido has a superb voice.  I told him how much I like the Zarzuela, the Spanish classical musical theater productions.  His family had a troupe that presented Zarzuelas in Mexico and he promised to arrange a performance.

The venue for the funeral Mass was Mission Church, the magnificent Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Senator Kennedy prayed often in this church when his daughter, Kara, was stricken with cancer.  It is a church where countless faithful have gone to pray and ask for healing, grace and forgiveness.

In light of these themes, I wish to address our Catholic faithful who have voiced both support and disappointment at my having presided at the Senator’s funeral Mass.

Needless to say, the Senator’s wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn. ­­­Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn.  To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished.

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The thousands of people who lined the roads as the late Senator’s motorcade travelled from Cape Cod to Boston and the throngs that crowded the Kennedy Library for two days during the lying in repose, I believe, were there to pay tribute to these many accomplishments rather than as an endorsement of the Senator’s voting record on abortion.

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The crowds also were there to pay tribute to the Kennedy family as a whole.  On the national political landscape, if Barack Obama broke the glass ceiling of the presidency for African Americans, Jack Kennedy broke it for American Catholics.

As a young lad, I saw photographs of both Pope John XXIII and President John Kennedy hanging in the thatched cottages of County Mayo and heard the Gaelic greeting, “God and Mary be with you.” Three of the Kennedy brothers died in service of our country in the prime of life.  And Eunice Shriver, who died just a few weeks ago, was an outspoken defender of the unborn and an apostle of the Gospel of Life.  She taught us all how to love special children and to make room for everyone at the table of life. In 1992, Eunice petitioned her party’s convention to consider “a new understanding” of the issue, “one that does not pit mother against child,” but instead seeks “policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth.”

Much of what is noble in the politics and work of the Kennedys had its origins in the bedrock of the faith of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.  As a young woman she had a profound experience of God’s love that transformed her life.  She strove to communicate that faith to her large clan.  Since the time of her funeral Mass I have kept her memorial prayer card, inscribed with Rose Kennedy’s own words:

“If God were to take away all His blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me but one gift, I would ask for faith – for with faith in Him and His goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could suffer the loss of my other gifts and still be happy – trustful, leaving all to His inscrutable Providence.”

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church’s providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator.   In the strongest terms I disagree with that position.   At the Senator’s interment on Saturday evening, with his family’s permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI.   It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life.  The Holy Father’s expression of gratitude for the Senator’s pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness’ role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.

As Archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time.  We are people of faith and we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy.

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Advocating for the dignity of life is central to my role as a priest and a bishop. One of my greatest satisfactions in my ministry thus far was helping to overturn the abortion laws in Honduras.  The person who answered my call for help with that effort was Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who had been a prominent leader in NARAL and the abortion rights movement.  His own change of heart led Dr. Nathanson from a practice of providing abortions to becoming one of the most eloquent exponents of the pro-life movement.

Helen Alvaré, who is one of the most outstanding pro-life jurists, a former Director of the Bishops´ Pro-life Office and a long standing consultant to the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, has always said that the pro-life movement is best characterized by what it is for, not against.  We are for the precious gift of life, and our task is to build a civilization of love.  We must show those who do not share our belief about life that we care about them.  We will stop the practice of abortion by changing the law, and we will be successful in changing the law if we change people’s hearts.  We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss.

At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another.  These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church.  If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure.  Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us.  Jesus loves us while we are still in sin.  He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end.  Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

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President Obama and three former presidents attended Senator Kennedy’s funeral.  I had the opportunity to speak briefly with President Obama, to welcome him to the Basilica and to share with him that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future.  The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying.

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Democrats and Republicans sat side by side in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, praying for Senator Kennedy and his family.  It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life  will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn.

107 Responses to On Senator Kennedy’s Funeral


Comments

  1. Comment by Grace | 2009/09/02 at 20:19:10

    Cardinal Sean:

    Thank you for this, although I disagree on various points.

    Of course Senator Kennedy should have been afforded a Catholic funeral. And I had no problem with you being there.

    If you read what has been written about this Mass of Christian Burial, however, I think what you will find is that the bulk of the criticism out here is not directed at your participation, but at the way in which Senator Kennedy was canonized at the funeral and the way in which certain aspects of the funeral were politicized.

    The purpose of a Mass of Christian Burial is the pray for the soul of the deceased and to bring to mind the hope we have in the Risen Christ. Period. It is not to be a celebration of the life of the deceased, no matter what pop culture and contemporary praxis seems to say.

    In watching the funeral closely, there was no sense of this. It was all about Kennedy, all the time. The homilist effectively canonized him, picturing him in heaven. The General Intercessions, in particular, were a rather shocking politicization of the moment.

    I don’t think anyone but the most inveterate Kennedy-hater would have expressed any objections to the funeral or your participation in it if the rite had been respected for what it has traditionally been about – praying for the soul of the departed, prayers that we will all need.

    In Christ,

    Grace

  2. Comment by al garner | 2009/09/02 at 21:12:43

    Dear Cardinal OMalley
    I have been having a tough time wondering why at Senator Kennedy’s Funeral Mass, the TV camera left the Santuary and showed the windows, the candles etc. it was crazy. We all wanted to see how many of our so called Catholic Politicians went to receive The Blessed Sacrament after voting for and backing abortion and gay marriage and some for euthanasia.
    I am a practicing Catholic and raised my sons the same but it is hard when they visit and the subject comes up like these. How phoney is the Church and what it will not do for money. Very sad.
    I know God will judge but to put on a show like Teddy had who left a young girl in a car in a creek to die, divorced his wife after having children, got that absolved to remarry another woman, was a strong leader on abortion and gay marriage? No wonder we have so many cafeteria Catholics, they all pick and choose and so do our leaders. Very Sad and everyone will stand before God and I am sure he will ask our priests how did you shepherd my flock. I am afraid what the answer will be, but He already knows. How sad He must be. (time for vatican lll) remove the liberals and put the conservatives back in we are sliding down hill fast!
    Thank You
    AL Garner Carnegie Pa Just out side of Pittsburgh
    A FRIEND OF THE SERAPHIC MASS ASSOC
    I KEEP THEM BUSY!

  3. Comment by sunshineman411 | 2009/09/02 at 21:18:37

    This was a lovely and very moving post. Cardinal Sean, thank you for writing this and acting as Christ would.

  4. Comment by T Lobo | 2009/09/02 at 21:47:54

    I respectfully disagree with your position and presence at the funeral.

  5. Comment by Mark B. A. Cappetta | 2009/09/02 at 22:00:53

    Bless you Your Eminence, for being a true Catholic Christian in representing the Archdiocese of Boston at Senator Ted Kennedy’s Funeral Mass. You did what I firmly believe Jesus Himself would have done.

    There is too much division within the Church and the world today, and you showed to the entire world that the heart and spirit of the Roman Catholic Church is truly represented by what you did last Saturday.

    May God Bless you and Mary keep you!

    Faithfully Yours,

    Mark (San Mateo, CA)

  6. Comment by Leslie Czwakiel | 2009/09/02 at 22:05:33

    We are all God’s children and He loves us all, flaws and all. This blog entry is eloquent and touching. Bravo! I totally agree with you and I am so thankful you set the record straight. I saw other Catholics, all up in arms about Senator Kennedy having a Catholic mass. One of the greatest gifts that God and Jesus taught us was that we must embrace the capacity to love, to celebrate all life and to forgive our sins. Some of the critics could do well to remember that.
    Bendiciones,
    Leslie Czwakiel

  7. Comment by jerome schmutte | 2009/09/02 at 22:08:55

    One word — scandalous.

  8. Comment by Cindy | 2009/09/02 at 22:17:31

    Cardinal Sean, my heart aches for you for all the horrible, cruel things people are saying about you attending Sen. Kennedy’s funeral Mass. You are a very holy man and a merciful man and I know you were praying very hard for his soul all through the Mass and if I may say so, I felt that you looked a little uncomfortable being there. It is not for us to judge, none of us – not even you. I pray that people stop with the horrible things they are saying about you and that they realize they need to let it go. You saved our Archdiocese and we are so blessed to have you, I’ll keep saying it. You have done nothing but good things for all of us since you came to Boston. Please know that many, many people are praying for you and for this to stop. Sen. Kennedy now has to face the one and only judge. God bless you always!

