Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fisking a Cardinal

Maybe Father Zuhlsdorf can answer this question for me: how much time in Purgatory can I expect for fisking some parts of the blog post written by Cardinal O'Malley regarding His Eminence's participation in the Kennedy Funeral Mass?

As usual, my remarks will be in red. After a few opening paragraphs in which Cardinal O'Malley mentions his ordination anniversary, the church, the music, and the late Senator Kennedy's habit of praying at this particular church during his daughter's struggle with cancer, we get to the heart of things:

In light of these themes, I wish to address our Catholic faithful who have voiced both support and disappointment [mainly, though, the Cardinal appears to address the disappointed] at my having presided at the Senator’s funeral Mass.

Needless to say, the Senator’s wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn. [Okay, now, all due respect to His Eminence, but hold on a minute! The Senator did not merely fail to support Church teaching on abortion, publicly or otherwise. The Senator openly, publicly dissented from that teaching, and used the power of his office to help pass laws which enabled the practice of abortion in too many ways to count! Surely there is a difference between open, public support for abortion and merely failing to support Church teaching, is there not?] ­­­Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy [I think that's very arguable, in that Senator Kennedy didn't appear to care much about Catholic teaching, social or otherwise, at all in his public work] and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity [again, lost opportunity?? Do the millions of unborn whose murders were directly or indirectly facilitated by legislation Senator Kennedy supported and voted for during his lengthy Senate tenure count for nothing? It's as if those unborn victims simply don't count at all, and that's truly disturbing] in his lack of support for [support for the killing of] the unborn. To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished. [No quibble there--but again, could we not say one word about the fact that the Senator did not merely fail to place the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel but instead took a leading role that was openly inimical to the unborn?]

The thousands of people who lined the roads as the late Senator’s motorcade travelled from Cape Cod to Boston and the throngs that crowded the Kennedy Library for two days during the lying in repose, I believe, were there to pay tribute to these many accomplishments rather than as an endorsement of the Senator’s voting record on abortion. [Here is our first--and only--mention that the problem with the Senator went slightly beyond a mere failure to support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn.]

The crowds also were there to pay tribute to the Kennedy family as a whole. On the national political landscape, if Barack Obama broke the glass ceiling of the presidency for African Americans, Jack Kennedy broke it for American Catholics. [...] [There follow a few paragraphs about the Kennedys. I find this bit troubling; it's almost as though the pro-abortion stances of most of the Kennedy family are to be overlooked for two reasons: because of Eunice Shriver's pro-life views, and because of the way the Kennedys opened up politics to American Catholics. All due respect to the Cardinal, but has His Eminence noticed the way the Kennedys opened up politics to American Catholics? Has His Eminence realized that to get elected, most Catholics in higher office must turn their backs on the unborn--and that this is directly linked to the Kennedys and their promise that being Catholic wouldn't really mean anything in terms of the political landscape? Few pro-life Catholics can get anywhere in national politics today--the ones who sold their souls to the abortion industry have struck a devil's bargain that American Catholics still can't break.]

There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church’s providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator. In the strongest terms I disagree with that position. [I also think Senator Kennedy should have had a Catholic Funeral. It should have been a restrained, quiet, penitential affair--as, indeed, all funerals of adults should be. It should not have been a quasi-canonization, scandalous in its overlooking of the Senator's support for abortion.] At the Senator’s interment on Saturday evening, with his family’s permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI. It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life. The Holy Father’s expression of gratitude for the Senator’s pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness’ role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.

As Archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect [really? Respect--not mercy? Are we to be respecters of persons, then?] for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time. We are people of faith and we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy. [...] [There follow, here, two paragraphs discussing the Cardinal's commitment to pro-life activities.]

