The National Catholic Review

My father is a very calm, imperturbable man. We speak just about every morning and his voice only rises when reporting that the Red Sox lost to the Yankees. He rarely calls in the evening but he did so last night. He had gone to Mass at St. Joseph’s Living Center, in Windham, Connecticut, the nursing home where my mother died two years ago and where his sister is a patient. The deacon preached the homily and, according to my father, had spoken ill of Sen. Ted Kennedy because he was not pro-life.

The news report of Kennedy’s death at the Catholic News Agency included this qualifying phrase: "though he worked hard for the poor" and mentioned his "dedication to education." The article managed four sentences on Chappaquiddick and an extensive account of his pro-choice voting record. (It also misspelled, three times, the name of Washington’s archbishop who is the Most. Rev. Donald Wuerl, not Donald Wurel.) The Catholic News Agency, alas, is not really a news agency like Catholic News Service. It is an ideological rant pretending to be a news agency.

Someone named Patrick Madrid, who runs a blog and is involved with something called the Envoy Institute at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina, decided to attack my colleague at NCR Sister Maureen Fiedler for her post remembering the late Senator. "Maureen, with all due respect," he begins, words that reek of condescension. He writes: "Whatever his positive qualities may have been, and no doubt he had some, the tragic reality is that Senator Kennedy's long political career was squandered by his vociferous, relentless promotion of abortion. And that, sadly, will be his enduring legacy. I agree with you that tears are appropriate upon hearing the news of this man's death, but not for the reasons you are crying them." I have my moments of hubris but it has never occurred to me to tell another soul why and why not to cry, still less in a blog post.

Who are these people? To what level of boorishness have the spokespeople for the pro-life community descended? And, it is any wonder we keep losing the political fight for life when some of our own exercise such obvious, callous, inhumane indecency as to ignore a lifetime of good works, render judgment not just on a man’s ideas but on his soul, and to speak ill of the dead when the body is still warm. It is shameful. And, I hope the bishops recognize that it is counter-productive to the pro-life goals we should share. Hatefulness is not attractive or persuasive.

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. If the pro-life leaders would stop ranting for a second and study that history they might become more effective at advancing their cause. Besides, Ted Kennedy got many more things right than he got wrong.

Yesterday, watching the news shows, it was especially moving to see Kennedy’s political foes, conservatives like Sen. Orrin Hatch, come on and praise their former colleague. Kennedy maintained such friendships, which had their political usefulness, because of his heartfelt, contagious, infectious Catholic humanity, because he did not keep score, because he was quick to forgive, because he did not take himself too seriously, and because he saw that the promise of American democracy was greater than its failures. These loudmouths from the right should study his behavior and emulate, not castigate him. As I watched Sen. Hatch recall his memories of Ted Kennedy, I cried. I suppose Mr. Patrick Madrid will tell me I cried for the wrong reason. I don’t think so.

 

