Faithful Catholics who have been critical of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral have been focusing on the scandalous witness of Cardinal O’Malley. The Cardinal has chosen to ignore the principle of refusing pro-abortion politicians a place of honour. In 2004, the USCCB issued “Catholics in Political Life.” The document directs Catholic universities not to honour pro-abortion politicians:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Catholics in Political Life“, 2004)
But there’s been a few other issues that have not been fully probed and discussed. The Kennedy funeral was not just about the scandalous witness of Cardinal O’Malley and the Church.
It was also about liturgical and Eucharistic sacrilege and deception.
First Crow – Ecclesiastical Funerals
Canon Law clearly states (Can. 1184 §1) that “unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:
#1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
#2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;
#3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.
While the above Canon applies only to those who remained unrepentant and does not concern a public funeral per se, the principle of not scandalizing the faithful still remains in force (Cf. Can.1184 §1.3). Moreover, what PUBLIC sign of repentance did Edward Kennedy give to us to justify the grandiose public that he received? None at all. In fact, the last public correspondence of Ted Kennedy with the Church was an unapologetic 10 page letter he wrote to the Pope, seeking to justify himself and his legacy. He even tossed pro-lifers a bone by proudly claiming that he was on the Church’s side by supporting conscience legislation which would protect pro-life health care workers from participating in abortion. But that was no renunciation of his disastrous pro-abortion legacy. It is hard to imagine a scenario more grievous and scandalous than the events surrounding the public legacy of Senator Edward Kennedy. The man advocated the most heinous crime imaginable, and his influence and reach in securing the protection and promotion of abortion and sodomy have proved to be an incalculable cancer on the body of Christ. If the above canon’s principle does not apply to Sen. Kennedy, then no baptized Catholic can be refused a public funeral for anything at all. The problem, of course, is not with the Church’s teaching or its canon law. The problem is not the law. The problem is the resolve to apply it and to accept the inevitable “Cross” of negative public opinion once it is applied. Isn’t what this controversy is really about? The Cross and The Sacrifice that awaits us? I think it is.
Second Crow – Eulogizing
At Catholic funerals, eulogizing is not part of the rubrics because it takes away from what the funeral is supposed to be about. It’s not about the individual’s past life. It’s about his future one, and the hope and sobriety presented to us when we face our own demise. If anything is said about the individual in passing, it is supposed to be tied in strictly to the Gospel message. Fr. Rutler tells us why eulogies are not appropriate at Catholic Funerals:
“The Church’s rubrics require that anything edifying in the deceased’s life be mentioned only as commentary on the Gospel. Our “Culture of Death,” as John Paul II called it, is idiosyncratic in its refusal to be cogent about the Gospel mystery of death itself. In its rejection of moral reality, this lurid cultural paradigm mocks the imperatives of the mystery by applauding the guilty as cold-bloodedly as it destroys the innocent. Where the idol worshipped by a culture is one’s public image, even candor must be sacrificed to it; and when only the self is celebrated, celebrity canonizes itself. All the Holy Sonnets are replaced by one unholy bravado: “Death be proud.” The noble pagans flattered and flowered their dead because they could not absolve them. De mortuis nihil nisi bonumis not a Christian dictum; speaking nothing but good of the dead translates the Spartan decency of Chilon who lived six centuries before the incarnation of the Redeemer. Chilonwas a wise magistrate himself, and as merciful as a Spartan could be, but his mercy was not that of Christ the Judge, for Chilon had no power to summon the dead: “Come forth!” The noble pagan tried to make the best of a bad thing, urging a social convention born of pessimism. The mercy of God changes pessimism to hope, and hope is the engine of honesty. In obedience to the Divine Mercy, speaking well of the dead may sometimes require not speaking good of the dead. However many different ways there are to say it, everyone has the same eulogy: “There is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Source)
The cult of personal aggrandizement and lionization has no place in the Mass. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal specifically says that: “At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.” (382). One eulogy would have been objectionable enough, but there were three of them! And yet, what are we to say about the Church when even one of its own Cardinals can’t follow this simple rule! Just what part of “never” does the Cardinal not understand in the canon?