  9. Comment by skeeton | 2009/09/02 at 22:19:46

    Your Eminence,
    I appreciate your reasons and logic for allowing Senator Kennedy to have a Catholic funeral Mass and your choice to preside at said liturgy. What troubles me (and many other ordinary lay Catholics) greatly was not the Mass offered for his soul but the very public nature of it. Senator Kennedy was a source of manifest, objective and very grave public scandal because of his open hostility toward life issues. That he was given such a public send-off from the Church only compounds the scandal. As a layman, it was hard enough to witness the repeated wounds suffered by the Body of Christ that were inflicted by this most visible American Catholic politician, who repeatedly twisted the teachings of the Church for mere expediency. It is twice as difficult to witness that unto his death, Senator Kennedy was not required to make an equally objective and public repudiation of his previous position before the Church made such a obvious fuss over him, to a national television audience, no less. Are there no more ecclesial consequences for supporting and advocating for the murder of innocent human beings? Based on the Church’s seeming ambivalence toward the very public nature of the Senator’s scandal, you would have to excuse the laity if we wondered aloud whether the American episcopacy even believes the things the Church claims to profess. It is episodes like this that make being a faithful Catholic so difficult.

  10. Comment by Barb | 2009/09/02 at 22:20:13

    Thanks for this — it was long overdue from our church leaders. You put it very beautifully!

  11. Comment by Phillip O. Hamilton | 2009/09/02 at 22:29:53

    Cardinal Sean,
    I have no clue as to why these mean spirited hatefilled people are critical of your participation in the mentioned burial rites.

    If GOD can forgive the senator, why can’t they?

    Please pray for me,

    Phillip Hamilton

  12. Comment by Larry | 2009/09/02 at 22:30:19

    WWJD? Way to go cardinal Sean. Compassion for the sinners,care for the bereaved, hope for the young.

    I think you hit a home run except with the one issue zealots.
    I’ was not a big fan of the Senator but I had emphathy for his
    outlook and views. If my two brothers were gunned down in cold blood because someone did’nt like them I would favor the death penalty. the senator did not favor capital punishment????
    Life is full of tough choices.

    Change is inevitable…..growth is optional

  13. Comment by John Lee | 2009/09/02 at 22:33:30

    Your Eminence:
    I strongly support your attendance at the late senators funeral. Though we all may have different opinions about different things we are all called by God to love one another. Christ teaches us that He loves us even though we are sinners. He is a forgiving God after all. We, as Catholics, must love each other. We are not judges and we have no place judging others. We will all face judgement one day by God and we should leave all the judging to Him. Thank you for voicing your opinion and representing the Catholic Church at the senators funeral.

    Respectfully Yours,

    John Lee

  14. Comment by The Harney’s | 2009/09/02 at 22:46:52

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. For you are truly God’s voice of love and peace, His gentle hands, His loving heart here on earth.
    God has given us His Word. The examples are there. Blessed are they that see.

  15. Comment by Bill | 2009/09/02 at 23:11:37

    At last, a voice of reason cries through the loud din of the opposing sides. Forgiveness, compassion and recognition of a total picture seem to escape some folks.

    Thank you for being able to state your reasons so well. Amen!

  16. Comment by Ruth Ann Pilney | 2009/09/02 at 23:39:52

    Thank you for expressing this the way you did. It’s perfect! I pray that we Catholics become more unified for the sake of the Gospel message.

  17. Comment by Rose Marie Benoit | 2009/09/02 at 23:48:28

    Precious Cardinal Sean,
    It as saddened me to read and hear what people have said regarding your presents at Senator Kennedy’s Funeral. Jesus said,” I came to save the sinner, not the self righteous.” Jesus was there, too. He head the prayers we lifted up to the Father for the soul of Ted Kennedy. The cry of Jesus from the Cross, “Father, forgive them they know not what they are doing.” Jesus prayed for all of us. All I can ask of the Lord, as my time grows near to the end is, “Jesus, Forgive me for all my sins and Remeber me in the Kingdom of your Father.” Cardinal, please pray for us. These words of Mother Teresa still ring in my ears, “God does not ask us to be successful, only to be faithful.
    I Love you with the Heats of Jesus and Mary,
    Rose Marie

  18. Comment by Michele Loughlin | 2009/09/03 at 00:50:17

    After reading several of the posts, I am very thankful and relieved that our merciful and all-knowing God is my Judge and not my fellow Catholics!

  19. Comment by Linda O. | 2009/09/03 at 01:06:23

    Thank you so much for your thought-provoking comments on this very public, very Catholic event. I totally appreciate your openness about why you participated. I grew up in Massachusetts and followed the lives of the Kennedys very closely, but became disillusioned by Senator Kennedy’s support of abortion. The greatest Kennedy, in my eyes, was Rose Kennedy, because of her undying faith amid such a life filled with tragedy and heartache (especially now that I am a mother myself).

    Regarding abortion and Senator Kennedy. Some people say we don’t really know when life begins, or when a new life becomes a person, and I say, give the benefit of the doubt to the new life – that he or she is a person once conception occurs. With Senator Kennedy, no one can know the state of his soul during his final days, we also need to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for his soul to be united with God.

    If his funeral and services were not exactly the most orthodox and not up to standards that the Church sets for such occasions, still, I believe it was possible for the Holy Spirit to touch the millions who watched, to know that forgiveness comes through Jesus Christ, as transmitted through the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Perhaps the proceedings inspired someone to return, or someone who has been seeking to look more closely at Christ as a source of hope.

    I pray for you, and for all the priests and bishops of our Church, who have such a tremendous responsibility on your shoulders. May God bless you in your vocation.

  20. Comment by marsha anne | 2009/09/03 at 01:06:50

    Cardinal Sean—-Greetings from Denver!
    Cardinal Sean,we all know that you are very pro life and stand firm in our Catholic doctrines and beliefs. You are and have been a virtual”angel” to the historic and great city of Boston!!!! You are and have been such a humble servant of the Lord!
    Despite the controversy here which there is of,course, you followed you heart that beats with love and compassion…It seemed that you were praying your heart out for Teddy and this whole volatile situation!
    We bring the deceased to the church—the sainted AND the sinners, asking for that Divine Mercy, and even as we breathe our last breath, Jesus told St. Faustina that His MERCY precedes His justice!!!! As orthodox Catholics,Ted Kennedy did seriously disappoint and upset us, no two ways about that! But “Judge not lest ye shall be judged!!”
    May God have mercy on his soul, we pray! Loving and Forgiving are You O Lord! Just don’t believe that Jesus or St. Francis would have turned away! You are in our prayers!!
    PAX ET BONUM……PEACE AND EVERY BLESSING to you
    dear Cardinal Sean!!

    marsha anne and siaosi

    PS WE LOVE YOU!!!

    +

    I

  21. Jim
    Comment by Jim | 2009/09/03 at 07:36:01

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I’m sorry to hear that the bishops of our country are anxious to support a plan for “universal health care” (a.k.a. government provided [later, mandated], through forced taxation, health insurance). What’s next? What other heretofore un-enumerated in either scripture, or The Constitution, “rights” do we all have?

    How about the “right” to a home? Shouldn’t the state provide all of us with a house? How about the “right” to a vehicle? After all, we all need transportation – more people use/need cars than health insurance at any one given time. It’s another right! How about the right to a “free” college education? It’s the only fair and just thing to do, correct?

    You see where this is going. There is no end in sight to a list of “rights”, given enough time and imagination – and ignorance of scripture, The Constitution, economics, and sound public policy. We can rationalize anything we want by unilaterally declaring, “It’s a justice issue!” Or, even worse, by asking that faux sincere rhetorical question, with the answer already implied within it, “What would Jesus do?”

    Respectfully submitted

  22. Comment by lisa | 2009/09/03 at 07:59:40

    Ted Kennedy never once even on his death bed expressed public regret for his pro abortion politics. We see the typical Catholic democrat line { I personally am pro-life however I cannot impose my views on others} The funeral would have been a opportunity for you to teach on this Catholic democrat philosophy but…. This funeral and glorification of Ted by representatives of the Catholic Church serve to support these pro-abortion Catholics and scandalize our Church.

  23. Comment by BarbaraKB | 2009/09/03 at 08:07:01

    Thank you, Cardinal Sean, for being present for the Kennedy family during their time of grief. And thank you for posting this so that many will understand why.

    BTW, two friends, who have not attended mass in years, decided to attend a local mass this past Sunday because of the grace and love shown at that funeral mass. Basically there response to the massive coverage was, “I do love what God has for me at the mass. Maybe I do need to go more often.”

    Peace to your ministry and peace to your day.

  24. Comment by Paul Reynolds | 2009/09/03 at 08:31:02

    As a non-Catholic, though steeped in the tradition of the church, I find it comical that US Catholics are so democratic in their responses to a “Prince of the church”.