Comments

Anonymous | 9/6/2009 - 5:38pm
Dear Michael Binder,
Nice answer to Bryan. Until he gets back, I have to suggest a couple of things:
1. I have to admit, I don't know or understand much about politics, but I think your saying the ''movement'' (!?) is ''deliberately vague on what they are actually proposing'' is missing the point.
Perhaps pro-life folks will provide and have provided support - through non-violent direct action - for one or two moms who were thinking about getting an abortion, and perhaps those moms will let their babies live. I don't see how that is deliberately vague, or a proposal at all. It's direct action, and I'm sure that pro-life folks have at least saved one baby (my daughter). Probably millions. That's neither vague, nor a proposal.
2. I've never read Gonzales against Carhart, so I don't know the legal issues that were involved. I'm not sure why you're predicting the future on the basis of this case (or what that has to do with anything), but again - I'm ignorant of most of the facts, so I do need to learn more.
3. I actually kind of agree with your first sentence here, as I used to be pro-choice myself, for that very reason. (Surely, though, you are aware that some folks DO have hidden motives and they're using the ''power of the state'' argument as a cover?)
But, your next two sentences in paragraph 3 are just completely unknowable. We do not know either of these things, and we have no way of ever finding out. I don't think these statements can be a basis for a conclusion.
4. Yes, of course, we must all support just wages for workers. Not to do so is one of the Sins that Cry to Heaven for Vengeance - just like murder, especially of the unborn. That's not a competition. We have to do both. They're not mutually exclusive.
Anonymous | 9/2/2009 - 2:49pm
Dale, you are the winner.
I heard something put like this recently: "the camel that broke the straw's back...."  That's exactly how I feel about this.  Patrick Madrid is a fantastic apologist and man...MAN FOR LIFE. 
"I think Kennedy got it wrong but I do not find it difficult to understand why and how he got it wrong. If the pro-life leaders would stop ranting for a second and study that history they might become more effective at advancing their cause. Besides, Ted Kennedy got many more things right than he got wrong."
Michael, it isn't about what you think about Kennedy having gotten it wrong or right.  It is what God thinks about it.  No offense.
Also, "their cause..." As a Catholic that really offends me.  This is to be OUR cause.  It's very basic that if we don't stand for life, we stand to be eliminated ourselves and rightly so.  This is the most basic human right so if this isn't your cause I really don't know what to tell you.
And Hi to Patrick Sweeney.  Thanks so much for the New Media Celebration in san Antonio.  That was wonderful.  I want to comment about the end of life issues at Fielder's article like you did here.  We are all going to have to face God one day for allowing "catholics" like the Kennedys to ride on this stuff and take the name of the Church down.  The Church and the sacraments are the only hope any of us have...including the least of us. 
Anonymous | 9/2/2009 - 11:21am
Thank you Bryan for your thoughtful comments.  Let me respond.
1.  The Pro-Life movement, including my own Bishop and GOP standard bearer John McCain stated that a "federalist" solution was their goal.  This is not a good goal, since it would alter constitutional relations.  The Church does not need to have an opinion on such relations and if it does, Catholics are not bound by it.  As for the case of malpractice before Roe, Roe occurred before the malpractice frenzy we currently experience.  Equal protection would demand that if the child is recognized as a legal person during the first trimester, a suit would have to be lawful - even without grounds (leading to a settlement).  The catch-22 for those who would grant rights in the first trimester is that doing so with escape hatches on malpractice and investigation would not survive a legal challenge on equal protection grounds, or if it did, would defang any legal protection of the unborn.  This catch 22 is why the movement is deliberately vague on what they are actually proposing.  Again, the entire push is fraudulent because these issues are not dealt with openly.
2.  On Roberts and Alito, I was referring to the fact that they did not side with Scalia and Thomas on Gonzales v. Carhart (partial birth abortion).  The fact that they did not signaled that they likely never will.
3.  The pro-choice movement is not about killing children, it is about limiting the power of the state.  The abortion rate was likely higher when it was illegal.  Better economics between now and then has led to a decline in the abortion rate.
4.  I was referring to a living wage, as mandated by Catholic Social Encyclicals, which technically we must all support as part of the Magisterium, not the availability of social programs.  In the "red states" abortion is less because of social pressure and the lack of providers.  I am all for cutting back on abortion providers, but through the demand side by mandating a living wage for workers and students and enacting tax credits to make that feasible.  This is an effort anyone who calls themself pro-life is bound by the Magisterium to support - or they aren't really pro-life, just anti-woman.
Anonymous | 9/2/2009 - 10:23am
Mr. Binder's claim that life begins at gastrulation, sometimes euphamistically called the embryological view, is not really rooted in science at all.  While gastrulation is certainly a very important phenomenon in the development of an embryo (or more technically its conversion from a zygote into an embryo), there is no logical basis for considering that to be the inception of life.  Nonetheless, this polemical claim has become popular with pro-aborts in an effort to undermine the significance of conception.  The genetic view that life begins at conception is the only one that makes any scientific sense.  From conception the embryo has the attributes associated with life, e.g. organization, metabolism, homeostasis, growth, response to stimuli, and adaptation to its environment.  I challenge Mr. Binder to explain the scientific basis for his claim. 
Anonymous | 9/1/2009 - 12:52am
Mr. Binder offers a very thoughtful and thorough commentary.  I'd like to offer some thoughts on those thoughts:
1) I'm not sure the overturning of Roe, which would simply return the issue of abortion to the states, would exactly grant rights to the unborn.  However, if various successive state statutes did so, I do not think the concern of malpractice over miscarriages carries as (a) it does not appear that was the case before Roe and (b) malpractice would require a demonstration of negligence by the doctor, which is why we do not have a flood of miscarriage malpractice suits today.  And, yes, couples obviously suffer great grief in the wake of a miscarriage, so questioning about a doctor's activities in a postulated post-Roe America would be most difficult - but many other violations of the law also leave emotional wreckage, so should questioning be avoided in all these cases?
2) As to Justices Alito and Roberts not taking ''the bait'', if that is a reference to their confirmation hearings, I do not recall either of them giving a rousing defense of abortion rights.  Nominees are quite restrained these days in tipping their hands on controversial issues.  A review of NARAL and Planned Parenthood press releases from that timeframe would probably tell us everything we need to know on this subject.
3) With regard to the pro-life movement ''marching to irrelevancy'', I would suggest quite the opposite - the pro-choice movement is the first in history whose entire organizing principle is the ability to eliminate its own future voters and supporters.
4) As a side note, other posts have suggested that abortion rates are driven by lack of social programs.  Reviewing data from the CDC, the highest abortion rates (measured by number of abortions per 1000 live births, for women who claim residency in that state) occur in Blue states, especially the Northeast (making it less than coincidental that some of these states are slated to lose House seats after the next census).  I think it not too much of a leap to presume these states have more generous social safety nets than states like Idaho, Utah, and Kentucky, where abortion rates are two-thirds to three-quarters lower.  My hypothesis requires some additional numbers as backing, but I would suggest the idea that lack of resources drives abortion rates requires some serious empirical backup.
Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis
Anonymous | 8/31/2009 - 10:44am
I am not familiar with the Human Life bill that Kennedy voted against, however if it defined life as begining at conception, it was flawed on scientific grounds (life begins a gastrulation) as well as being bad policy.  To grant legal rights to the unborn in the first trimester would make every miscarriage an occassion for a malpractice claim, regardless of its veracity, and would make the practice of obstetrics harder than it already is legally.  It is also beyond unsavory to give the police and prosectors power in this area, as the likely result is the questioning of families who have just gone through a miscarriage should the authorities suspect that the doctor providing the D&C is performing too many or is really providing abortions rather than dealing with the miscarriage.  As a husband, I strongly object to the state having that power.  This does not make me an advocate of abortion, but an opponent of state power in this circumstance.   Many have said that neither circumstance is likely to happen - however if you prevent such things as part of any abortion law you have effectively passed an abortion law without any teeth.  You cannot have it both ways.  Either you put lawyers and prosecutors into the process or you have no real proction for the unborn.  As my father used to say, you can't have your cake and eat it to.
 