At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another [This bothers me terribly. What possible good motives could there be for a man to support abortion his whole life? What possible good motives could there be for his family to use the Funeral Mass as their own personal vehicle for politics, for celebration of the deceased's life, and for other unseemly actions?]. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. [Abolitionists were angry; they judged slaveholders as guilty of a crime against God. Were they wrong? Did they fail? Do we owe less of righteous anger and judgment, though rooted in love, toward those who aid in the slaughter of more than fifty million American children since Roe v. Wade?] Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end. [Yes. But He is also the just Judge Whom we face at the moment of our deaths. And woe to every prelate who has failed to convert those Catholics under his charge who publicly, actively, tirelessly work for abortion while claiming to be Catholics in good standing. I would not want to bear such a one's dreadful responsibility on the Day of Judgment.] Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other. [Sure, if we are divided and fighting over trifles. Is the murder of innocent unborn humans a trifle? Is it mere politics, something that matters no more to our eternal salvation than the funding of a bridge project, or a tax increase? And isn't it already a deep and shameful scandal that Catholics are fighting over abortion at all? Shouldn't all Catholics in America be pro-life? Whose fault is it if they aren't?]

President Obama and three former presidents attended Senator Kennedy’s funeral. [Not even a mention of that eulogy, I see.] I had the opportunity to speak briefly with President Obama, to welcome him to the Basilica and to share with him that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future. The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying. [But why should he, in the end, care? Catholics in America have shown time and time again that we will roll over and play dead when it comes to the abortion issue, and this funeral was another opportunity to demonstrate exactly that.]

Democrats and Republicans sat side by side in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, praying for Senator Kennedy and his family. It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn. [If we can't even change Catholic hearts on contraception, let alone on abortion, we have no hope of changing the hearts of Americans when it comes to giving up their abortion habit, which is so very important to the ethos of sex without consequences--an ethos the late Senator Kennedy worked hard to enshrine and protect. The Cardinal's hope is piously expressed, but the Cardinal's actions, like the actions of so many higher clergy in the American Catholic Church, have left much to be desired.]

UPDATE: Father Z. has done his own, trademark, masterful fisk of the Cardinal's blog post here.


LarryD said...

Good job, Erin. Don't worry about purgatory though...especialy after reading what I wrote over at my blog.

Anonymous said...

from scotch meg

Erin, I agree completely with what you've said. Nevertheless, living in Boston, it's hard to convey the warped, warped political environment here and the way it interacts with the Church. Remember, Massachusetts is a state packed with cultural Catholics who are knee-jerk Democrats. To most of them, it's unimaginable that the Cardinal wouldn't attend the funeral of the leader of their tribe... and if he were a bishop who wouldn't, he would have been run out of town. It's a very weird mindset, steeped in Fr. Drinan and jesuitical thinking of the worst kind. I have one friend, whom I met while we were both teaching 5th grade religious ed, whose son worked for the Kerry campaign in Iowa. And she saw no contradiction between her son's work and her family's faithful attendance at Mass. OF COURSE they're Democrats and OF COURSE they're Catholics - they're Boston Irish. Cardinal O'Malley has actually had more spine than most expect around here; he may have come close to disaster with the Caritas situation, but he (slowly, painfully, reluctantly) did the right thing. He's about as good as we're going to get here. Asking that he not attend the Kenneday funeral would be, alas, in this environment, asking too much. I am just grateful that there are no more Kennedy brothers.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Dear Cardinal O’Malley,

I have been pondering Pope Benedict’s words in his new encyclical “Charity in Truth”:
“To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity.”

To speak the truth is an indispensable form of charity, especially when that truth is unpopular. Our society does not want to hear that the unborn child must not be killed.

Despite whatever good he did, Senator Kennedy spent the better part of his long political career actively working for legislation that would favor abortion. That is not a judgment; it is part of the public record. He even voted in favor of partial-birth abortion, a horrendous procedure in which the baby’s brains are sucked out.
He did immense damage to the pro-life movement. Is that of any consequence in the eyes of the bishops?
While we pray in charity for his soul, it is indeed a deep scandal for the Church to imply that his record on abortion is of no consequence. I realize you were in a difficult position, but I am deeply disappointed that the overall impression given by the funeral was that it doesn’t really matter if a Catholic politician ardently supports abortion.

Who is speaking up for the millions of innocents who have been slaughtered and continue to die every day?
While Ted Kennedy had a magnificent funeral, these innocent children are thrown into dumpsters. And no one weeps.

Anonymous said...

from scotch meg

Sister, you hit the nail on the head. But I think there's no chance your voice will be heard.