    This “A La Carte” Catholicism must surely be an aberration; perhaps the opinionated laiety would be happier in a more inclusive church – Episcopalian, for instance?

  25. Comment by Father Francis | 2009/09/03 at 08:46:26

    Cardinal Sean, you are certainly “Eminent” and this blog shows the Church as a Gospel instrument. I recalled John XX111’a first encyclical’s title for the EMK dying and funeral event; the Church is Teacher, and Mother and you did both roles well here at in the Basilica and it was crowned at dusk in the exhange of letters with HH B XV1 read by Cardinal McCarrick in Arlington which showed Grace at work in that sacred turf.
    I do hope that your leadership here will be shared in the NCCCB in this Year of the Priest as so many have been tossed aside as several of its members did to so many with total un-Christian lack of basic respect; sadly the same treatment meted to prominent Catholic elected officials on the abortion issue. I am absolutely a Gospel of Life believer in practice and prayer but I shudder when some supposeedly pastoral leaders seem to forget the Mother role and come across as finger-wagging angry men. You are a credit to Galway, the Franciscan Tradition and the best of what is good as a Shepherd in Jesus’ Body the Church.
    Beannacht De’ort. “Go maire tu cead” may yu live to be one hundred’! Another Franciscan

  26. Comment by Gary George | 2009/09/03 at 08:54:44

    I am humbled at the courage of Bishop D’Arcy.

    I am humbled at the courage of Father Tom Eutenauer.

    I am reminded that we are given opportunities in every day life to be authentic witnesses of the Gospel.

    I pray Lord that you would strengthen our Church leaders and all of the faithful in doing the right thing.

  27. Ray
    Comment by Ray | 2009/09/03 at 09:42:37

    To reviewer/moderator, please use the version below in lieu of my previous comment if you will allow it to be published. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to express my view.

    Your Eminence,

    I respect your opinion very much and agree that a funeral mass was appropriate, but I am deeply saddened that we live in a world where few will stand for the most vulnerable, the unborn who do not vote. They have no ability to further empower the politically powerful. Thanks to Senator Kennedy and his colleagues millions of human lives have been cut short and millions human voices have been silenced forever. Jesus said “bring the little ones to me”. Honoring a powerful senator is fine but the clarion call to stand for the unborn and be a visible advocate for those who have no one powerful on their side would have been very heroic. Only God will Judge Senator Kennedy, I will not, and while I feel a funeral mass is appropriate it should not be used as the political vehicle which it was. The visible presence of a Roman Catholic Cardinal did not seem right. Since the unborn or the about-to-be-born aborted children do not vote they will not have a voice unless we have the courage to speak for them through our actions.

    Respectfully,

    Raymond, LaFayette, NY

  28. Comment by Nick Tortorella | 2009/09/03 at 10:16:54

    Thank you Cardinal Sean for so clearly and carefully outlining your reaction to the vitrolic comments regarding your participation at the funeral of Senator Kennedy, even the right to have the funeral itself.

    Our faith is borne of forgiveness, all judgment left to the Lord. In today’s Catholic society it seems that some forget this and would rather assign judgment, deny eternity or publicly condemn fellow pilgrims.

    Your voice and clarity Cardinal is a welcome contribution. I prefer to leave the state of Sen. Kennedy’s soul to the Lord and worry more about my own.

    I thought his funeral was a wonderful testimony to the richness of our Catholic tradition, an unusual acknowledgement of the Senator’s imperfections and a fitting tribute to his many accomplishments on behalf of the poor and anowin of the world.

    God’s blessings on you, your ministry, the Senator and his family and especially on those who have the need to be steadfast in their ability to know the mind and heart of any other human being other than themselves.

  29. Comment by Sister Janice | 2009/09/03 at 10:18:58

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Not only has your blog today been honest, courageous and inspiring, but it places before us all what we are called to as Catholic Christians: to follow Jesus who reveals the compassion and mercy of God, especially to sinners. I am glad to know that God will be judging me and not some of the mean-spirited people who have spent large segments of time tearing down rather than building up this Body of Christ we call the Church.

    Thank you for reminding us all that “we believe in a loving and forgiving God.” Your presence at Senator Kennedy’s funeral was more than appropriate. It was a witness to that belief.

  30. Comment by Mary | 2009/09/03 at 10:22:36

    Dear Cardinal Sean, I understand the need for sensitivity, compassion and charity but I do think some of the things that happened at the funeral were a scandal. I wonder what kind of funeral the father of Terry Schiavo will get? My own Dad died after a long illness of great suffering. He was loyal and faithful to the all the church teachings. He was really only mentioned very briefly in the homily because my understanding is that the church is moving away from eulogies. In many of the Marian messages Our Lady is giving in the world today, she talks about the coming schism and apostasy withing the church, not unity. The only unity is with her son Jesus, and the world crucified him. I will pray for you I know none of this is easy. Sincerely, Mary

  31. Comment by Charles | 2009/09/03 at 10:26:37

    Your Eminence,

    Thank you for your explanation of your presence at the funeral for Senator Kennedy, about which I feel a little better than when I first heard about it. I can understand your desire to be charitable to the bereaved at a time of loss and also to be charitable to the dead, who may have done some good in his life, at least according to some prudential theories of how to obtain the common good in the political and social realm. And of course the deceased may, for all we know, have repented his public, judicial and legislative promotion of abortion (and I would add homosexual activity) in his dying hours. And I agree that a funeral is not really the right to time to get up on soapbox and condemn Senator Kennedy’s stand on these issues.

    However, surely you can recognize that there is a real problem when Catholic politicians who publicly and repeatedly promote things antithetical to the teaching of the faith are NEVER criticised publicly by the successors of the apostles, whose task is to uphold the apostolic faith. I think there is a real problem that the faithful may conclude that these issues, i.e., abortion and homosexuality, are no big deals. After all, since Catholic politicians repeatedly thumb their nose at Church teachings and are never reprimanded or held to account for them, why should the poor schmoes in the pews have to follow all those “rigid rules” that the mean old Church sets up.

    Certainly the promoters of the normalization of abortion and homosexual activity will use the gentleness and charity of the Church’s shepherds precisely to downplay the importance of the Church’s teachings in these areas. The Boston Globe article this morning is a good example. It basically used your words to portray you as primarily rebuking those nasty pro-life critics for being uncharitable and rude, as if that is much worse a problem than the scandal of Catholic politicians’ openly advocating against Catholic teaching and not being rebuked or held to account for it by the Church’s shepherds.

    Finally, you have to admit that the polite, gentle “dialogue” with these same Catholic politicians seems to have borne little to no fruit heretofore. The same politicians continue to advocate abortion and homosexual activity without let up and without accountability. As a member of Courage, I know that holding and living the Church’s teachings can be difficult, but the Church has the divine truth on teachings of human life and sexual morality. If the Church’s pastors were more willing during the lifetimes of these Catholic politicians to publicly hold them accountable for their anti-Catholic positions, then maybe the participation in a funeral mass wouldn’t be so controversial.

    Thank you from your son in Christ.

  32. Comment by Fr. John Peek | 2009/09/03 at 11:49:32

    As long as political leaders who make war against some of the most fundamental moral teachings of the Church and moreover have committed much of their political career to such opposition and are given the same status as those have fought courageously for those moral teachings; there will be no end to abortion in this country. This kind of ‘pastoral love’ is leading our country and Church into moral chaos.

  33. Comment by David M Cavalier | 2009/09/03 at 11:51:32

    Briiliant!!!
    Thank you!

  34. Comment by Cindy | 2009/09/03 at 11:52:37

    To “sunshineman411″ Bravo! Yes, Cardinal Sean DID act as Christ would have – showing mercy and forgiveness!! Thank you! And to Phillip Hamilton, yes, if God can forgive why can’t everyone? Exactly what I can’t understand.

    I pray for more positive and supportive comments for Cardinal Sean.

  35. Comment by F. Hannon | 2009/09/03 at 11:53:22

    Your Eminence,

    You know better than I that catechesis today is a wreckage, one of the symptoms of which is the presumption that Satan and hell are passé; that is why sacramental confession is on life support.

    Yes, of course “we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy,” but the doctrine has always held that sacramental confession is the means by which Catholics do so, particularly in instances involving grave offenses (e.g., the advocacy of procured abortion and homosexual activity.)

    Both the highly public nature and the canonizing tone of the Senator’s funeral Mass inevitably served to perpetuate Catholics’ widespread, gross ignorance about their faith, particularly since nothing whatsoever is known publicly about whether or not the Senator made a sacramental confession before his passing.

    This is not about us judging the Senator, whose salvation I hope and pray for; it is about a preciously acute teaching moment being utterly lost.