As to the partial birth abortion ban, that was a stalking horse for the overturn of Roe v. Wade.   However, Kennedy, Alito and Roberts did not take the bait and never will.  It is fraudulent to continue to insist that Catholics must support the overturn of Roe to be good Catholics, since four Catholic Justices (out of six) will never, ever go along with doing so.  Most Catholic voters have seen through the fraud perpetuated by the Right to Life Committee, the Republicans and the Bishops on this issue.  The movement can continue to march toward irrelevancy or it can work in the world that is. 
Anonymous | 8/28/2009 - 8:30pm
I find it incredibly hard to understand why any Catholic would be pro-choice at all.  Pro-mother yes, pro-choice never.
I'm not surprised you're unfamiliar with the works of Patrick Madrid- you've probably entirely missed the post-Baby Boomer, GenX revival of conservativism in the Church.  No wonder you liked Ted Kennedy.  He was a harmartiaphile in many ways- just like most of the rest of that misguided generation that gave us "free love", contraception, abortion, and the clergy abuse scandal.
Anonymous | 8/28/2009 - 5:13pm
[size= 7.5pt; color: black; font-family: 'Verdana','sans-serif']Mr. Winters, [/size]
[size= 7.5pt; color: black; font-family: 'Verdana','sans-serif']You deign to castigate Patrick Madrid for ''attacking'' your college Sr. Maureen, but in so doing, ironically, you brand him with such adjectives as ''callous'', ''inhumane'', and ''shameful'' and accuse him of condescension, hubris, boorishness, hatefulness, and ideological ranting.  When I compare the respective posts, only one strikes me as an attack, and it isn't Mr. Madrid's.[/size]
[size= 7.5pt; color: black; font-family: 'Verdana','sans-serif'][/size]
You accuse Mr. Madrid of condescension, yet you claim to have never heard of him, blithely dismissing him as just ''[s]omeone [...] who runs a blog.''  To the extent Mr. Madrid was condescending, Mr. Winters, you up the ante.  Patrick Madrid is not simply a blogger, as you allege.  Just this morning, I walked by the bookshop at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and noticed three books written by Patrick Madrid prominently displayed in the storefront display case.  I find suspect your disclaiming familiarity with Patrick Madrid when he is a featured author at the National Shrine of the Catholic University of America.  But I suppose these are simply sectarian Catholic institutions wed to the ideological right, of a far different character than the apolitical, ideologically neutral America Magazine.  Please forgive my forgetting that you belong to the legitimate Catholic intelligentsia.  However, if permissiveness as to adherence to Church teaching on abortion is part of the entrance criteria for your version of Catholic legitimacy, I'll cast my lots with Mr. Madrid, irrespective of his notoriety in your circles.
There's nothing I seek to add to the debate about the appropriateness of discussing, in the wake of his death, Ted Kennedy's failings on the fundamental moral crisis of our time.  The countless posters above me have convincingly made their case.  My sole point in commenting, Mr. Winters, is to highlight that your post is absolutely dripping with sanctimony, and to suggest that the next time you hope to correct the actions of another, be careful not to employ the very same tactics you wish to censure.
Anonymous | 8/28/2009 - 5:03pm
Translation of Michael Bindner's above comment:
Those Catholics who are faithful to the Magisterium and orthodox in their faith practices, and most especially those Catholics who promote the right to life in the private and public sphere, are not welcome to post on this Web site, and they should keep their mouths shut about abortion and other social issues that don't align with progressive Catholic ideals. 
Michael, if you want to limit this Web site and America magazine to the Catholic Left and make of it an echo chamber, how are you any different from those the progressives criticize as not being open to dialogue and too focused on what progressives perceive as a closed-minded clericalist hierarchy in the Church?
Anonymous | 8/28/2009 - 4:44pm
''I note that many of the posters to this article are non-subscribers.''
In other words, we're immigrants.  :-)
But, Michael, your reasoning is flawed. Because abortion has in fact been nationalized by the Supreme Court, the federal legislature-the Congress-has jurisdiction of it. Thus, during the first term of the Reagan administration a Human Life Amendment and a Human Life Bill were proposed. Kennedy voted ''no'' in both cases. The Amendment would have placed the unborn under the protections of the 14th amendment. The bill would have done so as well under the powers given to congress under sec. 5 of the 14th amendment. 
The partial-birth abortion ban was opposed by Senator Kennedy.  He was one of 8 Catholic senators who did not vote to overturn President Clinton's veto of the bill in the 1990s: Thomas Daschle, Christopher Dodd, Thomas Harkin,  John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski, Carol Moseley-Braun and Patty Murray.
Senator Kennedy had many admirable traits. But, sadly, he did not employ these impressive powers to protect the most vulnerable members of the human community, the unborn. 
Anonymous | 8/28/2009 - 3:40pm
I note that many of the posters to this article are non-subscribers.  In the Internet world, there is a term for such people and it starts with a T.  There is no requirement that Catholic politicians support national legislation that has never been proposed.  There is certainly no requirement that every politician support the blatantly electoral agenda of the pro-life movement, that can not and should not succeed in overturning Roe in such a manner as to gut federal supremacy in equal protection issues - which would be the effect of overturning Roe along the lines the movement promotes.  Catholic teaching for politicians is applicable to nations where abortion is legalized through the legislative process.  It does not apply when the decision is taken out of their hands by the plain language of the national constitution, in this case, the 14th Amendment, which makes the protection of the unborn a national issue only.  One need not accept the National Right to Life Committees interpretation of reality (which is skewed) to be a Catholic politician in good standing, especially given its ties to the Republican Party.
Anonymous | 8/28/2009 - 12:04pm
Patrick Madrid is the hero! Winters, I am surprised that as Catholic you have not listened to this increble apologist of Christ and his true Church, Patrick Madrid!!  You can listen to his openline radio show on EWTN.com on Thursdays at 3pm, and certainly try to get a hold of a 'real' great Catholic magazine publishing called Envoy Magazine.  Good luck!
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 4:15pm
Andrew, I didn't hear/read any "screaming"... just thoughtful commentary. How is it that one would construe that as "screaming"? Here is some more quiet, calm, thoughtful commentary: Christine: There are indeed 5 Catholic non-negotiables. War, torture (which is subjective as to what qualifies), capital punishment, and "other un-named teachings" are negotiable, subject to prudential judgement and a well-formed conscience. Abortion, euthanasia, promotion of contraceptives, embryo destructive research and cloning,  and same-sex relations are not ever negotiable, and are always and everywhere intrinsic evils for a Catholic to promote or do, and always have been, for as long as these evils have existed. Senator Kennedy promoted every one of them. Who could not notice? Even our non-Catholic brothers and sisters noticed. It is indeed bizarre to try to cover up the decades of promoting and foisting these evils on all Americans as not worth mentioning when discussing Senator Kennedy's Catholicism and how it related to his career as a politician. Being at the forefront of promoting these intrinsic evils is the elephant in the room.
 