Red Cardigan said...

Sister Lorraine, beautiful. I hope that our Church leaders will soon begin to listen to the sort of wisdom you have expressed here.

Scott W. said...

Good and fair fisk. It criticized the Cardinal's words without taking personal shots at him. This is far better than the spew I've seen directed at bishop Martino recently.

Anonymous said...

One might attempt a potshot at parsing the Pope's latest Pontifications, but it is too beautiful and meaningful to desecrate, truly a lesson and gift from God.

Red Cardigan said...

Anonymous, why on earth would one want to do any such thing?

thomas tucker said...

I think the Cardinal's post was persuasive and well-thought out. I think we shoudl act in love- soemtimes that means "tough love" as well, but not at a funeral. The funeral is for the deceased person's soul. We can argue about their conduct and failings in more appopriate venues.

Rick said...

So, what is the good cardinal saying?
It's ok to spend your career advancing the murder of 50 million people then at the end you're still a hero? Consequently, we can go on and let sin happen and commit it ourselves because if someone who is responsible for the deaths of 50 million can receive accolades from a prince of the Church, how much more for us who have not harmed a soul or even try to defend the unborn. IMHO this is scandalous and a perversion of the Church's teaching & discipline.

I can understand why the POTUS would cheer on the most pro-abortion legislator; he wants to keep the morale of the other Catholic politicians. And there's 10 times more killing to do after the healthcare package for abortion passes. The POTUS needs to reassure anyone supporting abortion that they will sail into a happy place after dying.

The cardinal & the POTUS do not really have the keys to heaven. So, they can say all they like just like that what the Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massacusetts said i.e. "Abortion is a blessing." but it won't really amount to a warm bucket of spit.

There is a real chance that Ted Kennedy is damned in hell for all eternity. Cf.

That is more consistent with divine retribution and justice.

thomas tucker said...

Rick- you are setting up a straw man argument. The cardinal did not do what you said he did- he did not call Kennedy a hero or provide him with accolades,etc.
He did nothing of the sort.
He participated in his funeral.
I hope a priest will participate in yours even, though you are also a sinner.

Red Cardigan said...

Thomas, I do think Kennedy should have had a Catholic funeral and I have no problem with the Cardinal's participation in the abstract. I have a problem with the many ways in which the funeral became an unseemly display of "instant canonization" for the late Senator while his lifelong advocacy for the murder of the unborn went without mention; I also thought that allowing the Prayer of the Faithful to become a selection of political talking-points utterly disgraceful. I wish the Cardinal would have participated *more* in the funeral, and kept it a quiet, deeply penitential, and mournful affair instead of the "celebration" it was.

thomas tucker said...

Red- I agree with you about the over-politicization of the funeral. In fact, I could not agree with you more. But I basically blame the Kennedys and/or the MC for that, not the Cardinal.

LarryD said...

thomas - it's O'Malley's archdiocese. He ought to be the one calling the shots, especially in a high-profile funeral such as this.

Thomas Tucker said...

Larry - you know, or should know, that
it's not that simple. In this day and age,
the Cardinal may lay down the law, and
people feel free to ignore it.

Kim said...

Great post, Erin; I absolutely agree with your point of view.

You might like this article about Ted Kennedy and God's mercy, from our wise and wonderful Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin:

Todd said...

"How much time in Purgatory can I expect ...?"

You know none of us have the answer to that.

I think the fisk is an adolescent medium, a false one-sided conversation that can mean whatever the fisker wants it to mean. Did you write to the cardinal directly, or did you write to your readers?

Let's be clear about this style of writing: you and the cardinal did not share a conversation; this is an exercise in fantasy.

More to the point, is there room for prudential judgment for a person who is at least four places removed from an abortion? Or is it too much that a man would show mercy to another man who supported laws that would not criminalize what a third person did to assist a fourth person in aborting her child? As to your original insinuation wondering if one can sin for a good cause, how do you measure your words against CCC 2478?

Red Cardigan said...

Maybe you ought to address your remarks to Fr. Z, Todd; he fisks a lot more (and a lot more skillfully) than I do.