    Sincerely,

    Frank Hannon
    Melrose, MA

  36. Comment by Katie | 2009/09/03 at 11:55:37

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    As a young Theology grad student, I find your words heartening. I was particularly moved by the call to change hearts through loving relationship, and your emphasis on the good works (though incomplete) and humility of faith of the Senator.

    As I prepare myself for a career of lay ministry, my biggest fears and disappointments come from the polemical and politicized anger and venom of my brothers and sisters IN the Church! It is particularly disheartening when these sentiments come from our leaders… Thus, I applaud your pastoral teaching sense.

    A few years ago I traveled to Bluefields, Nicaragua, and met Bishop Paul. It was near the time of your installation as Archbishop of Boston… He had nothing but praise for you, which seems well deserved.

    Take good care, and try to keep your head!
    Katie D.

  37. Comment by Sr. Nancy Charlesworth | 2009/09/03 at 11:58:20

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you for your presence at the funeral of Senator Kennedy
    and thank you for respresenting thetender mercy of the Lord.

  38. Comment by Mark Toft | 2009/09/03 at 11:59:06

    Dear Cardinal O’Malley,

    I have great respect for you, but am disappointed in the the way the American Catholic Church has “sainted” the Kennedy family. Nearly all of the Kennedy’s, from father to sons has been crooked and cheating in dealings with others. Senator Kennedy was an avowed abortionist and socialist. Granted we are all sinners, but unfortunately, your actions speak to a more Protestant approach to faith than Catholic. This man did not deserve a Catholic funeral. Denying him this would have sent the strongest message to the world, instead you wimped out.

    In His Love,

    Mark Toft

  39. Comment by Dave Mueller | 2009/09/03 at 12:11:32

    Dear Cdl. O’ Malley,

    Thank you for giving an explanation – that helps! I agree with most of what you said about showing mercy and love to all.

    However, the Mass was overly politicized, as pointed out by a previous poster.

    I guess the question is: is abortion just another issue? Sen. Kennedy has (partial) responsibility for 50 million unborn babies on his soul. If he had maintained a principled pro-life position, things might be very different in America today. To take such a barbaric public position as he did over 35+ years, should have demanded also a public repentance and repudiation of that position.

    Also, while we might commend Sen. Kennedy for his compassion for underprivileged Americans (at least for the fraction who survived to be born), let’s be clear that wanting to help the underprivileged does not ipso facto equate to big government programs. Jesus asked individuals to help the poor with personal interaction and love; He didn’t tell us all to band together to create a big government program that efficiently issues checks. Catholic Social teaching is thus not necessarily of a piece with the Democratic party agenda – this is a matter of prudential judgment, and indeed, arguably violates the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.

    Your comments do help in alleviating the scandal that this funeral caused in the minds of many. Please continue to make it clear that it was an act of mercy and love to a soul that God created in His own image, and who showed at least SOME sign of repentance, and not in any way an endorsement of his tragic and barbaric support of abortion.

  40. Comment by Mark Zanghetti | 2009/09/03 at 12:27:39

    Thank You for taking the time to explain and once again prove that St Francis wasn’t wrong when he said preach unceasingly and when necessary use words. Your actions and your words were sorely needed and illustrated to me what course to take in dealing with the death of Senator Kennedy. No he wasn’t perfect, just human and Catholic, may he rest in peace.

  41. Comment by Marie | 2009/09/03 at 12:40:49

    I too will have to respectfully disagree on many of your points. I am praying for you, please will you pray for me. God bless.

  42. Comment by Virginia Stuart | 2009/09/03 at 12:45:25

    Thank you for showing the compassionate side of the Catholic
    church. The hatred being spewed out against the Kennedy
    family is absurd and devastating to the Church. Have the words
    of Jesus disappeared… “The greatest of these is love” and
    “Judge not”

  43. Comment by Karl | 2009/09/03 at 12:49:24

    Your Eminence:

    I thought your presence and role at the funeral were pitch-perfect. I know that people are being directed to express their disagreement on your blog by at least one other Catholic clerical blog, whose readers pretty reliably storm blogs and polls to create the appearance of massive response.

  44. Comment by Bruce | 2009/09/03 at 12:55:40

    Your Eminence,
    I disagree with those who say that you should not have taken part in Sen. Kennedy’s funeral. As the shepard of the Archdiocese, it is most assuredly your place.
    I do however agree with those who objected to the political nature of the funeral service. The Funeral Service is supposed to be an offering to God for the respose of the soul of the departed. Instead it was an opportunity for the President and other politicians to exploit the Senator’s death for political purposes.
    I agree with the writer who said it is hard to teach his children right from wrong when we continually turn a blind eye toward politicians, actors, entertainers, and other public figures who use the Church to promote their agendas and castigate the Church when it disagrees.
    My prayer is that we can someday return to spreading the teachings of our Lord instead of playing to the crowd.

  45. Comment by Michael Williams | 2009/09/03 at 13:02:29

    Thank you, your Eminence, for these words, While I’m sure some will remain unpersuaded, it was kind of you to offer your thoughts on the matter. I fear this blog will soon be inundated with angry criticisms from readers of Father Zuhsldorf, who has urged his readership to come here and comment. Despite his heated denials, his blog has essentially become a Republican organ, so neither he nor many of his readers could abide the fact that Senator Kennedy was not demonized by all after his death.

  46. Comment by Alex | 2009/09/03 at 13:16:54

    “There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church’s providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator.”

    Your Eminence, I was one of those people and I must still respectfully but strongly disagree with your decision. The funeral Mass, a Sacred Liturgy of the Church was used as a political political platform and a celebration of the Senator’s life. It was unbecoming of a Catholic funeral and sent the wrong message to all the pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians out there.

  47. Comment by thomas tucker | 2009/09/03 at 13:24:52

    Very persuasive and well-written post.
    We are called to love, and sometimes that consists of tough love, but not at a funeral. At that time, compassion is what is called for. I agree with Grace that the funeral was overly-politicized, but that is not something that you are responsible for.
    God bless you.

  48. Comment by Linda | 2009/09/03 at 13:42:04

    Your Eminence,

    When hearing the gospel account of John’s beheading, I can’t help but chuckle when we respond, Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. It sounds so wrong. Lol!

    I am glad that you presided at the funeral and have taken time out to post your thoughts on this. It was a beautiful celebration that was observed nationally, perhaps even in some global areas. I had goose bumps just thinking of the multitude of people that were able to participate in the liturgy, catholics and non-catholics alike. The prayers, readings, music, tributes, and eulogies were enough to change hearts. Yes, in the midst of sorrow, hearts were changed. Thank you Lord Jesus!

  49. Comment by richard | 2009/09/03 at 14:17:40

    Your Eminence

    I have been reflecting more deeply on your justification for the extraordinary public spectacle that was Senator Kennedy’s funeral. There is a lot that one could say about this but let me restrict myself to one comment that I think goes to the logic of the argument.

    You conclude your commentary with the injunction that we should all work “to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn”.

    How can the first step in this process be honoring the man who, perhaps more than any other, was responsible for these laws being in place?

  50. Comment by Mark | 2009/09/03 at 14:38:14

    Your Eminence:

    The reaction to the Church holding a Catholic funeral for the late Sen. Kennedy reminds me of a similar reaction to Jesus’ ministry:

    … but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Lk 15:2)

    If the criteria were that one had to be without sin, then no one ever would get a Catholic funeral. (cf. Jn 8:7, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”)

    Respectfully,

    Mark

  51. Comment by John | 2009/09/03 at 14:43:10

    Thank you for having this liturgy. No one person will agree with another on all the issues. I regret that there are some who in any way would think that you should defend your position.

    I thought that the liturgy balanced approrpriately the short comings that Sen. Kennedy and, realisticaly, all humans have. Sen. Kennedy’s happen to be more public. His letter to the Pope and his fight for social justice issues spoke highly of him as a person and as a Catholic.

    I saw one of his relatives on Meet the Press the next day and her testimonial was awesome. She acknowledged our faith as one believing in the forgiveness and redemption of our sins. We are a church of sinners. I find it interesting that we are still willing to cast stones.

    The forgiveness and love of Sen. Kennedy was a testament to the conviction that we should all have as Catholics.

    God Bless, May I be forgiven as he was.

  52. Comment by Faith Flaherty | 2009/09/03 at 14:50:28

    Thank you, Cardinal O’Malley. You’re presence was very Christian. It was the Catholic thing to do. The “murmurantes,” whose tone is so devisive, are wrong. They do not help their cause at all. They drive people away with their self-righteous, more Catholic than the Pope, tone. You did the right thing. God bless you.
    You also are right on changing people’s hearts, as the way to win the abortion war. Demonizing the other side just drives people away.
    You are in my prayers, thank you for being a priest, thank you for being my Cardinal Archbishop. May God bless you with many more years to work for our salvation.

