One of the most famous — some would say, infamous — Catholic politicians of the last 30 years has died after a long battle with cancer. For a time, she was a regular at my parish in Queens, and people still talk about rounding the corner in the grocery store and nearly crashing into her shopping cart, amazed to see her there, picking up cans of creamed corn or eyeballing cuts of beef.
Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic congresswoman who became the first woman on a major party presidential ticket as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, died on Saturday at the age of 75, her family said.
Ferraro died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston of a blood cancer after a 12-year illness, according to a statement from her family.
“Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed,” the statement said.
Ferraro was a telegenic, articulate and fiery three-term congresswoman with a liberal reputation when Mondale plucked her from the male-dominated U.S. House of Representatives. Ferraro’s presence on the Democratic ticket generated excitement on the campaign trail, particularly among females of all ages.
Yet on Election Day, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush defeated Mondale and Ferraro in a landslide, carrying every state except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota.
In delivering her concession speech that night, Ferraro saluted Mondale for helping women reach new political heights.
“For two centuries, candidates have run for president. Not one from a major party ever asked a woman to be his running mate — until Walter Mondale,” she said.
“Campaigns, even if you lose them, do serve a purpose,” Ferraro said. “My candidacy has said the days of discrimination are numbered. American women will never be second-class citizens again.”
She drew plenty of scorn and scrutiny on the campaign trail, particularly for breaking with her Roman Catholic Church in supporting abortion rights.
You can read more about Ferraro and the abortion debate here.
Also: some are already questioning whether she should have a Catholic funeral. Check out this link for what canon law says.
Meantime, my prayers go out to her family and friends at this moment of loss.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her …