On first hearing the news of Edward Kennedy’s death I was filled with mixed and conflicting emotions. I was sorry that a prominent Catholic had died without any apparent contrition for his unceasing support for in utero infanticide. I have no idea what transpired at his final confession (if indeed he made one), and one has to hope that he lamented his pivotal role in the deaths of millions of unborn children and that he expressed his contrition for such a role. One suspects, however, that such contrition was not present in his private moments since it was so patently absent from his public life. In any event, it is a crying shame that Kennedy died without publicly apologising for his support for abortion.
Along with my sorrow for Kennedy’s apparent lack of contrition, and therefore the apparent peril to the destiny of his immortal soul, I could not help feeling angry at the eulogising of Kennedy by the media. Tributes poured in from all directions, lauding him for his consistent support for the most vulnerable and poor members of society. This was really hard to stomach in the face of the most vulnerable members of society who had been killed with Kennedy’s blessing: more than fifty million of them since Roe v Wade. There truly is nothing more cynical and sickening than a secular canonization ceremony. But canonized he was. St. Ted the Child Killer! St. Ted the Slayer of the Unborn. God help us all …
Certainly, when listening to the media’s canonization of St. Ted, we find it difficult to avoid echoing the words of Christ that truly he has had his reward.
And yet the toughest thing about Kennedy’s death was the challenge it presents to each of us as Christians. We are called by Christ to love our neighbours, which is sometimes hard enough, and, which is much harder, to love our enemies. The real test of Kennedy’s death is whether we are able to genuinely pray for him; whether we are able to hope for his salvation. He was a miserable sinner, of that there’s no doubt; but we are miserable sinners also. And isn’t it easy to preen ourselves in the self-deceptive knowledge that the splinter in our own eye is a mere mote compared with the plank in Kennedy’s? Isn’t there a danger that we will be like the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites in thanking the Lord that we are holy, unlike that miserable sinner, Kennedy? This is a danger that we must resist and a danger that we must pray for the grace to avoid.
As hard as it is, we must pray that Edward Kennedy does indeed become St. Ted. We must pray that he becomes a real saint, one who has inherited eternal life, and not merely a secular saint who inherits only the world’s reward. It is, of course, unthinkable that Kennedy could have gone straight to heaven. Purgatory awaits him (on the assumption that he has escaped hell) as it awaits the rest of us. It is, therefore, my parting wish, and my prayer, that Edward Kennedy has many sorrowful years in purgatory ahead of him.