  53. Comment by Jennifer Frey | 2009/09/03 at 14:51:38

    Your Eminence,

    I appreciate that you are willing to speak out about your actions; your words have helped me to understand your actions better.

    Many of us who take pro-life issues very seriously feel upset when figures like Senator Kennedy are lionized by eminent persons of Catholic Faith in a Catholic Church. As you well know, Senator Kennedy dedicated most of his political career to promoting the unjust killing of innocent human beings in the womb. No amount of healthcare and welfare advocacy can erase or downplay this fact. When Senator Kennedy is lauded on TV by Churchmen as an advocate for those who are “most vulnerable” in our society, it is difficult for me not to scratch my head and wonder what is going on. Senator Kennedy, as you know, actively set out to allow the murder of those among us who are most vulnerable. To indicate otherwise is to mislead the faithful and the public at large.

    You are correct that it was appropriate for you to be present at the funeral. But I disagree that it was appropriate to hold up Senator Kennedy as a faithful witness to the gospel because he was a voice for those who were “most vulnerable”. He was not a voice for the most vulnerable in our society; he was a man who made sure that they could be killed under the law.

    Respectfully yours,

    Jennifer Frey

  54. Comment by Peg Ekerdt | 2009/09/03 at 15:01:22

    Cardinal Sean,
    Thank you for your wisdom, courage, grace and faithful leadership. And thank you for reminding a nation that it is only the conversion of human hearts–conversion borne of dialogue and kindness-that will enable us to embrace and defend all life. Deepest thanks–Peg Ekerdt

  55. Comment by Gav Dublin | 2009/09/03 at 15:14:33

    Eminence,

    It would appear that the overly zealous who criticised you in relation to your presiding over the funeral of the late Sen. Kennedy can, perhaps, call themselves very devout Catholics. What they cannot call themselves though, is very christian.

  56. Comment by Moles | 2009/09/03 at 15:21:18

    Your Eminence,

    I cannot but feel torn in this issue. As a Catholic boy, I was taught by the Jesuits, but much of my faith leans towards the traditional. As such, my disappointent was not with your being there, not with the fact that Sen. Kennedy was granted a Catholic funeral Mass, but with the circus that this Mass became. The lack of reverence for the Holy Sacrament in the tabernacle by those reading the prayers of the faithful come to mind immediately.

    As you know, the Rite of Christian Burial is a solemn moment where we as Catholics put our fullest expression of faith to the test. These are the points in our lives where we put our faith in everlasting life with Christ to the test as we pray for the soul of the departed. We hope that our loved ones will do the same for us. This Mass, however, lost its most spiritual significance for the people around the world who believe in Life after Death and who believe in the Body of Christ.

    Your being there was important to the Church as a public outreach. We are to forgive everyone as Jesus did. Those who fail to try to forgive are not honoring that prayer we say at every Mass, the one Jesus gave us himself, chronicalled by St. Mathew. Please understand that from my perspective, as a sinner, that I want forgiveness. I want peace. I want the Mass to be what brings me closer to my Savior, not something that is viewed on the outside as a circus.

    I would love to see your comments about the Mass. You have no need to explain why you were there, in my opinion. Your are a man of God, your role is to spiritually lead us, especially when it comes to forgiving those in our midst. I just would like explanation how in your diocese you allowed a Mass to become a circus. This is my only objection.

    Peace to you.

  57. Comment by JohnRDC | 2009/09/03 at 16:28:33

    It is long past time that the Catholic bishops dissociate themselves from openly supporting the social agenda of the Democratic party.

    The present association allowed Cardinals O’Malley and McCarrick to justify the near-canonization of Sen. Kennedy that passed for a funeral mass on Saturday to emphasize how big-government social programs, promoted avidly by the Senator, are so in line with the teachings of the bishops that this backing alone compensated for the Senator’s unstinting—and very public support—for the agenda of the National Abortion Rights Action League. This is casuistry.

    It is time, for instance, that someone at the USCCB discovers that the panoply of Democratic programs enacted under the aegis of “The Great Society” have produced counterproductive results. Prime evidence #1: The stunning increase in out-of-wedlock births. Simply voting repeatedly for large federal programs aimed at fixing the host of social ills affecting the nation should not be considered prima facie evidence for “santo subito.”

  58. Comment by Craig Smith | 2009/09/03 at 17:06:01

    Your Eminence,

    Thanks for your words and wisdom.

    God Bless

  59. Comment by Marie Nowakowski | 2009/09/03 at 17:08:52

    Cardinal Sean….
    As a Catholic outside of your See…I commend you for your presence at the funeral of Senator Kennedy…the Church today tends to compartmentalize an individual’s Faith based on one thing…abortion… the deeds of many in our Faith deserve to be acknowledged for the whole cloth…you did that with your presence last Saturday….

  60. Comment by Ian O’Malley | 2009/09/03 at 17:20:07

    Dear Cardinal O’Malley,

    I am proud of my Church for honoring a man like Ted Kennedy. Although he staunchly supported abortion, he was a man that represented so much good that it would have been ignorant and offensive to our country to not offer him a Catholic burial. The Kennedy’s made me proud to be an American and especially an Irish American.

    I am only 25 years old so I wasn’t around to see Camelot’s rise and fall but I do remember my grandmother back in Mayo telling me how she cried with the world when he was taken from us. Shortly after they cried again for Bobby. No other family has affected the world like they have, and affected it for the better.

    Cardinal, you made me proud to be an American, a Catholic and an O’Malley. Thank you!

    Ian O’Malley
    Chicago, IL

  61. Jim
    Comment by Jim | 2009/09/03 at 17:25:52

    These comments remind me of a talk I heard by a Benedictine Abbot: on the servant who had all forgiven him by his master but did not forgive those below him who owed him little in comparison. He did not get (understand) forgiveness, thus he was not forgiven (could not receive forgiveness). Forgiveness is something we learn; he hadn’t. Watching the funeral, I hoped and prayed that we Catholics could come together on this, on the beauty of the liturgy, the Mass. Nope. Politics seems to run deeper than our faith. Seems to. We can all hope and pray this is not so, or can be overcome, transcended.

  62. Comment by Brendan Muller | 2009/09/03 at 18:05:39

    Senator Kennedy caused great scandal to Catholics by his support of abortion. He never publicly recanted this position. The Archdiocese of Boston gave great scandal too by affording him such a public funeral. Youe Eminence owes Catholics everywhere an apology. Scandalous.
    Utterly scandalous.

  63. Comment by Ernest Cortens | 2009/09/03 at 18:13:20

    Your Eminence
    Your thinking is so far removed from the understanding of the Pro-life cause that I believe attempts to change your views are a waste of time.
    I will petition the Pope to request your resignation.
    It would be impossible for your replacement to do as much damage to the unborn.

  64. Comment by Karen | 2009/09/03 at 18:20:35

    Cardinal, thank you for your compassionate words. You ministered to the Kennedy family as Jesus would have done.

  65. Comment by Virginia K. Piccininni | 2009/09/03 at 18:51:19

    I don’t want the Catholic Church to vote for me as far as health care or any other thing – that’s why we have a Constitution.

    I believe in liberty and freedom for all and when the doctors want to kill (or let die is the euphemism) this will only be another just cause our leaders will confound. Our church leaders are simply no match for the rotten secularists in this society.

    We need to guard against giving our government, but especially our President any more power whatseover. Haven’t you noticed
    yet that he almost always distorts the truth?
    aht he rarely tell the truth.

  66. Comment by Peter | 2009/09/03 at 19:06:10

    Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you for presiding at the funeral. Thank you also for this blog post in which you call us to civil dialogue with others with whom we disagree. The Internet Catholic websites are full of nasty, confrontational commentary.

    I do think that Senator Kennedy’s funeral resembled a “canonization” at some points – there was too much praise for him and too much political propaganda in the General Intercessions. Some of this would have been more appropriate at the ceremony on the night before. Nevertheless, I hope the Mass inspired people to pray for him and for all the deceased.

    May he rest in peace. And may we turn peoples’ hearts back to the least among us, the unborn.

    Peter

  67. Comment by S. Moore | 2009/09/03 at 20:17:07

    Here is one of the problems surrounding our differing views of
    Sen. Kennedy’s legacy: he did not, as you say, merely fail to
    “support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn.”

