In The End We Must All Answer For Our Deeds - Edward Kennedy - Dead at 77Senator Edward Kennedy is dead. The liberal ‘lion’ of the U.S. Senate for more than 46 years passed away tonight from a brain tumor in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. He was 77. The news accounts will document Kennedy’s rise to power in the Senate following the assassination of his brothers, John and Robert, in the 1960s, his legacy as a stalwart crusader of liberal causes, and the world will offer its sympathies for a man whose life seemed at times to be drawn from Shakespearean tragedies.
For my part, I offer a prayer of hope that God may have mercy on his soul for a life that failed to embrace the greatness that might have been.
Ted Kennedy carried the cross of being a Kennedy and living with the ghosts of three brothers who died in the service of their country. His father failed to provide him with the example of what a good man should do when called to serve the greatness of a cause greater than himself, yet I am sure that each Kennedy son in his own way sought to live in a manner that would please that man whose shadow stretched across each of their lives. In that we can only hope that the influence for the good will survive.
His sister Eunice Shriver, always the pro-life spokesman, could not get her brother to return to the pro-life home that his dear mother Rose nurtured. No, the siren call of political expediency and the viperous tongue of one Fr. Robert Drinan were sufficient for Ted Kennedy to break the hearts of his dear sister and mother. Yet such a knife to the heart was not to occur in the early days. As late as 1971 Senator Kennedy embraced an ethic of life. In a letter to a constituent, dated August 3, 1971 Kennedy wrote:
"While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grown old.
"I share the confidence of those who feel that America is working to care for its unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves. I also share the opinions of those who do not accept abortion as a response to our society's problems -- an inadequate welfare system, unsatisfactory job training programs, and insufficient financial support for all its citizens.
"When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception."
A more passionate and well reasoned response could not have been written by the most vigorous foe to abortion. Yet the character of the man would fail once again as the Democratic leadership in 1972 and later throughout the 1970s began to attack pro-life democrats and excise them from the party.
It is here that Kennedy’s failure to stand up for the truth was never more evident. Perhaps his failure to act was due to personal faults not known to the general public. Perhaps he sought to equivocate and to rid himself of such a mantle of moral responsibility. Perhaps private events marked a transformation. But somewhere in those years, he jettisoned the hero’s cloak and adapted to the relevancy of the political moment. He became the excuse for so many politicians to abandon a pro-life defense and enter the bowels of the pro-abortion labyrinth.
The scandal was not Kennedy’s alone. The failure of the Roman Catholic Church to boldly act upon his treachery reflected a weakness that would only be revealed in later years. The failure of the Irish-American community to denounce the betrayal of such deep seeded values also exposed feet of clay. This dance of convenience between the politics and the faith in Boston has done more to harm the Church and her reputation than all the scandals combined.
So for the next 36 years Edward Kennedy became the person thrown in the faces of Catholics who argued that being pro-life was essential to living the life of a practicing Catholic. After all, the Church did nothing to Ted Kennedy. So how essential to the faith is one’s position, they replied.
Meanwhile Kennedy became bolder and bolder in expressing his pro-abortion or pro-choice, as some would say, position. He ruthlessly attacked Robert Bork during his confirmation hearings and was probably responsible for Bork’s defeat. He voted against all pro-life legislation and opposed pro-life judges. His position on abortion was that of an abortion apologist.
I will not speak to the Chappaquiddick incident, the William Smith event or his long term problems with alcohol. Each of these nightmares would demand the prayers of anyone who cared about the weakness and failings of one’s fellow man.
No, it was the calculated move away from a position he knew to be right to embrace the darkness of death that spurs my prayers. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?
So tonight I say a prayer for his soul. I pray God that he repented of the evil he had done in his life, that he sought the tender mercies of a loving God in the sacraments that He gave to us, and that those who survive will not revel in his errors but would learn the critical lessons from a life that offered much promise and sadly delivered none but shame.