One Kennedy Legacy; Tribal Warfare

As my Auntie Lillie would sing when the tribe got started, “O, the Catholics are a-fighting, alive, alive O, alive, alive O”

I always took her to mean that while the Catholics might be fighting among themselves (describes the family, of course) it meant they were still alive.

I don’t know what Auntie Lillie actually meant by it, but that’s my take. I bring it up thinking you might be interested in reading about the donnybrook taking place in the Catholic intertubes, concerning -what else- the death and funeral of Ted Kennedy. And of course, yer girl barges into it:

Since no one has yet declared this a private fight with Marquis of Queensbury rules, it is difficult to resist joining in the fray. Here is [America Magazine's Michael Sean] Winters, again:

To say that Sen. Kennedy was flawed is to say that he was a human being. To dismiss his career because of his stance on abortion is to be ignorant of the complicated way the issue of abortion manifested itself in the early 1970s: I think Kennedy got it wrong but I do not find it difficult to understand why and how he got it wrong.

Winters, do tell. What is your take on the difficulties of the 1970’s and how they “understandably” influenced Kennedy, albeit wrongly? I ask in good faith because—although I come from a Kennedy-loving, blue-collar, Democrat family—I never thought of Kennedy’s stance on abortion (or Mario Cuomo’s for that matter) as anything but a political expediency; abortion created political difficulties, so our political class learned to do an intellectual (and cowardly) dance around a moral absolute. Spinning like rhetorical James Browns, Kennedy and Cuomo and others defined death down, in a manner that directly impacts our current debates on healthcare, “aid-in-dying,” rationing, embryonic destruction, and all life issues.

With all due respect to Winters, it appears his sentimentality is being allowed to overrule simple truth, here; we Catholics, having been warned about the “dictatorship of relativism” by a bishop of Rome, have a responsibility to make sure we are serving the truth even as we endeavor—as we absolutely must for the sake of Christ—to serve compassion.

You can read the whole thing, here

I’d submitted the essay before reading Ross Douthat’s excellent piece on Ted Kennedy and Eunice Shriver, or I’d have worked it in, although I don’t know if Douthat would have wanted to be dragged into the fray.

Really, it’s getting so hot that Deacon Greg has closed on the topic with very wise words and is done writing about Kennedy, because he doesn’t like mayhem on his site. Nor do I, actually, but I’ve always been foolish about what doors I open.

Mark Shea is also saying he’s done writing on Kennedy

Deal Hudson and Dave Gibson are taking a larger view, by considering the Kennedy funeral and Bishop Martino’s resignation. They see not just battle but out-and-out war. So do Kathryn Jean Lopez and Bookworm, who isn’t actually Catholic but seems like a girl who likes a good fight.

Meanwhile, in unrelated news, a Vietnamese blogger has been arrested for challenging media distortions of the Pope’s speech. Vietnamese Catholics have been under siege for a while, and that tiny put-upon country is getting less focus than it deserves. Pray for them, they’re fighting for both the faith and their lives.

Ted Kennedy, Healthcare and Purgatory

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • EJHill

    Dear Aunt Lillie was singing that formidable Irish tune about Molly Malone.

    (i>In Dublin’s fair city,
    where the girls are so pretty,
    I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
    As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
    Through streets broad and narrow,
    Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

    “Alive, alive, oh,
    Alive, alive, oh”,
    Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

    A great Irish duo of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney is available here:

  • Gayle Miller

    It is far less pertinent what Edward Moore Kennedy thought about abortion than it is to consider what the rest of us “Catholics” think about the subject.

    We seem to be straining at gnats here and it isn’t seemly. Senator Kennedy is facing the ultimate Judge; millions of the unborn as well as Ms. Kopechne are on the jury.

    In other words, leave the Senator to God and we need to deal with our own selves! That’s the pragmatic Hungarian Catholic view of things.

  • CV

    You meant to say Eunice Kennedy Shriver :-)

    Why doesn’t anyone name their daughters Ethel or Eunice anymore?

    [Or Myrtyle -admin]

  • Rick


    You really need to get out of the blogosphere for a while. Worrying about what Mark Shea, Deal Hudson and David Gibson are writing about is a waste of time. Do their opinions on anything really matter?

    [For that matter, do mine or yours? :-) - admin]

  • Mere Catholic

    I think you may have meant to write Eunice, not Ethel, Shriver.

    [You're right of course, overwhelmed today and dropping a few balls...thanks! admin]

  • dymphna

    Well, Ethel and Eunice are ugly and old womanish names although they were popular way, way back in the day. As for Ted, oh please let’s stop talking about him. He stands before a Judge who is not mocked, bribed or flattered. In the light of that it would be best if we all just looked away and followed the example of the Pope: silence.

