Reflections on the Kennedy Funeral Mass

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The Mass celebrated on August 29 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Roxbury, Mass. in memory of Senator Edward Moore Kennedy is rightly causing scandal among Catholics, who see it as a posthumous glorification of the deceased Massachusetts politician, as well as a resounding approval of his pro-abortion and pro-homosexual endeavors.1

Leaving aside the tumultuous life of the deceased, to pay homage to someone whose political action consistently opposed Catholic morals is a grave scandal, made even graver by the use of a liturgical ceremony for ideological and political ends.2

Senator Ted Kennedy

The Scandal of a Public Mass

There would not have been scandal if instead a private Mass reserved for the relatives of the deceased senator had been celebrated, all the more since he is said to have died assisted with Church sacraments. (Though there is no record of any public statement or gesture by the Senator before dying, in which he rejected his positions opposed to Catholic morals, or any request for forgiveness for having upheld those positions. Not even in his now-released letter to the Pope does he show repentance and ask forgiveness for his attitudes.)3

The scandal really is about the aspect of glorification that the ceremony took on with the presence of the incumbent President and three former Presidents, as well as the Archbishop of Boston, Sean Cardinal O’Malley, numerous clergy, countless politicians, family members and special guests.  In addition, the ceremony was televised for the whole world to see.4

Gravity of the Sin of Scandal

The sin of scandal is especially grave because of the evil it does to third parties, particularly the weak. The special gravity of the sin of scandal stems from its being the occasion for others to sin, often producing a loss of the faith and consequently causing the risk of eternal damnation.5

Objectively, the public Mass for the deceased Senator Edward Kennedy is a scandal that places at risk the faith of many and strengthens the enemies of the Church. It suggests that a Catholic can publicly and continuously oppose Catholic doctrine, favor and even support positions opposed to Church teachings, and still continue to be seen as a Catholic in good standing and even worse, to deserve funeral honors of a head of state.6

In extremely grave times when one sees throughout the world an onslaught to impose laws, customs and practices diametrically opposed to Catholic morals and the natural law (including same-sex “marriage,” abortion and euthanasia), it is extremely sad and grave for religious authorities to glorify a politician whose public life was marked by ignorance of, and even contempt for, the teachings of the Church.7

Requiem Mass…

While watching the TV broadcast of the Mass, I could not fail to remember other funeral Masses that I saw in times preceding the cycle of liturgical reforms of the sixties. A comparison can help the reader better understand what happened at the liturgy glorifying the deceased politician.

Back in those times, people still had a very lively notion of the solemnity of death, when the human soul separates from the body and appears before the judgment seat of God, “Who will render to every man according to his works” (Romans 2:6). Likewise, there was still a notion of the gravity of sin and the weakness of man, “for a just man shall fall seven times” (Prov. 24:16). Therefore, the need for divine mercy is clear: “If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?” (Ps. 130:3).

For this reason, the Requiem Mass or Missa pro defunctis (Latin for “Mass for the deceased”) was offered to God as a propitiatory sacrifice for the soul of the deceased, imploring God’s mercy upon him. The liturgy was grave and solemn; the vestments, as well as the cloth covering the coffin were black to symbolize the sorrow of separation and the humility of man, aware that he is a sinner. The ambience used to be one of serene sadness, recollection and prayer.

And the Church, through the voice of the priest, raised to God this supplication:

“Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.”

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them…”

…or Resurrection Mass?

The funeral mass for Senator Edward Kennedy was completely different.

First of all, according to the main celebrant, Fr. Donald Monan, S.J., it was not a Requiem Mass but a “Mass and resurrection, to commemorate the life of Senator Kennedy.”

A Mass “to commemorate the life of Senator Kennedy” could not fail to become a glorification of the deceased senator, not so distant from a canonization Mass.

At least that was the impression left on those who listened to the homily by Fr. Mark R. Hession, one of the concelebrants, who went so far as to compare the faith of the deceased senator with that of the prophets in the Old Testament: “Ted Kennedy was a public man, with a public faith. His strong suit was a central stream of biblical faith, expressed both in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.”

Then, he added: “His strong suit was the faith of the great Hebrew prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos.” Finally, Fr. Hession insisted: “His public faith was reinforced and nurtured in the Christian scriptures.”

A soul’s eternal destiny is a secret known to God alone. My ardent desire is for the senator to have died in God’s friendship and, after purging his faults, to be received in the eternal abode. However, to say that in his public life he bore witness to his faith and was guided by a faith worthy of the Prophets is to ignore notorious facts or, even more grave, to suggest that abortion, homosexual practice and stem cell research are compatible with Catholic doctrine, Revelation and natural law.