 
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 3:42pm
Kennedy was a man of contradictions and some of his supporters posting comments here seem to be as well.  While I do not agree that throwing a dead man under the bus is Christian, neither do I believe that critically analyzing the life of a public figure such as Ted Kennedy is doing so in every case.  I do not think that Madrid made any comment that was outrageous or egregious.  Rather, he pointed out the contradiction of a Catholic man who acted against the faith he proclaimed.  If we are to be honest we must call out these contradictions where we see them, all the while allowing God to bring forth the ultimate and last judgment on others' souls.  
As for the contradictions in comments above, some think that to be a "pro-lifer" (which should describe all Catholics) does not mean we can't support the poor, the migrants, the sick, etc.  In fact, the two build up and support the other.  So, no matter how many political programs Kennedy wanted to build up toward the poor, he forgot the poorest of the poor - the children in the womb, the dying, etc.
Lastly, to support the poor, the migrant, etc. does NOT mean we have to support a particular government solutions to these problems.  Kennedy's solutions were and are not the only Catholic solutions to these issues.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 3:27pm
Mr. Winters,
I'm constantly on the lookout for good Catholic publications to subscribe to in order to give me information on Catholic issues. I appreciate your article in the respect that it will save me from the mistake of subscribing to your magazine.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 2:30pm
Mr Ted Kennedy passing, has been publicized in South Africa. His Catholicism and the Kennedy's faith is and always was a political issue. So it would not be amiss to summarize his achievements with these two facts in mind.
Pro-Choice would hail him as a champion for their immediate cause however, will future generations see his achievements in abortion arena in the same light, or a uncivilized slaughter of defenseless children?
For many Catholics around the world I am sure, would sum up his life with these words, "He could of been a contender." May his soul rest in peace.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 2:26pm
Count me in as another one who has never heard of Patrick Madrid.  Or the Envoy Institute.  Or Belmont Abbey.  These are "mainstream" Catholicism?  Watch out Jesuits, you seem to have attracted the wacko fringe!  Next they'll be claiming EWTN is mainstream.
Oh.  They beat me to the punch.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 2:05pm
I hesitate to address you by name, because apparently by doing so my words would wreak of condescension.  You know, it's funny almost:  When you stake out territory, you tend to look at any approach whatever as a demeaning attack.
I read Mr. Madrid's comment, and while it is critical of Sen. Kennedy's record with regard to the intrinsic evils identified in Catholic teaching, it does not demean Sen. Kennedy.
I would have hoped that we were beyond some strange need to canonize people simply because they do today what we will all do on one day or another; die.  Yes, Sen. Kennedy died, and we pray for the repose of his soul, and for comfort to his family and all who mourn his passing.  We have no obligation to now suddenly say ''only nice things'' about him.  The supersticion against saying anything critical of the dead, is exactly that; a supersticion - thus not binding upon people of faith.
As I read Mr. Madrid's comment, I find that his difficulty with the original article by a member of your staff is similar to my own:  The use of Sen. Kennedy as a ''Catholic Example.''  I would not dispute that Kennedy has left a legacy of legislative accomplishment, and that he had accomplished much that is good for many people.  His ''record'' as a public Catholic is not one that I would hope to see people emulate however.  To do so, is to emulate and encourage ''Cafeteria Catholicism,'' which is exactly what we should be working together against.
I am sure that you will not accept anything I have here written as anything but a demeaning rant against Senator Kennedy, and that is unfortunate.  By reacting thusly, you become the very ranter that you say you disapprove of.
May the soul of Sen. Kennedy, and the souls of all of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:31pm
I find your article troubling.  As a fellow Catholic, you should be supporting Patrick Madrid for courageously telling the truth, and not just going along with mainstream America.  His response to Sister Fiedler was right on the money.  We cannot continue to simply wink our eyes as politicians who call themselves Catholic support the murder of the innocents.  And I find it odd that you have not heard of author and apoligist Patrick Madrid.  This makes you appear out of touch with Catholic mainstream.  Have you also not heard of Karl Keiting, James Akin or EWTN?
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:31pm
So can we predict that when Pope Benedict passes away (hopefully not for a long time!), that the pages of America and this blog will be filled with nothing but warm memories, appreciation, and nary a critical word?
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:25pm
Mr. Winters,
I think you were less then charitable when you called Mr. Madrid condescending and boorish.
I think Mr. Kennedy's legacy will be tarnished for his support of abortion but the larger balance of the blame needs to be directed to the Bishops, theologians and news reporters who gave him political cover to do so.  He did uphold the inherant dignity of most people and worked for their common good.