    Sen. Kennedy worked tirelessly to enable the slaughter of the unborn,
    including voting twice to deny compassionate medical care to babies born
    alive during an abortion. This is no mere “failure to support”. This is cruel and evil and it is merciful to call evil acts what they are: evil.
    He actively opposed the Church in the gospel of life and many died as a result because he had enormous influence. Many followed where he led. Many died as he voted.

    His pastors failed him, in my opinion. As the scandal of obstinacy grew in public, where was the merciful, public pastoral correction?

  68. Comment by Sr M Lorraine, FSP | 2009/09/03 at 20:20:11

    Dear Cardinal O’Malley,

    I have been pondering Pope Benedict’s words in his new encyclical “Charity in Truth”:
    “To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity.”

    To speak the truth is an indispensable form of charity, especially when that truth is unpopular. Our society does not want to hear that the unborn child must not be killed.

    Despite whatever good he did, Senator Kennedy spent the better part of his long political career actively working for legislation that would favor abortion. That is not a judgment; it is part of the public record. He even voted in favor of partial-birth abortion, a horrendous procedure in which the baby’s brains are sucked out.
    He did immense damage to the pro-life movement. Is that of any consequence in the eyes of the bishops?
    While we pray in charity for his soul, it is indeed a deep scandal for the Church to imply that his record on abortion is of no consequence. I realize you were in a difficult position, but I am deeply disappointed that the overall impression given by the funeral was that it doesn’t really matter if a Catholic politician ardently supports abortion.

    Who is speaking up for the millions of innocents who have been slaughtered and continue to die every day?
    While Ted Kennedy had a magnificent funeral, these innocent children are thrown into dumpsters. And no one weeps.

  69. Comment by Michael DiPasquale | 2009/09/03 at 20:29:58

    Reading some of these mean spirited comments, does anyone wonder why so many Catholics are leaving the church?

  70. Comment by Rico | 2009/09/03 at 20:58:06

    Your Eminence
    I watched the funeral mass and agree with your dicisioin 100 % .I Believe Jesus would have done the same.there are some Catholics who have become to militant and in so doing lose the compassion and the charity that is expected of Catholics….There is only one Judge and We all know who that is … I pray for the Church and its members we all know we do not have to wait in line to go to confession yet we all wait in line to recieve the body and Blood of our lord Jesus christ….In the words of jesus with alittle spin :) let those without sin cast the next negative comment God Bless you the Holy Spirt is with you … Peace in Christ Ron

  71. Comment by Rico | 2009/09/03 at 21:10:01

    Your Eminence
    If I can interject a little humor …God has shown his great love for us by making our sins invisible to others… When we look at each other we see a person …Imagine if Sin had a color say Adultry your nose would turn Green.If we stole something our eye sockets would turn Black … If we have unpure thoughts our ears turned red…. the Cummion line Would be a very colorful place …Peace in Christ

  72. Comment by Larry Brooks | 2009/09/03 at 21:17:50

    Your Emminence,
    I agree with your decision to attend Sen. Kennedy’s funeral and the correctness of his having a Catholic funeral. But not for the reasons you state. It seems clear that the prsence of his family at his bedside and the presence of a priest summoned at the time of crisis soupled with his letter to and response from the Holy Father give ample justification to note that the dictates of Canon 1184 were met. Simply granting a Catholic funeral in order to keep those who are on the fringe when it comes to Catholic belief is questionable at best and harks back to the fears of not teaching the whole truth after Vatican II. “When is the other shoe going to drop” “When will we mention the Truth that makes us free.” Clearly the Senator’s family knows what the Church teaches. Jesus never wavered on his teaching and did not back away when His teaching either “hurt” someones feelings or caused them to reject Him.
    You are right but I feel for the wrong reasons.

  73. Comment by tom dooley | 2009/09/03 at 21:25:52

    Your Eminence:
    Your prayers for the repose of the senator’s soul are appropriate. His very public and political funeral was scandalous however. It was yet another example of poor leadership within the Boston hierarchy. To allow the Mass to be transformed and degraded into a political rally was objectionable to say the least. Senator Kennedy was no ordinary dissenter within the Church. He actively supported through his political power the promotion and government funding of abortion. His letter to the pope was a farce.

  74. Comment by Sally Fiore | 2009/09/03 at 21:36:41

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    My first time on your blog…. I am so grateful for your comments. As a life long practicing Catholic, I find myself searching for another community to belong to due to the intolerance now taking center stage with conservative catholicism. Please stand tall in your beliefs and help us reconcile with the Church. We miss our Mass, our community, our brothers and sisters on the Vine, but cannot accept the intolerance that has the louder voice.

    Please soldier on with all of us in mind. And thank you for being at Ted’s funeral. He has been a source of comfort for so many disadvantaged brothers and sisters among us.

    Sally Fiore
    Jackson NH, formerly from Tewksbury MA

  75. Comment by Kelly Thatcher | 2009/09/03 at 21:38:32

    Coupla quick questions:

    How come the only non-liturgical reference to praying for the senator’s soul came from a non-Catholic…namely, Barack Obama?

    How come the only one who gave reasons to pray for the senator’s soul came from a non-Catholic…namely, Barack Obama?

    Nobody that I know of decried the senator’s right to a Mass of Christian Burial. On the contrary.

    Nobody that I know of had any problem with you or any priest participating. On the contrary.

    The problem I’m struggling with is that no cleric or speaker even hinted that it might be a good idea to pray for Edward Kennedy’s soul. Except for — ironically enough — Barack Obama.

    This, I believe, is where we failed our brother in Christ, Edward Kennedy.

    Folks, even if we weren’t asked to do it by any priest or post-Mass speaker, please pray for the happy repose of his soul.

    Thank you.

    Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let the Perpetual Light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

  76. Comment by Pereira | 2009/09/03 at 22:12:30

    Cardinal Sean:
    My hat off to you. In this post you demonstrate the compassion of Jesus who came to call sinners, he who leaves the 99 sheep to go in search of the lost one. I completely agrre with you: we have to be people of compassion and see in everyone God’s face.
    Some of the vitriole attacks come from people who probably defend capital punishment, from people who think that they are right and everyone else is wrong.
    Thank you very much for your position on the side of the poor. May God continue to bless you.

  77. Comment by Jim Fraser | 2009/09/03 at 22:27:03

    While I appreciate the Cardinal’s position, the effective canonization which was his funeral mass tells Catholics nationwide that living in open contradiction to the teaching of the Church has absolutely no penalties and no consequences. It shows that if the Church is not serious about obedience then neither is the God she speaks for. That is the sad lesson that millions will take away from this, if only intuitively.

  78. Comment by Buffy | 2009/09/03 at 22:41:34

    Your Eminence,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your feelings by writing this article. I felt you should have been there and could not believe how quickly you were attacked for doing the right thing. Although I am a republican and was not a supporter of Senator Kennedy’s, I watched as much as I could of the funeral. It was a very moving experience and did bring many together.
    Thank you for attending.

  79. Comment by Jeffrey Pinyan | 2009/09/03 at 22:48:45

    I’m going to keep this short and to the point.  We owe it to Ted Kennedy to pray for his soul; it’s the least we would ask anyone else to do for us.  We can hope that he repented of his support of abortion (among other things) at his last confession, but we will never know that, because of the seal of confession.

    What we do know with certainty is that he did not publicly recant the positions he held on issues that were not consonant with the Catholic faith.  I dare say that it would have been utterly disastrous for the pro-choice movement if he had done so:  the “liberal lion” ending up to be a turncoat (although, in honesty, he would be a return-coat, coming back to the pro-life stance he held earlier in life).

    Maybe he wanted to publicly recant, but did not get the opportunity to do so.  But what causes me sorrow is to know of the “lost opportunity” of his public repudiation of abortion.  It makes me second-guess (to my deep sorrow) whether he was truly repentant on the matter, whether he confessed it with true contrition, if he confessed it at all.  This, among other things, has resulted in a scandal surrounding the highly-publicized funeral Mass.

  80. Comment by Dr. Dale | 2009/09/03 at 23:16:55

    Your Eminence:
    Bravo, you made a brave and correct decision. This scripture is telling: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “”Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”” All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner”.
    Jesus invited Himself to be a highly publicized guest of the sinner Zacchaeus even before he repented his sin. Jesus loved the sinner but hated the sin. The same is true of senator Kennedy and you demonstrated that clearly by presiding at his funeral.
    God Bless.
    Dr. Dale
    Dr. Dale

  81. Comment by B. James Stinson | 2009/09/03 at 23:30:53

    I am not a Catholic, and I understand if you think it’s none of my business. But I am a pro-lifer, and I want the Catholic Church’s witness to be strong and uncompromised. I feel that the hagiography of Sen. Kennedy that we’ve heard from the pulpit has been corrosive of the church’s integrity.