Third Crow – Communion for Pro-abort politicians
As with the issue of refusing notorious and publicly unrepentant pro-abortion Catholic politicians at a public funeral, the law concerning scandalous public officials receiving Communion is also clear:
“Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” (Can. 915)
Although the teaching is clear, it seems that those involved in Ted Kennedy’s funeral have had some rather shady involvement in trying to obscure the law of the Church. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, for instance, the retired Archbishop of Washington, presided at the interment of the Senator and who read a conventional sympathy letter from the Vatican Secretary of State (not the Pope), audaciously spinning it into some kind of endorsement of the public funeral proceedings and creating the impression that it was a friendly personal letter from the Pope. Yet this was the same Cardinal who, in 2004, “when the Bishops of the US were anguishing over whether to allow communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion laws, Cardinal McCarrick concealed a letter from his brother bishops. The missive was from the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal (now Pope) Joseph Ratzinger. Had the bishops received the letter intended to help guide their debate, things might have gone very differently. The contents of that letter are still relevant, particularly now when dissenting Catholics have made grandiose pronouncements about what it means to be a Catholic in public life. (Source)
Is it a surprise, then, that when it came time for receiving the Holy Eucharist, the television camera panned away from viewing who indeed was going to receive Communion. This was done, of course, to hide yet another scandal at the Funeral – one which has not yet received the necessary coverage or discussion – and that is even worse than the public endorsement of Ted Kennedy’s scandalous public life on abortion, as hard as that is to believe. That scandal was the reception of holy communion at the Funeral by plenty of pseudo Catholics who endorse abortion.
We didn’t see them receive the Eucharist, of course. The cameras panned away coincidentally at the time when the Communion line was about to form. But God saw. Evil always seeks to hide itself in its darkness, for fear of being exposed to the light of truth (Cf.Eph.5:11). Did not St. John tell us? “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (1 John 1:6)
The mystical body of Christ is not just some obscure or hazy idea. It’s a supernatural, living reality and the reception of Holy Communion affects that Body for good or for ill. Every sacrilegious communion, therefore, tears at the Body of Christ, wounding it, and making it less identifiable and present in the midst of a hurting world. A scandal of a public official is even more damaging because of the wider influence the scandal causes on the other members of the Body. Before a priest or bishop or Cardinal is anything else, he is first and foremost the guardian of the Blessed Sacrament. If he did nothing else, NOTHING ELSE AT ALL, in this life but guard the respect and reverence due to it, his priesthood would have been infinitely more valuable and incalculable than the priesthood which delivered the most brilliant and inspiring homilies ever heard.
There are two ways of looking at the fraud that occurred at Kennedy’s funeral. We can say, as everyone is saying, that Cardinal O’Malley invited and fostered public scandal. That is likely true, but it’s not the only possibility. On the contrary, we may say that there was no great public scandal at all since the occasion in which his Funeral was celebrated, the Mass, doesn’t mean that much at all anyway. It’s just another public service to honour our wonderful public servants. Does it not strike you, dear reader, how complimentary those two realities are? That participating in a public scandal in the context of a Funeral Mass is totally consistent with demoting the sacredness of the Eucharist in it?
When Our Lord was brought to the house of the high priest, Scripture says that St. Peter “followed at a distance” and tried to blend in with the crowd until he was singled out by a servant girl for being one of Jesus’s disciples. As we know, Peter denied our Lord. He wanted to “blend in” with the crowd, to become inconspicuous, and not cause undue attention to himself. If he had admitted the truth, if he had stood up and proclaimed his love for Christ, the mob would have turned on him. But the Gospel would have been proclaimed and many souls saved during that opportunity, much like the opportunity that Cardinal O’Malley had at the Funeral of Ted Kennedy. If Cardinal O’Malley wants to talk about lost opportunities, he should reflect well on the words of Our Lord to St. Peter…
“Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” (Luke 22:61)
…and consider the three crows cawing at the Funeral Mass he presided over.
We pray that Cardinal O’Malley and those who support him will repent and recover like St. Peter did.