So says Rev. Michael P. Orsi, a Research Fellow in Law and Religion at Ave Maria School of Law:
On Wednesday the Church further diminished her credibility when it was announced that a Mass of Christian Burial would be celebrated for Senator Edward M. Kennedy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica. It was also announced that President Barack Obama would be the eulogist.
A Mass of Christian Burial is a privilege — not a right. It is for those who have lived a Christian life. Senator Kennedy’s scandalous disregard of his Church’s teaching and the destruction of human life that may be attributed to his voting record make his funeral celebration quite dubious. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to evil… and that it takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it”(n. 2284-85). For such a person the Code of Canon Law says, “Church funeral rites are to be denied to the following (unless they gave some sign of repentance before death): manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral could not be granted without public scandal to the faithful” (c. 1184.3). How many Catholics have been led astray by Senator Kennedy and other prominent pro-choice Catholics? And, finally, how many other Catholic politicians will be emboldened to emulate his behavior because the honor the Church is extending to him?
Some will argue that the Church, by its very nature, always gives the benefit of the doubt to the sinner. Yet, even such an act of charity calls for a pastoral solution so as not to mislead others and cause greater harm. In this case, a subdued funeral service should be offered for the repose of Senator Kennedy’s soul. It should be made clear that, as it is the purpose of every Catholic funeral, the Mass is being celebrated to beg God’s mercy for the deceased. But, then even this solution would be meaningless when the nation’s most pro-choice president ever is permitted to eulogize his ideological soul mate in the Church’s sanctuary.