Now then, his resolute support for these practices is public and notorious.

A Liturgy Turned into Ideological Political Preaching

In the Prayer of the Faithful, younger members of the Kennedy family took turns at the ambo to read messages of a politico-ideological note to which the congregation would respond: “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Thus, supporting the insurance health-care reform proposed by President Obama, Max Allen (Kara Kennedy Allen’s son) recited:

“For what my grandpa called the cause of his life, as he said so often, in every part of this land, that every American will have decent quality health care, as a fundamental right, and not a privilege, we pray to the Lord.”Congregation: Lord, hear our prayer.”

Even graver was turning a Catholic Mass into a podium for the homosexual movement, as Jack Schlossberg, the son of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and grandnephew of the deceased Senator led in prayer:

“For a new season of hope that my uncle Teddy envisioned, where we rise to our best ideals, close the book on the old politics of race and gender, group against group and straight against gay. We pray to the lord.” “Congregation: Lord, hear our prayer.”

No Lack of Jokes and Laughter

Once the Mass was over, the funeral eulogies started. In the text transcribed from the ceremony this observation appears several times between parentheses: “LAUGHTER.” Indeed, the orators interspersed their speeches with jokes to entertain the assembly.

In addition to two sons of the deceased, President Obama spoke. In his speech, Obama praised the Senator’s endeavors on behalf of the poor. But as Kathleen Gilbert pointed out in her article on, “Obama also alluded to Kennedy’s support for ending the ban on open homosexuality in the military, noting his defense of ‘the young soldier denied her rights because of … whom she loves.’”

Cardinal O’Malley

Blessed by a Cardinal of Holy Church

Casting aside the austere Franciscan habit he usually wears, Cardinal O’Malley donned the garb of cardinal to lend prestige to the memory of the deceased senator. Before giving the corpse his last blessing, he stated:

“Mr. President, we thank you for your presence and for your words of appreciation for the life and work of Senator Kennedy. We’ve gathered here today to pray for a man who has been such an important part of our history and our country.”

Instead, for a Catholic – and a fortiori for a cardinal – “the life” and “work” of Senator Kennedy, his support of abortion, same-sex “marriage” and other aberrations should be the object of criticism rather than of “appreciation.”

Pro-abortion and Pro-homosexuality Organizations Join the Praise for Kennedy

Because of that support, several organizations that promote abortion and the homosexual agenda joined the chorus of praise to the deceased senator from Massachusetts.

Sen. Edward Kennedy’s Legacy:

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Andrea Miller, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts issued a joint statement paying tribute to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s legacy of  support for women’s equality and privacy… “by following his example of moving forward, even against great odds and relentless opposition from opponents of progress.”

Human Rights Campaign Statement on the Passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, released the following statement on Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s (D-MA):

“The nation has lost its greatest champion and strongest voice for justice, fairness, and compassion,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.   “The loss to our community is immeasurable.”7

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Communique

Incoming President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and former Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios issued the following statement on the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“It is impossible to fully describe the transformative impact of Ted Kennedy in the Senate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. From the outset, he valued our contributions and supported our equality.  In those early years, his support may have turned heads but didn’t dampen his support–and eventually helped change hearts and minds about LGBT equality in the Senate and around the country.”

De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum… But…

“Let nothing be said of the dead but what is good,” the old adage recalls. But this applies, with reservations, to people who live in the private sphere and whose actions and attitudes do not have great influence on public opinion and on the nation’s destiny.

This does not apply to public persons whose wrongdoings are known to all and who therefore should be properly critiqued lest they would influence public opinion in a bad direction and thus have an effect on the nation’s life.

At the same time as we pray for the repose of the soul of the late Senator Edward Moore Kennedy, we offer God reparation for the scandal caused by the funeral commemoration unduly held for him.


  1. Ted Kennedy’s letter to Pope Benedict XVI, and the papal reply,
    Sunday, August 30, 2009,:
  2. Cf. Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 43.
  3. All quotes from the funeral are taken from: “Transcript of Ted Kennedy’s Funeral Service,” August 29, 2009, By The Kennedy Family, in Real Clear Politics,, August 30, 2009.
  4. Cf. Kathleen Gilbert, ” Pro-Abort, Homosexual, Human Stem-Cell Groups Mourn Loss of “Greatest Champion” Kennedy — Pressure from Senator caused defeat of Massachusetts True Marriage Amendment,”,
  5. Kathleen Gilbert, Pro-Abortion Kennedy Lauded as “Champion for Those Who Had None” at Funeral Mass,, Monday August 31, 2009,

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