But my goodness, by your calculations poor old Ted Kennedy was four degrees removed from the abortions his laws helped arrange and pay for. Whew! Like the pimp who merely takes the money for the girl the madam is sending to the john, he's clearly not morally involved at all, then.

Straining at gnats, swallowing camels....

Todd said...

Erin, I have no interest in hacking into Fr Z's closed combox. Yours was open.

Is the point of your purgatory query Senator Kennedy or Cardinal O'Malley? I assumed it was the latter.

Red Cardigan said...

Actually, Todd, the "purgatory query" was a joke. I would not fisk a Cardinal if doing so were a sin. I opened the post that way because I thought it would make people smile.

I'm glad to see you so worried for a fellow Catholic, though. It warms my heart to see that you're seriously concerned about whether I thought something was sinful and did it anyway. I only wish you applied that same concern to those Catholics who support abortion, given that they won't be able to plead invincible ignorance of the Church's teachings on the value of human life and against abortion, which are quite clear and accessible to all Catholics.

Scott W. said...

I suppose we could play Is-the-"fisk"-an-adolescent-medium? all day. Or, crazy thought, one could actually interact with it and use real argumentation. After all, if it truly is childish, then it should be small matter to demolish the content.

Todd said...

I thought the Cardinal explained himself well, and I interpreted him as the main target of your post. You didn't, after all, fisk any of the Senator's public documents. I would be more sympathetic to your criticism there.

As it stands, you have dodged my critique of your post. I questioned your fisking of a person who is an avowed pro-lifer, a bishop who has otherwise taken some difficult stands.

If you want to discuss the late Senator, I will probably refrain from posting, as you and I may be more in agreement on criticizing him.

As for Scott's suggestion, here's the main reason why I think fisking is adolescent: it's lazy. If you have a viewpoint, be an adult and write your own essay. Make your point and argue it well. It will take more time, and less use of the ctrl-C and V functions. Original thought is more creative and interesting than the use of colored type and bold-face print. Link the argument, sure. Research and provide footnotes, if you really want to impress. But take your own stand and avoid building on someone else's. I'd say that to the self-styled experts in fiskology as well.

Red Cardigan said...

Todd, I've written over a thousand blog posts here, and a few hundred over at Crunchy Cons when I've subbed for Rod over there. I've written fewer than ten fisks (probably fewer than five, but I'm too--ahem--lazy to scroll back through all my archived posts here and there to see).

Why did I fisk what Cardinal O'Malley wrote? Because it is what he left unsaid, what EVERYBODY involved in this funeral left unsaid, that is important.

Nobody said, "You can't be a Catholic in good standing and support, work for, encourage, and stand for abortion on demand the way that Ted Kennedy did during his life." That needed to be said, and it wasn't.

It still needs to be said, and it isn't being said. More and more, pro-life Catholics in America are coming to the disheartening realization that for far too many of our church leaders in this country, opposition to abortion stays in some sort of pure, theoretical, abstract realm, and never even rises to the sort of thing that ought to be preached about more than one Sunday a year (if that), let alone opposed by a firm statement upon the death of someone as rabidly in favor of the murder of the unborn as Ted Kennedy that, after all, perhaps he wasn't such a model Catholic worthy of all our emulation as the funeral would lead the average person to believe.

Your advice to me to "be an adult and write my own essays" and to research and provide footnotes is somewhat interesting. Is that what you do over at Catholic Sensibility? Do you expect that level of scholarly writing from, say, the folks at Vox Nova? Or are you more interested in holding your opponents to a literary and scholarship standard from which you excuse yourself and your friends?

Todd said...

Thanks for responding, Erin. You wrote, "It still needs to be said, and it isn't being said."

I hear all sorts of variations on what you think isn't being said. It comes from some, but not all bishops. It comes from some, but not all pro-lifers.

It seems to me that "disheartened pro-life Catholics" want not only their hero-bishops to speak out the way they want to hear it, but they want them all to say it.

Once we get past the non-negotiables of moral issues and tenets of faith, not every good bishop or good Catholic is in perfect alignment with you or with "disheartened" Catholics. Cardinal O'Malley suggests a different tack. He's caught a lot of flak for it, and the arguments against him border on the vicious when they're not simply uncharitable.