  82. Comment by John | 2009/09/04 at 00:26:38

    There is no question, in my mind, that Senator Kennedy did many good things in his life; and, thus, deserved a private funural Mass, in spite of his many short comings. But, what I saw on TV was an extremely well orchestated public statement implying that one can be a Catholic in good standing with the Church, even if you agree with abortion rights and gay marriage.

    You had many excellent reasons for being at the funural Mass, but the above implied statement to the TV viewers, like mysef, is the only real issue. How can I, now, belive the Churches sincerley bellieves its’ position on abortion and gay marriage, if all I hear is talk?

    John

  83. Comment by Jasper | 2009/09/04 at 01:17:34

    Cardinal Sean,

    Ted Kennedy voted twice to oppose a ban against delivering a baby breech up to the neck, stabbing the baby in the nape of the neck, suctioning out the baby’s brains, collapsing the baby’s skull with forceps, and delivering the dead baby.

    and we Catholics who oppose abortion are the judgmental ones?

    no wonder these are so many cafeteria Catholics.

  84. Comment by Br. Jay Rivera, OFS | 2009/09/04 at 05:16:25

    As a fellow Franciscan I believe that out holy father St. Francis would have been proud of this son, Cardinal Sean. St. Francis would not have denied any man or woman, regardless of his history, the right to a Catholic funeral, the right to our prayers for the repose of his soul and the consolation of this family. Nor would Francis have absented himself from such a funeral.

    Not only did our holy father Francis demand that his brothers and sisters pray for the dead, but he also commanded that we not judge others. It was the mind of our holy father Francis that we see Christ in every man from conception to natural death. Men are sinful and our holy father knew this. But he also knew that only Christ and his mother are sinless.

    Let us not forget that our holy father Francis was a friend to the faithful and to the Muslim Sultan who opposed the Catholic faith. Why would any Catholic expect a son of St. Francis to be less compassionate and hold on to a negative view of an individual, even one who was wrong on important issues? That was not the example that Francis taught to his sons and daughters.

    Our holy father Francis also taught his sons to obey the Gospel. The Gospel commands us to have mercy. It commands us to forgive sinners. It demands that those who have no sin throw the fist stone. Finally, but not less importantly, St. Francis taught his sons and daughters to be totally poor. Poverty is not only material. But more essentially poverty is detachment from our self-righteousness. Yes, we are bound to the Truth. And as Cardinal Sean has stated, Senator Kennedy’s legacy for the poor would have been complete, if he has also upheld the rights of the unborn, but he didn’t and only he knew why. We cannot know the conscience of another. We can only judge actions, not consciences.

    Poverty requires that we strip ourselves of our own opinions and see men and women through the eyes of Christ, as the beloved sons and daughters of the Father for whom his son died and whom he has redeemed. As Franciscans it is our duty and our solemn promise to God, the Church and St. Francis to live the Gospel as Francis lived it and to obey the holy rule that commands us to embrace Christ on the cross.

    It is imperative and appropriate for a Franciscan brother, such as Cardinal Sean, to obey the Rule of St. Francis and respond to the late Senator and to his family and friends with fidelity to the words of Christ on the cross by showing mercy. It would have been very disappointing to see a Franciscan Friar hold on to his own feelings toward Senator Kennedy’s voting record and disregard the words of the Gospel, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Sometimes our opinions are the wealth that will keep us from entering the Kingdome of Heaven.

    Fraternally,

    Br. Jay Rivera, OFS

  85. Comment by Fr. Vincent T Nagle | 2009/09/04 at 05:46:15

    Your Eminence

    Thank you for your thoughtful blog on the Kennedy Funeral. In reading the reactions and comments on this funeral I could not help thinking that much of the bitterness comes from a bitter history. For years, many faithful Catholics felt rejected, ignored and at times betrayed by the clergy on questions ranging from liturgy to life issues. Thus, a lot of automatic negative emotion comes out anytime these themes arise. God bless you for being the one to courageously live out and teach the faith in the face of so much reaction.

    With gratitude, Fr. Vincent Nagle

  86. Comment by Fr Sean Coyle | 2009/09/04 at 06:19:14

    Your Eminence

    Grace, in the first comment, expresses my thoughts. I am inclined to ask ‘Why was Edward Kennedy NOT given a Catholic funeral?’

    The instant ‘canonizations’ and eulogies didn’t help Ted Kennedy’s soul one bit. They showed a lack of genuine Christian charity and have no place at a funeral Mass. President Obama should have given his eulogy at the wake in the Kennedy Library, not during Mass.

    I prayed for the soul of Ted Kennedy and asked the people to do the same at my Masses last week here in the Philippines.

    As we say in Ireland, ‘God rest his soul’.

    Fr Sean Coyle
    Bacolod City
    Philippines

  87. Comment by Janet | 2009/09/04 at 08:03:35

    Your Eminence,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and loving words to remind all of us of the depth of God’s mercy and the essential pastoral role of the Church. I hope that your words will eventually touch the hearts of those who still seem to be so hateful toward a man whose flaws were (in my opinion) overshadowed by the good he was able to do during his life. In any case, only God may judge the worthiness of any human being.
    Thank you,
    Janet

  88. Comment by Sean | 2009/09/04 at 08:34:05

    Your Emminence

    I have but one criticism of your participation. The manner of the liturgy was exactly what many of the priests in your diocese are supposed to limit.

    How is a typical parish priest supposed to tell a widow or grieving child that they cannot have eulogies for their husband and father when they have seen this on national television? There is the appearnace that there is one Church for the wealthy, famous, and powerful, and another for everyone else.

    Pax Christi

  89. Comment by Cecilia Metzger | 2009/09/04 at 09:43:11

    I was deeply saddened by the public funeral for Senator Kennedy. I believe the prolife movement that I`ve worked for for 36 yrs. will be harmed. There should have been a private funeral unless it was made public that he had repented for supporting abortion and gay marriage. What about the spiritual work of mercy: Admonish the sinner. You`ve given the go ahead to all the other many prochoice politicians that there are no consequences for killing the least of our bretheran–the unborn.

  90. Comment by Fr. Vincent | 2009/09/04 at 09:43:15

    Your Eminence,

    I certainly support your presence and participation at Senator Kennedy’s funeral. I too share your concern regarding Church unity and the polarization we are experiencing in the Church.

    As a Cardinal in the Church, I would hope that you would carry your experience back to Rome. The Holy Father and Curia need to understand the kind of people they seem to be listening to. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing…they claim to be more Catholic than the Pope….seemingly very devotional and tied to tradition (small “t”)….yet filled with all the vile things Jesus spoke about in last Sunday’s Gospel. Thankfully, they are a minority in our Church. May charity and forgiveness….which you exemplify in your ministry, and which was the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry, lead the way!

  91. Comment by John | 2009/09/04 at 09:50:45

    Your Eminence,

    I think there can be some disagreement with regards to the Mass happening, but I have not heard of one Canon Lawyer who believes that the GIRM and Canon Law were followed during the Mass.

    The Priest offering the Mass changed the text of the Mass in clear violation of Canon Law and the GIRM. For example, he changed “his and him” to a non-masculine word. The GIRM and His Holiness have said over and over that eulogy’s are not allowed at Mass. Yet, you allowed it to happen. I could go on and on for pages, but you get the point.

  92. Comment by Miriam | 2009/09/04 at 10:10:58

    As a new Catholic (Easter vigil 2008) there is still a lot I do not know about the rules.

    But, I do know that abortion is wrong, it is evil and there is no excuse for it.

    A Catholic funeral for Ted Kennedy? Sure, no objection here.

    But, why was it televised? Whether or not he repented of his actions before his death, the funeral should have been a private affair. I don’t recall seeing a public funeral for his sister, Eunice, who was so pro-life and who lived her life as a devout Catholic and as such would have been a great example of a Kennedy who actually follows church teaching.

    Part of the letter that Senator Kennedy sent to Pope Benedict was read at the funeral. The parts that were excerpted seemed to be excuses not sorrow and nowhere have I read that he asked forgiveness for his life actions.

    We must remember that Ted Kennedy was pro-life until it was politically expedient to become pro- death.

    I have also read the some priests talked with the Kennedy family so that they could become comfortable voting for abortion laws. If the teachers of the church did that, they have even more to answer for than Senator Kennedy.

    If it looks like a scandal, walks like a scandal, it is a scandal.