You say that he worked to reduce abortions and I agree that he did.  You forget to mention his support of the abortion license. As a legislator ending the license  should have been his agenda.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.    And may perpetual light shine upon him.  May the soul of Edward Kennedy and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:55pm
Dale Price is definitely the winner on this thread.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:24pm
Besides, Ted Kennedy got many more things right than he got wrong.
No doubt that's true but it's a sentiment masquerading as an argument. Abortion is the curate's egg of Catholic Social Teaching. You can say and do all you want to protect and presereve the rights of people but none of it means anything if you don't protect and preserve the most fundamental right of all - the right to life. To get that wrong is to get it all wrong.
Sen. Kennedy needs our prayers because the greater judgment falls on him as a lawgiver and model of Catholic behavior.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:37pm
Linda wrote:  I would like to know if any of the individuals who rant on about being pro-life actually lift a finger to help or even look in the direction of a person who is facing an unplanned pregnancy.
Hi Linda,
I have given time, tallet and treasure to our local crisis pregnancy center.  I have also protested our local abortion center.  I guess you would know this is common if you were more involved in the anti-abortion movement.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:12pm
I hope the coverage of the funeral and this debate will cause pro-abortion "Christians" and espeacialy pro-abortion "Catholics" to face the reality of death. One day we will all die and will stand before the most holy trinity with all the trappings and benefits of conforming to this world left far, far behind. How will we respond when the Lord looks at us and says "What did you do to my children?" Lord have mercy on this child of yours!
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:11pm
I just have a simple question.  What's the America-approved non-boorish way to express?
1. The Catholic Church condems abortion as intrinscially evil.
2. The late Senator was Catholic.
3. The late Senator was an advocate of the right for a woman to abort her child.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:10pm
I'm sorry, Michael, but your post here loses the context of the situation, and it suffers greatly for it, almost becoming an ideological rant of your own, something you accuse Patrick Madrid's post of being.
Sr. Maureen was, fundamentally, holding up Senator Kennedy as a champion among Catholic politicians, one she believes should be emulated by other Catholic politicians, not to mention Catholics in general. Imagine if every current and future Catholic politician did exactly what Senator Kennedy did in terms of their votes, and speculate on the results such votes would bring about in the United States. Would fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church be violated more often or followed more often in such a hypothetical world? Insofar as Senator Kennedy actively supported abortion, stem-cell research and homosexual marriage, all sinful practices which damage not only those who practice them but many more, as well, I think it's clear that the country would be much worse off if more in the US Congress voted as he did. Does that mean Senator Kennedy never did any good? Of course not! He did a world of good on many issues, but this is not an either-or situation. I believe that if one logically speculates on my hypothetical situation given above, it would be enormously damaging to the country, to individuals (especially unborn children and families), to the Church and most importantly, to the souls of those committing such sin.
There is no reason or excuse to wish ill on Senator Kennedy's soul or his surviving family, and that would be an extreme lack of empathy and especially Christian charity. But Patrick Madrid and those pointing out that the Senator was not a Catholic whose political beliefs should be copied in many ways are not being uncharitable. Indeed, they are standing up for all the teachings of the Church founded by Christ. May God rest Senator Kennedy's soul, and may Catholic politicians who would throw life issues under the bus for political gain seek not to emulate him but to advance the Truth instead.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:06pm
"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 respectfully submit that if he trots this excuse out in front of Christ our Final Judge, it's not going to go very well.  That said, I sincerely hope and pray he repented of his support and promotion of this intrinsic evil.  But your umbrage at others pointing out this showstopper of a sin is, with all due respect, bizarre.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:01pm
"Hatefulness is not attractive or persuasive."
Sounds reasonable.  Mr. Winters should take his own advice.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 12:58pm
This did it for me.  Patrick Madrid was right and did so in a very very kind civil manner.  i've been paying for a subscription to this magazine for my pastor for the last two years.  I think I'll look for a different gift this year.
You can thank your column, Mr. Winters, and Sister Maureen Fiedler for the final straw.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 12:52pm