  • tim maguire

    I have a difficult time managing the complicated issue of abortion. Either it’s the murder of a human being or it isn’t. Is there another choice? Was the ’70s ambiguous on murder such that somone could come out on either side? Does Michael Sean, while disagreeing with Charles Manson’s choice, nevertheless find it understandable?

    While you are probably right that Kennedy (and a great many other politicians) take a “nuanced” position on abortion for the sake of politics, can we really have greater tolerance for someone who personally believes it’s murder but does nothing for personal gain? I should think we need have less. It is harder to forgive them for they know what they do.

  • Roz Smith

    I was in a coed Catholic college when Roe v. Wade was decided. Overnight a good many male classmates went from being scared to death their girlfriends might get pregnant to solemnly offering to pay for the abortion.

    It is interesting that so many men of Senator Kennedy’s era who had serious zipper problems also ended up deciding that they had a moral obligation to support a woman’s right to kill the child she is carrying. It is scary how many self described enlightened women saw that support for abortion as a nod to their feminism instead of an act of callow self interest by perpetual adolescents.

  • Jim

    I think Ted right now is in need of Daniel Webster to argue his case. I hope he gets him.

  • J

    the catholic churh here in MA sees nothing wrong with abortion, partial birth abortion, homosexual adoptions preferred over heterosexual and kennedy was their hero. From the altar the priests refer to obama as being Christ-like. The trials and tribulations they faced were the same and how well they have handled them. It is so sickening I can no longer attend Mass and watching the cardinals, priests and archbishops flutter round Kennedy and hold him up as a hero and model catholic…..leaves me speechless.

  • reg

    I suspect that Kennedy had a similar view on abortion as bill Clinton- As Germaine Greer put it “I’ve never known a libertine to oppose it(abortion)” i’m going on memory on that. I would imagine that Whiskey Ted would have wanted his problems to go away-kinda like Kopechne, Camelot’s Lady of the Lake.

  • Momma K

    The impression that many folks I talk to have, (Catholic and non Catholic) is that you can flout the Church rules and still be a “Catholic in good standing” with a full Catholic funeral.
    And if you are a politician that does everything he can to promote abortion, you will still be invited to speak at Catholic Universities and Ted’s funeral.
    That is a crying shame.

  • reg

    Momma K

    Same as the republican party-the Democrat lite crowd have gained control. they are concerned with the good of the greatest number, number 1.Get the same thing here in Canada- politician deigns to show up for photo-op at Mass, gets designated as devout.I am really starting to appreciate the honesty of Paglia.I’d rather an honest atheist than a dishonest pseudo-christian.

  • steve

    Thanks Momma K for explaining why the funeral is a scandal,

  • Greta

    I find it interesting how the left leaning folks can bash bush for 8 solid years and yet get in an uproar when Catholic discuss issues that according to the Pope are non negotiable about a Senator who killed a woman and tried to make it go away. Ted was way out there on abortion and support of the gay lifestyle, both of which the Pope has said are non negotiable and the resent comments from the Pope on the Pelosi visit made very clear that she cannot support these non negotiable issues and try to say the Catholic Church allows wiggle room here.

    Kennedy is the poster boy of abortion with 100% rating for over 4 decades. He was pro life until the abortion industry put some money under his nose and the democratic party sold their souls for these funds. Wonder if it was 30 pieces of silver. I love it when Catholic say they are pro life, but democrats knowing that this is the party of abortion. They hate it when you bring up Hitler and the holocaust but there position as a german back then would be that they are personally apposed to the death camps, but it is legal in germany and Hitler has done well on many issues like full employment ending the depression and bringing Germany image back as a nation with power and he buildt the autobahn which put thousands to work and improved transportaion. Remember that Hitler had millions who worshiped him as their leader but no one wanted to talk about the holocaust. If one is pro life, stop supporting the democratic party for two elections for anyone not fully pro life and you will have an impact on abortion. So keep voting for the pro abortion leaders and there has to be some acknowledgement that the holocaust of infants is as much your doing as those who supported Hitler for economic and social reason but personnal opposed the camps.

  • tim maguire

    As Germaine Greer put it “I’ve never known a libertine to oppose it(abortion)”

    reg, there’s at least one–Nat Henthoff. The only liberal mind I’ve ever had respect for.

  • Bobfan

    Greta, I appreciate your point of view, but you don’t figure in whether or not voting Republican is likely to reverse Roe vs. Wade. It would almost certainly not do so. So I remain a Democrat.

    Also, there is no moral equivalence between countenancing an anti-Semitic regime because it makes the trains run on time, and voting for a party that with good intentions makes one horrible mistake but in many other ways obeys the Biblical injunction to do justice.

    And I don’t think Kennedy ever tried to make Kopechne’s death “go away.” Read the newly published excerpts from his upcoming memoir.