    As for your participation, you have to do what your conscience tells you and I do appreciate that.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Miriam

  93. Comment by Fr. Leo Shea, M.M. | 2009/09/04 at 10:34:34

    Dear Cardinal Sean,
    I am deeply touched and grateful for your compassion which you have expressed in your blog regarding your motivation to attend and participate in Senator Edward Kennedy’s Funeral Mass. I did not see the funeral since I was on retreat in rural Jamaica, West Indies where I live and work, but I heard from relatives on Cape Cod and Boston. For me, Jesus’ spirituality is summed up in one word “COMPASSION”. The world needs a Church that is compassionate, Cardinals who are compassionate and christians who are compassionate. My family thanks you.
    Father Leo Shea, M.M.

  94. Comment by Meg S | 2009/09/04 at 11:44:29

    Your Eminence-
    First of all, thank you for being a priest. I appreciate your laying down your life for Christ’s bride, the Church.

    I will pray for your courage to stand up boldly for the Truth. To frame the issue of love and forgiveness against standing up for Truth is a false premise.
    I, for one, am tired of this silly argument. This is not an either/or issue. Yes, Jesus did forgive sinners, but also required repentance and to “…go and sin no more”.

    When I was discussing Catholicism with a Protestant friend, I pointed out the unity in Catholic faith and morals. She remarked that she doesn’t see much unity. I have to admit, that she certainly has a point.
    Satan is attacking the Church from within and doing more damage than any non-Catholic can do.
    We must learn to truly love…by speaking the Truth WITH LOVE. If we fail to learn how to do this as individuals in the church, then Christ’s body will remain broken.

    I saw many comments on this blog that portrayed Catholics who criticized your silence about Sen. Kennedy’s very vocal work in favor of abortion and homosexual marriage as being zealots, vindictive, mean-spirited, Pharisees, etc. I simply don’t see any of that attitude in any comment. I saw great respect and charity and thank everyone for their thoughtful comments.

    In His Love.

  95. Comment by patrick j walsh | 2009/09/04 at 11:57:47

    The Cardinal blew a great opportunity by
    presiding over the Kennedy funeral.

    Faithful Catholics are confused by his
    fawning over public officials and his need
    to be recognized by them.

    “Be not afraid” the late Pope proclaimed
    to the world.

    Cardinal Omalley reminds
    me of the apostles before Pentacost.

  96. Comment by Mary T. Miller | 2009/09/04 at 12:00:14

    Dear Cardinal Omalley,
    I aggree with you 100%. I am very pro life, I was very upset to see some people using the abortion issues as a reason for Senator Kennedy not to have a funeral mass. Very sad for two reasons: first, that kind of anomosity hurts the pro life movement; second, and most important, that kind of sentiment mocks the call to forgiveness that our savior invited us to.
    May God continue to bless and guide you always.
    Mary T. Miller —Maumee OH

  97. Comment by mary Cox | 2009/09/04 at 12:44:50

    I am delighted that you did not give in to the idea that you should not attend Sen. Kennedy’s funeral. The Catholic church has done enough to push people away. I find your response to all of this hype refreshing and back to basics. We are all in need of forgiveness at some point.
    Thank you for staying the course.
    M.Cox

  98. Comment by John M. Keba | 2009/09/04 at 12:53:46

    Cardinal O’Malley,

    To say the truth is to say of what is that it is, and what is not that it is not; it is the adequation of the mind with reality. You did not bury a repentent sinner – you honored a pro-abortion politcian.

    Your excuses lack truth, and willfully misuse and abuse the concept of Christian charity to mask the fact that a lifelong dissident of your church and an enemy of the very concept of the sanctity of life was lauded before the world with your blessing. He was not buried in Christian charity; he was virtually canonized.

    Once again, a “prince” of the Catholic Church has done his very best to set back the pro-life cause.

  99. Comment by Fred H | 2009/09/04 at 12:55:52

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom – your obedience to the Faith.

    May the Spirit continue to bless you in your ministry to the People of God, the Church.

    Peace be with you!

  100. Comment by John Bezner | 2009/09/04 at 15:36:32

    I am sickened at the comments on this post, saying devout Catholics are not Christians. I guess your definition of Christian is “heretic”. We are called to follow Christ’s teachings given to us throught the Apostles (Church). We should not tolerate any evil. The biggest heresy of our modern times is that intolerance is the greatest evil. Should we tolerate people to drive drunk, should we tolerate people being killed through capital punishment? Should we tolerate men raping women? People have become so distant from God, that they do not even have common sense.

    Kennedy received communion at a Papal Mass and had it delivered to him. This is contrary to what the Church teaches. He was an enemy of the Church and should not have received communion.

  101. Comment by Christine | 2009/09/04 at 16:30:40

    Dear Cardinal O’Malley, I believe the grandiose funeral for Senator Kennedy was most inappropriate and scandulous, given his ardent and public support of abortion. A private funeral would have been more appropriate.

  102. Comment by Patricia Cornell | 2009/09/04 at 17:16:31

    Your Eminence, As a convert of 25 years to the True Faith, I am constantly being reminded of the weakness of the laity and the clergy regarding the doctrine of the Catholic Faith.

    There were opportunities to deny Senator Kennedy communion, to have a fatherly chat with him prior to this denial so he could repent. Instead your appearance at his funeral appeared to OK his actions of abortion support. Please read this again….to OK his support for abortion. Others at this funeral are also Catholics in Name Only. The Senator could have had a private funeral and another clergy celebrating….it would have been more appropriate, it appears to me.

    This past June I moved from Northern California where 75% of the citizens are fallen-away Catholics..I moved to the St. Louis, MO area. Lots of Catholics and lots of Churches. Now I can participate in the Holy Mass and receive His body and blood each day. I am truly blessed. I pray and hope others do, also, that I can act and speak the True Faith to the point of death. The moved was specifically to have a choice of Catholics in my life. I was becoming more and more like those people living around me. I needed the support of other Catholics.

    This is the year of the clergy and your appearance at the funeral is not an indication that you understand what supporting the Faith is about. You might have been shot, might have received nasty letters, etc., etc., etc., from dispointed citizens. You would have stood up for the Faith…..and died for the Faith.

    I recall what the Holy Father said just a couple of years ago to US clergy visiting Rome…”….speak and act to justify your becoming a martyr….” or words to that effect.

    Thank you for reading my email.

    Sincerely, Patricia Cornell

  103. Comment by Nuno Vieira | 2009/09/04 at 17:17:53

    Dear Cardinal:
    Chirst said of Himself: Ego sum pastor bonus. I am convinced if Jesus Christ were in Boston, in the day of the Senator’s funeral, he would have presided at the burial of His brother Ted and would have consoled his family. Therefore, you were, then ,the real vicar of Christ on this earth. Tu es pastor bonus.

  104. Comment by Stephen Rivers | 2009/09/04 at 17:38:54

    Dear Cardina Sean,

    Thank you for writing so beautifully and strongly, and for participating in Senator Kennedy’s funeral. Your presence was a great example of leadership, kindness and Christian charity, notwithstanding the criticism you have received by those who are apparently without sin and so enjoy casting stones.

  105. Comment by Mother of many | 2009/09/04 at 17:49:00

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you for your explanantion regarding the Kennedy funeral. While I could not disagree more with your participation and reasoning, it is admirable that you make yourself accountable to the flock.

    Noting that you cite the dates of your profession and ordination in your blog I feel compelled to point out the obvious. Bastille day was caused, in part, by abuse of the common people by the governing powers of the day who included many of the Church heirarchy. Cardinals, bishops and even priests, who were closely aligned with the secular governing officials. Unfortunately, the religious were swayed away from Truth because they so closely intermingled with the powerful politicians of their day.

    The beheading of the Baptist was simple. John was sent as a herald to call people to repentance. He had the courage to speak the Truth when it was not politically expedient. He called a sin a sin. His reward for refusing to bow to the political machine of the day was death.

    May God guide you in your office.

    A mother of many.

  106. Comment by Rico | 2009/09/04 at 19:05:33

    I can not believe some of the angry comments and lack of christian charity coming from some catholics.Clearly shows where the church is .Clearly if you read the saints responsible for converting major populations of pagans.did not do it by being judgmental ..but by charity and truely living the Catholic life and many lost their life doing so…When the apostles asked jesu why could we not expel the demon jesus said this type needs fasting and prayer….We should look inward and remove the tree from our eye before we attempt to remove the speck from anothers eye…

  107. tim
    Comment by tim | 2009/09/04 at 19:28:39

    I firmly support your position on Senator Kennedy’s funeral. I believe that your open minded gesture was very Christ like. It almost makes me want to return to the church that I have been alienated from by the divisive and hypocritical political stances as well as the shameful response relating to the safety of children.


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