By Daniel J. Flynn on 8.31.09 @ 6:09AM
“I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness,” Ted Kennedy wrote to Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter dramatically read by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick at the senator’s burial, “and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings.”
Though Kennedy’s words may strike detractors as a preposterous revision of history, it’s worth considering that it’s often the sinner rather than the saint who finds strength from the church. In a life that endured the violent deaths of four siblings, three miscarried children, and countless scandals, Ted Kennedy may have indeed, particularly during his prolonged illness, turned to his faith. Who, but God, can judge the content of a man’s soul?
Ross Douthat also had a relevant column yesterday contrasting Ted with his sister Eunice.
What the siblings shared – in addition to the grace, rare among Kennedys, of a ripe old age and a peaceful death – was a passionate liberalism and an abiding Roman Catholic faith. These two commitments were intertwined: Ted Kennedy’s tireless efforts on issues like health care, education and immigration were explicitly rooted in Catholic social teaching, and so was his sister’s lifelong labor on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired.
What separated them was abortion.