Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kennedys, Catholicism, and Abortion: So That's What Happened

This post is about the Kennedy family in the American northeast, ersatz Catholicism in America, and what happened to a good Irish family in America.

I'll admit to having a personal stake in this. I'm half Irish: a quarter, counting my ancestors who called themselves Scotch-Irish in the new country. Which could lead me to a not-quite-unrelated topic.

Unlike my ancestors, who in recent generations had demonstrated an uncanny gift for avoiding the temptations of worldly riches, the Kennedy family became quite distinctly burdened by wealth to degree remarkable even by American standards. Not that the Kennedys have experienced an entirely serene life here:
  • Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr.
    • Namesake of the American family founder
    • Dying abruptly over the English Channel in the course of the second of the World Wars
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy
    • The one, the only, JFK
    • Quite famously assassinated during America's Camelot era
  • Rosemary Kennedy
    • Not-so-famously lobotomized in 1941
      • When such things were all the rage
      • Ah, the sacrifices one makes to keep up with the manners of the day
The problem, you see, stems from the Kennedys being Irish, and good Irish too: Catholic, that is. Trusting of their priests. Poor folk: When the likes of these spoke: the Kennedys, they listened. And, worse, believed the likes of:
  • Albert Jonsen
    • One-time
      • Professor of ethics (of all things!) at the University of Washington
      • Priest
  • Robert Drinan
    • Dean of Boston College Law School at the time
    • Bearing the title priest

  • Joseph Fuchs
    • Catholic (in name, if perhaps not in mind and heart) theologian
  • Charles Curran
    • (the American priest, not the Dubliner)
  • These illustrious men, one hot summer day in the year of Our Lord 1964, explained to the Kennedys how a good Catholic family such as the Kennedys might help make killing helpless babies quite legal in America - and still keep what might be called a clear conscience.

    And, as I said before, the Kennedys - they listened. And, to judge by what's happened since, believed.

    The great Cromwell himself could not have done such damage.

    With Friends Like These - - -

    It's one thing, you see, to withstand attacks from without. Nero, with the power of Rome's own empire at his back, he strove mightily to wipe the Church from the face of the earth.

    And did he succeed? Perhaps here and there there was the good Christian who said, 'although personally opposed to worshiping other gods, I don't feel it's my right to say no to the emperor,' or some such prattle as that. For the rest: well, I've heard it said that a bishop's robes are to this day colored red, so as not to clash with the blood which would soon stain them; once the man took office, that is. Bishoping was by way of being a high-risk position, you see.

    But did Nero succeed? Well, a good many centuries have rolled past since Rome was seat of the Caesars in any meaningful sense of the word. Each year, at Eastertide, the man who sits in the seat of Peter celebrates Mass where so many Christians refused to be conventional Roman citizens and were killed for their obstinacy. Offhand, I'd say that Nero's efforts were not entirely successful.

    Of course, it wasn't that lot of Christians who turned the tide. In my view, we're where we are due to the interest taken in Roman politics by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It's nice to have friends in high places.

    Kennedys: The Next Generation

    I wish the Kennedys no ill: they've had that aplenty. Still, it's sad to see their younger folk following down the same misdirected path:
    "...'supports Roe v. Wade, which prohibits third trimester abortions except when the life or health of the mother is at risk.'..." Ms. Kennedy presumably knows this means no limits on abortion rights, right up to birth, "...because the 'health of the mother' can be so broadly defined that it includes the psychological distress that can accompany an unintended pregnancy...."

    Trusting People, Trusting the Church

    It wasn't so long ago that I wrote a post about annulment, the American notion of divorce, and Catholic teachings. A fellow with a sad history corrected me, so he thought, with these words: "...You should not listen to just what the books say...." (March 27, 2009)

    Now, it's true that there's more to the Catholic Church than books. As I've discussed before, there's the Bible, Tradition and the Magisterium to consider. (February 19, 2009, October 2, 2008) Now, two of the three are not, strictly speaking, in their entirety, books. (October 2, 2008)

    Nevertheless, though the Magesterium and Tradition represent the living Church: not every titled expert who says he's Catholic necessarily conforms to the teachings of Catholicism. Particularly those experts whose fame and fortune depend on their being more nearly aligned with the intellectual fashions of the day, than to the treasure of faith which the Church has carried through the millennia.

    It's all very well to consider the mores and polemics set forth by the likes of Curran, Drinan, Fuchs and Jonsen. They are, it is certain, men of note in the century from which we've lately emerged.

    Just the same, I'm more inclined to give heed to what the saints had to say: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Linus, Cletus, Catherine of Siena, Augustine, Jerome, Bonaventure, Anselm, Hilary, Alphonsus Liguori and Francis de Sales: to name but a few.

    Related posts:

    A tip of the hat to patrickmadrid, on Twitter, for the heads-up on his post.


    Brigid said...

    Very good points, and insight. Also, I think it would be well if you read the post again for a few possible grammatical errors.

    Brian H. Gill said...


    From my heart, I thank you. Re-reading this post, I saw - and corrected - the occasional deviation from the English king's grammar to which you alluded. And, more, noted infelicitous turns of phrase - and healed those wounds to the body of this post.

    Love, Dad

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