For all Catholics, this record cannot be ignored, and it ought to certainly leave an uncomforatble distaste in our mouths. The man meant so much, was loved by so many, and is now being hailed by the media and the country as a national hero, and has been buried in Arlington, alongside some of the nation's heroes. Cardinal McCarrick read at his funeral from the correspondence between the senator and the Holy Father.
Here in South Bend, I just learned of another correspondence between the senator and another member of the hierarchy. Bishop John D'Arcy, our belvoed bishop of South Bend and Fort Wayne, was the auxiliary bishop of Boston before he was transferred here. Himself a descendant of the very devout Irish Catholic community in Boston, it comes as no suprise that he knew Senator Kennedy, and many of his friends and colleagues. He told us today at staff lunch about some of thier last correspondences, in which the bishop assured the senator of his prayers for him and for his family.
These touching personal stories, and an examination of conscience on my part, leaves me with two things to say:
1) Kennedy's legacy will be remembered for the good, the bad, and the ugly. His death signals the death of an era, an era of confused Catholic politics, which came about as a result of the Hyannisport Congress in 1964 when the Kennedy family met with leading moreal theologians of the time, Fr Charles Curran, Fr Richard McCormick, Fr Milhaven, and others who justified to him that one could in fact hold the teachings of the Church in private, and separate them from their political actions in the public. Unfortunately, this position, together with that one articulated by Gov. Cuomo in his famous ND speech in 1984, has created the problem we have today, of Catholic politicians who do not act for the common good by placing the teachings of the Church at the forefront of their agendas. Kennedy's sad legacy and horrible record on life issues cannot be forgotten, and must be remembered as a huge taint on his character and public record in office.
2) We must trust in the mercy of God, and remember that the justice of God is also the mercy of God. There is no such thing as the "God of justice" and the "God of mercy." We believe in a God who is merciful, and who in being merciful, manifests his justice as a result of his love, which is wholly Other. We can hope and pray for the senator, and beg God to be merciful on this flawed and deeply misguided man. The mysterious and imperceptible workings of grace can so easily be judged by us, who while recognizing the flaws and horrible consequences of the man's politics, can ourselves be quickly moved to judge his soul.
Let me conclude with some words from von Balthasar's book, Credo, that I think have helpled me sort out my thoughts on the situation:
"The Exalted shares in the authority of the Almighty, for the Father "has given judgment to the Son, that allmay honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. (Jn 5:22)." Which power could be greater than that of judging what is most intimate and most hidden in every human being and allocating to him or her eternal destiny accordingly? Almightiness consists much less in that which human beings imagine it to be, namely, changing things in accordance with one's will--Jesus proved, through his miracles, that he could do that too--than in exerting an influence on the freedom of human hearts without overpowering them. Enticing forth from them, through the mysterious power of grace, their free assent to the truly good.
The Church Fathers used to say that God's grace works not through force bu throguh "persuasion," in that it suggests the choice of the better and gives the weak human will the strength to assent to that out of its own conviction and strength. Up to what point the sinful will can continue to resist this inner force of conviction exerted by the good--perhaps to the very last?--is only something for the Almighty Judge of all hearts to know." (p. 65)
We can pray that God moved Senator Kennedy's will to respond to his grace, given especially in those moments of suffering, difficulty, and proximity to death.