A writer recently who penned this about a political foe...
Dr. Mary Ann Glendon certainly seems to think it a moral impossibility to share the stage with the President. Given the fact that her last employer, the Bush administration, committed torture which is, last time I checked, an intrinsic moral evil, it is rich to hear her lecturing about moral outrage. I do not doubt Dr. Glendon acted sincerely. She just acted as a sincere Republican. I hope the bishops who are in such high dudgeon about Obama will demand that Dr. Glendon be forbidden from receiving any Catholic honors until she renounces her association with the Bush administration. Unlike Obama, after all, she is a Catholic and clearly falls under the prohibition of such awards to those who violate the Church’s fundamental moral beliefs made in the 2004 document "Catholics in Political Life."
...is not a tenable position to lecture anyone about boorishness, ignoring a lifetime of good works, rendering judgment or being partisan.

Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 12:50pm
Good Lord. MSW has shown his true colors here - unless this was just a ploy to get some hits for this blog.Which is quite possible.
Anyway. Pat Madrid is one of the better-selling writers in the Catholic market. I am sure thousands more have heard of and benefited from the work of Madrid than have heard of Michael Sean Winter or even America Magazine. He's a funny, sensible, committed guy.
Sorry, dude.
I guess your finger on the pulse of American Catholicism has skipped a few beats.
Madrid's response to Fielder's weepy, frankly, risible confession was quite kind and generous.
The point, Michael, is consistency. One cannot be rightly acclaimed as a defender of the weak if one aggressively protects the right to destroy the weakest.  It's that simple. Kennedy did not cut a tortured, thoughtful path to try to balance Church teaching and the demands of democracy. He was an assertive believer that abortion should be available with no restrictions, period. That is not a fringe issue, and it undercuts everything else he might have proclaimed he believed in.
Patrick Madrid, I might add, is one of the current figures in the Church doing valiant work on bringing the sins of Maciel and the leadership of the Legionaries of Christ to the fore. You should check out what he has written on that score.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:47pm
Amen to this blog piece! I do not understand how people can say Mr. Kennedy was 0 for 5, as if there are only five worthwhile Catholic teachings (failing to mention, of course, capital punishment, unjust war, or any other teaching that may run counter to their political views). I also do not understand the failure to recognize that Mr. Kennedy acted to protect unborn life much more than he did to harm it. Through his social welfare advocacy and emphasis on education, many unplanned pregnancies were surely prevented. Abstinence only education and the denial of the use of contraceptions are the best way to ensure unplanned pregnancies happen. Judgment and condemnation of unwed parents, and the shame that follows are also surely a leading cause of abortion.
It seems ironic to see the hate spew out towards a man who did so much good, coming from those who claim to be Christians. These actions are not Christlike. Mr. Kennedy sinned, as we all do. But we should celebrate the good he has done, and recognize that screaming our opinion about abortion, while not providing reasonable solutions and alternative, is not helping our cause.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 12:45pm

"Someone named Patrick Madrid"
Where in the world have you been not to have heard of one of the Premier Catholic Apologists who worked with Catholic Answers and currently with EWTN?
Oh I guess since those are orthodox Catholic groups you of course would not have heard of him.
You know what is shameless? The ignoring of Kennedy's efforts to retain abortion.  If Kennedy had been a racist would his faults have been so easily ignored?

Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 1:43pm

The moment I heard the news of Senator Kennedy's death, I prayed for his soul as it was being judged.  As a Catholic, that is a pro-life response.  Something I hope many people do for me at the moment of my death. We tend to put a person on a pedestal after they die. The truth of the matter is that his legacy WILL in fact be about his career as a senator and his voting record. His record clearly states that he was not a defender of the poor in the womb. This is not a rant, it is the truth! I don't 'dismiss his career because of his stance on abortion' I am just saddened and  appalled that he called himself Catholic all of these years when his belief in the essence of life (proven in his voting record) was completely opposed to the Catholic faith.

It is your personal opinion that he got 'more things right than he got wrong' and sad that he got them most important 'thing' wrong.  He had an obligation as a Catholic Christian to defend life, especially as a public servant.

When I read Sr. Maureen Fiedler's statement, 'He made me proud to be Catholic' I must say I agreed, but for different reasons.  He was a clear example to me of what I did not want to become as a Catholic and for that, I was grateful to God for my Catholic faith. This is something I told Mr. Kennedy himself when we both frequented
daily Mass at St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill years ago. So, all of this conversation is happening because of his recent passing, but honestly it has been a conversation that many of us Catholics have been having for a long time.  I am just responding to yet another public conversation, like Mr. Madrid, nothing new.

Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 12:23pm
The problem that I see in both positions is the focus on judging Ted Kennedy as a person (which should be left to God) rather that as the representative of a cultural and political position. I would argue that he represented perfectly a generation that after coming to maturity in the 50's and 60' was unable (and/or unequipped) to formulate an original Catholic position in front of social transformations. As as result he became intellectually subservient to one of the two sides in the intellectual decomposition/collapse of mainstream American protestantism (the liberal side). His critics are subservient to the other side (the conservative one). Both were and are unable to transcend them and formulate a Catholic cultural proposal.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 12:18pm
I read Patrick Madrid's comments on NCR and compared with your contempt filled rant here, they look incredibly warm in comparison (when not compared with yours they simply appear civil).  
I actually agree with you that Ted Kennedy got more right than what he got wrong. But what he got wrong was incredibly wrong-he got wrong the murder of millions- and it is useless to deny or downplay this.
I hope in the future you can keep it in check a bit more.  You'd be a more credible voice if you did.   
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 12:13pm
To the best of my knowledge Sen. Kennedy fought against all 5 of the Catholic non-negotiables.  BTW, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ might be included in your wonder about, "Who are these people?  To what level of boorishness have the spokespeople for the pro-life community descended?"
And further when you say,
"...when some of our own exercise such obvious, callous, inhumane indecency."
 
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 11:41am
I had actually never heard of you or your blog prior to stumbling upon this posting.
There is no doubt that you have great affection for Senator Kennedy. Such loyalty is admirable.
But when you say things such as ''Who are these people?'' it comes across as if you are berift of argument, that you are appealing to some sort of hierarchy of legitimate Catholic opinion into which Mr. Madrid has not  been appropriately invited.
But oddly enough, you didn't seem to hesitate to explore Sarah Palin's apparent apostasy with a gleefulness on how this may affect how catechism Catholics react to the Republican ticket. http://tinyurl.com/nfklm6 It seems to me that your purpose was not a serious one. It was not because you seemed to care for Ms. Palin's soul and thought she should be brought back into communion with the Church. No, you saw it as an opportunity to score some political points against those to your right.
As you know, baptism is as much a sacrament as last rites. To exploit either for political gain, is, well, unseemly.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 11:29am

Far from being a "boor", Patrick Madrid is a Catholic apologist who has his finger on the pulse of American culture while maintaining a commitment to fidelity to the Catholic Church.  He is fearless in speaking the truth about the downward spiral of this nation and the importance of the defense of human dignity from conception to natural death.  That is a socially unpopular position to take and it certainly makes it difficult to get a fair hearing in the liberal press. 
In order to be truly Catholic one must adhere to all of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Our Congress and even the Executive branch is sprinkled with those who like to call themselves Catholic while practicing their own relilgion of selective beliefs that are politically acceptable and socially palitable.  Mr. Kennedy was a perfect example as is Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Biden.  These compromised, outwardly Catholic polititians have sold their faith for political acceptance and while they may still do many good things for the people of this country, they are not Catholic in their beliefs.  While Mr. Kennedy did beautiful things like bring a young girl and her family here from Russia when the girl was an infant and dying of malabsorbtion disease, he worked tirelessly to assure that women in this country were able to murder their own children in their own wombs before  they ever got the chance to see the light of day.  $4000 a day in this country die because of this man's work and those of his ilk. 
I applaud Mr. Madrid for having the courage to stand up and speak the truth no matter how unpopular it is and no matter how many supposed Catholics call him a "boor."  It is obvious that he knows that when death comes to his door as it has to Mr. Kennedy's, he will answer to God for the words he speaks and the works of his hands.
 

Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 11:18am
Michael, I think you need a little perspective. Do I think it's bad taste to attack a warm body? Yes. But do I think this is something limited to the Right? Please, no! I was taking a graduate class on economic theory and political philosophy when Milton Friedman died. My professor, a professed Leftist, came into class and expressed his joy that Friedman died and then proceeded, as most good Lefties do, to declare moral superiority on all matters of justice. I happen to think Friedman did a lot of good and that his reputation is tarnished unfairly and hypocritically by people on the Left. But I also think that even if one thinks Friedman's positions were wrong, one should also be able to recognize that the man argued over means, not ends, and that he shared many values with people on the Left (peace, ending poverty, eradicating racism, etc.). He also never impugned motives, which is something I can't say for many on the Right and on the Left. So what's my point? Again, please have a little perspective. I notice many of your posts are imbued with culture war rhetoric and a real hostility to people you find ignorant. How about a little love for your enemies, buddy?
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 11:08am
Re Ricky Vines' comment about "70 million murdered people": I didn't know Ted Kennedy (or any other senator) was that powerful. And then pro-lifers wonder why they are dismissed as cranks, when comments like these pass for wise discourse.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 11:00am
Mr. Winters - As Catholics, we are called to seek the Truth, not to shy away from it when it is inconvenient or doesn't fit with our preconcieved notions. Pointing out the fact that the late Sen Kennedy chose to use his unique legacy and position in government to publicly and vociferously undermine and deny the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death, Mr Madrid is embracing the Truth. He is also reminding us of basic Catholic Christian beliefs, such as our belief that, no matter how well intentioned, we can never allow or support an intrinsically evil act in order to bring about some good. Senator Kennedy advocated evil. This is merely pointing out a sad fact, one which many Catholics would prefer to have ignored. Mr Madrid sets a good example for us in his respectful response to Sr Fiedler.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 10:39am
As someone said earlier, I have mixed reactions as well.  Certainly the way he lived his last months are admirable, even touching.  Putting aside some of the hagiography in the media (which is irritating - its interesting that now to even utter "Chappaquidick" is taken as somehow demonizing the man.  I can't help but think also of the (Catholic) Kopecknes), there is no doubt he was an excellent legislator - he knew how the process worked and used it well, even though his liberalism remains unpopular with most Americans.  Moreover, personally he was apparently very warm and kind, with a big generous heart.  At the same time, I think that Catholics of all political persuasions should criticize the canard that is "I can't impose my private moral convictions on the public" by which he and other Catholics justify their pro-choice views.  To be hailed as a devout or fervent Catholic and to stand by that trope of an argument does strike one as inconsistent.
I think Bill Bennett said it best yesterday, while its not right to speak ill of the dead, its also not right to lie about the dead either.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 10:26am
And what of Kennedy's promotion of embryo destructive research and cloning?  The normalization of same sex relations?  The promotion of contraceptives?  His leading the charge to kill Terri Schiavo? It's not JUST about abortion, Ms. Winters.
The late senator went 0 for 5 of the Church's non-negotiable issues. 
I'm afraid I have to agree with Patrick Madrid about the Good Sister's tears.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 10:22am

I would like to know if any of the individuals who rant on about being pro-life actually lift a finger to help or even look in the direction of a person who is facing an unplanned pregnancy. Senator Kennedy did and his policies have made a difference. Do these condemners DO anything or simply blather on and on? In the end, self righteousness, lack of compassionate action, and empty words will not save one actual life from being aborted.


Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 10:17am
Michael Bindner:  You have a point.  But it was not and either-or choice.  He could have done a "both-and"  i.e. defended the unborn & worked for the poor as the Catholic Church have been doing since the Lord has established it.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 9:17am
I have mixed feelings about this issue.  On the one hand the man has just died.  One should not attack the man personally.  But what about his ideas?  I find that some of his political opponents (such as Rove on Fox last night) have said things that have increased my respect for Kennedy.  But when one leaves such a legacy on an issue that is so very fundamental it is very, very hard not to remember this.  It was Kennedy who defined himself as a defender of a womans right to choose to kill her child!  I pray for Teddy Kennedy.  I also wonder what might have been had he been a brave defender of the unborn.
Politicians should understand that they will be remembered for their actions when alive and after they have died.
Eternal rest grant on to him oh Lord.
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 8:59am
Ted Kennedy on abortion in 1971:
"Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized - - the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old."
Anonymous | 8/27/2009 - 8:55am
"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: "  True but that initial manifestation has been clarified and tuned over the decades.  The Church has been absolutely clear in its  teachings.  So, it is unconscionable for a Catholic law maker to support laws that deprive persons of their inalienable right to life.
"some of our own exercise such obvious, callous, inhumane indecency as to ignore a lifetime of good works, render judgment not just on a man’s ideas but on his soul, and to speak ill of the dead when the body is still warm. It is shameful."  What is shameful is the 70 million murdered people because a politician chose his career over the lives of people.
 
 

Pages