As for my own writing, I'm not at all sure what you're getting at. I hold myself to a high standard. My blog partner is higher. I do what I suggested you do: I link and I try to compose an original thought of agreement or criticism, or sometimes both. I don't cherrypick through church documents; I offer them whole, gems, warts, and all. I don't invent an imaginary conversation, then print my fantasy. I try to respect my adversary enough not to put words in her or his mouth. I hope I've improved over the past eleven years.

I've read your writing at CC and here. Frankly, I don't know why you bother to imitate Fr Z or Dale Price. You're a better writer than either one of them. On that note, I'll finish up and let you and others take the last words.

Rick said...

The presence of a cardinal, a high-profile official of the Church is not commensurate or befitting someone who was responsible for the murder of 50 million innocent souls. Hence, there is the stench of politics and compromise. The Pope was silent about this although the pro-aborts want to make something out of his response. So, that is much better.

Bottom line, the cardinal's presence was not consistent with Church discipline. He could have sent an associate priest and still have the pastoral responsibility covered and leave the rest to the mercy of God. Instead, he continues to send a message albeit by perception that one can support abortion and still have a cardinal at your funeral. I think the pro-abortion politicians will burn in hell even if the entire college of cardinals were there. But, a stricter discipline might help wake up the other pro-aborts before they too suffer the same damnation.

Scott W. said...

A fisk can be lazy if it is just based on snark. But it is perfectly acceptable when one wants to go point-by-point and be complete as RC pointed out. See, if I don't do point-by-point, I get accused of "cherry picking" or quoting out of context. If I fisk, now it seems it's lazy and childish. Frankly, I think whining about the format belongs in the same catagory as name-calling ("fascist", "hippy", "homophobe", etc., emotional blackmail ("uncharitable", "mean-spirited"), and red herrings: all indicators that the complainer is out of ammo and is simply desperately looking for any brickbat to hurl.

Mick said...

Excellent fisk, Erin. I, too, found the Cardinal's response lacking.

Sometimes I wonder if our church leaders really don't think abortion is THAT important. At least not important enough to warrant being impolite or angry about it. Isn't there any urgency? Isn't there any justification for righteous anger?

I practically grew up in the pro-life movement, so maybe my perspective is out of whack, but I see abortion as a grave human rights violation that our government (and leaders like Kennedy) has supported for almost 40 years. Wait, that's putting it lightly. It's government protected mass murder.

Cardinal Sean's tone makes me think he doesn't see it like that.

Maybe my perspactive is warped. But I don't think it is.

thomas tucker said...

Rick- I think I am beginning to come aorund to your position. I think perhpas the presenc of the Caridnal does send a signal. After all, how many people in the Ocmmonwealth of Massachuseets had funerals that day, and how many of them were blessed with the presence of the Cardinal? So,politics does seem to be playing a role here, and I think now the Cardinal has set up a straw man argument- the choice was not between a funeral with a Cardianl present versus no funeral at all.

Scott W. said...

Uncle Di does some nice slice-n'-dice here:

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, assures us that we should not be disturbed by the funeral of Ted Kennedy, especially because the ceremony was so "subdued." Honest.

"The only aspects of the Funeral Rites which were not low key were those on the guest-list, where family preferences are generally granted."

Sure. Most "low key" funerals are nationally televised, and a cardinal-archbishop or two routinely presides when anyone is buried. Yo-yo Ma frequently performs at funerals for Catholic bricklayers and housewives in Roxbury (hey, he lives just across town!); Susan Graham and Placido Domingo are fixtures at the Mission Church.

Now if you wanted a fancy funeral, you'd have a half-dozen cardinals presiding, with the Boston Symphony playing Beethoven's 9th as an Offertory meditation, Bono singing Panis Angelicus, and the Notre Dame marching band leading the recessional.

thomas tucker said...

btw, sorry about all the misspellings in my previous comment. I'm not really dyslexic but don't type well, and didn't proofread my comment .
Red, I think I do agree with you. The Senator deserved a funeral,but if he wanted a church funeral, perhpas it should have been a small private funeral without all the glitz, given his very public stands against Church teaching.