Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy, the Catholic Church, and Our Law

Edward Kennedy, son of Joseph Kennedy, "Lion of the Senate," also called Ted Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy, is dead.

About an hour from now, as I write this, a motorcade bearing his body from the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is expected to reach Boston, Massachusetts.

According to the news, it will go first to St. Stephen's Church in the North End; cross the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway; pass Faneuil Hall, where the mayor of Boston will ring the bell once for each year Edward Kennedy served in the Senate, 47 in all; pass the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, arriving in the fullness of time at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum; where the Lion of the Senate's body will lie in repose until Saturday.

I'm quite sure that many people will take the opportunity, and pay their respect to this remarkable man.

Then, on Saturday, Edward Kennedy will have a Catholic funeral. At that time, as befitting a man of his rank and station, President Obama will deliver a eulogy for Ted Kennedy.

I think we've had a preview of what to expect:
"...He was 'not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy,' Obama said, speaking to reporters during his vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

" 'His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end. The extraordinary good that he did lives on. For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was the defender of a dream.'

"Obama said that Americans knew Kennedy's death was coming for some time, but have been 'awaiting it with no small amount of dread.'..."

Ted Kennedy? A Catholic Funeral? Say What?!

Ted Kennedy went to a Catholic church. By the standards of this culture, he was a Catholic.

The standards of the Catholic Church aren't quite the same as those of the dominant culture in America. I've discussed the Kennedys and Catholicism in another post. (August 26, 2009) For example, one of my daughters is getting married in about 10 days. All the paperwork's done and the fees paid, so as far as the state is concerned those two are married. We're Catholic, so we don't recognize the union until early September.

And, by the standards of the Catholic Church, it looks like Edward Kennedy may have a Catholic funeral. Yes, for nearly a half-century he strove with some success to take America further from Catholic teachings on a number of issues. And no, the Catholic Church does not go in for the 'although personally opposed' doublethink that's today's gold standard of sophistication.

"A Catholic Funeral for Ted Kennedy?" (In the Light of the Law (August 27, 2009)) discusses why, under cannon law, Edward Kennedy may reasonably be granted a Catholic funeral.

I doubt that President Obama's eulogy will touch on the reasons: but that's another matter.

That's Pretty Non-Judgmental, for One of Those Catholics

I grew up in America, so I know how judgmental those Christians and/or those Catholics are supposed to be. There's some truth to the stereotype. A cartoon character said 'Cliches are cliches for a reason' - I think the same can be said for stereotypes.

There are quite a number of people who profess to be Christians and apparently believe that anyone who follows the whore of Babylon, drinks alcohol and/or smokes, likes certain kinds of music, or commits one of a cluster of other 'unpardonable sins' is going straight to Hell.

Not all Protestants are like that, and some Catholics are. Oddly, the people I ran into who were of the 'my way or the hellway' ilk generally had a book with this passage in it:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged.
"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matthew 7: 1, 2 (
I doubt they see any inconsistency there: and would probably have some very Biblical explanations why they, their friends, and pastor Jones are the only 'saved' people on Earth. And many of them are savvy enough not to say, "if King James English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me!"1

Judging Someone Else? I Don't Need That Kind of Trouble

I've made the point before. As a Catholic, I'm not allowed to judge other people. What they do, yes. Where they stand in relation to God, not so much. I don't need that kind of trouble.
" 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me remove that splinter from your eye," while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."
(Matthew 7:1-5) (check out Luke 6: 37, 41)
A footnote on that passage reads, "This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with Matthew 7:5, 6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one's own faults."

I'm not allowed to judge Bruce Jeffrey Pardo or Edward Kennedy in the sense of saying what their destination is. And I'm aware enough of my own faults, so that I try to avoid "a spirit of arrogance." That said, I am allowed to assert that shooting a little girl in the face isn't right: and neither was some of what Senator Kennedy did.

I am profoundly glad to learn that there is some reason to believe that Edward Kennedy, before he died, "gave some signs of repentance" - which means that, by Cannon Law, he's eligible for a Catholic funeral, Mass and all. What I think of the evidence doesn't matter: "...If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed...." (1983 CIC 1184)2 (In the Catholic Church, "ordinaries" are "Diocesan bishops, religious superiors, and certain other diocesan authorities with jurisdiction over the clergy in a specific geographical area, or the members of a religious order. The term also applies to the head Exarch of an Eastern Church Exarchy." Glossary of Church Terms," Office of Media Relations, USCCB)

Looks like the local ordinary gave Edward Kennedy's funeral the green light.

A Eulogy? At a Catholic Funeral?!

Eulogies have a long history in Western civilization, at least. The word means "a formal expression of praise for someone who has died recently". (Princeton's WordNet) I have nothing against the warm fuzzies survivors might feel, hearing what a great guy the deceased was.

On the other hand, eulogies can exhibit a sort of break with reality.

Not all funeral eulogies involve recalling the shining virtues of some pillar of the community, devoted husband and loving father, while his wives and girlfriends glare at each other; his former clients wish they'd known more, earlier; and his daughter wishes she'd brought charges sooner. But I think there's a tendency to recall not so much the deceased, as the person the deceased might have been.

Catholic funerals don't - literally as a rule - have eulogies. That's because for us, it's more of a sendoff than a farewell. I recommend reading the Catechism's "Article 2 / Christian Funerals" for a more formal discussion.

Eulogies? No.
"The liturgy of the Word during funerals demands very careful preparation because the assembly present for the funeral may include some faithful who rarely attend the liturgy, and friends of the deceased who are not Christians. The homily in particular must 'avoid the literary genre of funeral eulogy'189 and illumine the mystery of Christian death in the light of the risen Christ."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1688) [emphasis mine]
It's possible that the American press referred to President Obama's planned address as a "eulogy" because they are unaware of Catholic teaching on the matter - or assume that their readers are. Maybe a bit of both. And, perhaps there will be a more by-the-book homily and a eulogy in the panegyric style of American culture.

Or, maybe the Lion of the Senate's funeral Catholic funeral will be a bit less conventional than most.

Related posts: News and views:
A tip of the hat to newadvent, on Twitter, for the heads-up on that In the Light of the Law post.

1 Don't get me wrong: I love the King James translation of the Bible. And I have a certain respect for the English king whose name is now attached to it. I'm aware that it's been revised a time or two, but it is still, I think, one of the apex achievements in English literature. The language is beautiful, almost poetic.

The English language, however, has changed a bit in the intervening four centuries. And, although I'm sure that the Euro-British scholars working on the project were as smart and talented as their contemporary counterparts, they were working in the first decade of the 1600s. They didn't have the resources we have available today.

Yes, screwball theologians of the 20th century came up with whoppers: but so did their predecessors in the first through 19th. Newer isn't necessarily better, but it's not necessarily worse, either.

So, although I respect and enjoy the beautiful and archaic language of that translation, I don't rely on it for my study of the Word of God.

2 From "Code of Cannon Law", English translation of Latin document, © Copyright 1983 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. This is one of those "secret Vatican documents" you read about, that (supposedly) nobody ever gets to see. (November 12, 2008)

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.