I have received a great deal of feedback by e-mail from readers concerning my comments on the funeral of the late Edward Kennedy, pro-abortion Catholic Senator.
Most of the feedback was what you might expect: we should celebrate Kennedy’s life, you people are so mean, how dare you criticize, you are just a mean stupid Republican, blah blah blah.
However, there are been some very thoughtful comments as well. Here is one, from a parish priest, with my emphases and comments.
Dear Fr Z,
Thank you for your blog which I have found to be very informative. As a diocesan priest I would like to make a comment about the Funeral for Ted Kennedy.
I think that is was completely proper and canonically correct to offer Holy Mass for the repose of his soul. [This next comment is hard to deny...] If the Catholic leaders did not discipline him during his lifetime it would have been a very cheap shot to do it after his death. We pray for all the faithful departed. He was a national figure and so the Funeral was televised. As I said I see no problem with this. [Well... I still do. But I see his point.]
My problem is that it was not a Catholic Funeral. This was not a Funeral. It did not follow the Novus Ordo. The whole "celebration" was focused on Ted Kennedy and what a great man he was. It [This is important...] seemed that he was not in need of salvation, forgiveness, mercy, grace, etc. That would not have been proper if he were had been Mother Teresa herself. Catholic Funerals are not about the person’s past achievements. Since Holy Mass is part of it, first of all, the Funeral is about worship of God. Secondly, it is a profession of our Catholic Faith. [And this is why I still have a problem with the public nature of the funeral: the Senator's record concerning abortion.] Thirdly, Holy Mass is offered for the repose of the deceased immortal soul and asking God’s mercy on him. Fourthly, we pray for the consolation of those who mourn. Ted Kennedy’s Funeral did not even follow even the guidelines of the Archdioceise of Boston. [That is a problem, isn't it.] It was badly planned and poorly carried out.
It was poorly planned because whoever directed the planning had no idea of what a Catholic Funeral is about. Readings are not chosen to highlight the deceased achievements nor because they were his/her favorite’s passages. [If I recall, the first reading was a standard selection, but the responsorial psalm and Gospel resounded with irony.] They are chosen to speak to us of the teachings of the Word of God regarding the mystery of death, forgiveness, and eternal life. They are chosen to give hope that God’ mercy which is undeserved for any of us, may be given to this deceased person. The Prayers of the Faithful are a time to pray for all these intentions not to push agendas. [Those "intercessions" were perhaps the worse part of the whole thing.] Eulogies are not allowed. A simple short reflection by a family member may be given before the Final Commendation which I personal wished had never been permitted. The place for all of this is some Memorial at another time and another place than a church.
The Liturgy was very poorly executed. You could hear the directions being given over the open microphones. ("where is the pall?" etc.)
This was not a Catholic Funeral.
Worst of all from a parish priest’s perspective is that now that millions have seen this, this is the type of Funeral they want. [Remember that the Code of Canon Law says that we should not have a public funeral if there is danger of scandal. I think it was entirely possible that this funeral did just that... in more than one respect.] It because impossible to say no as it is a difficult time for the family and they say the Cardinal of Boston do this. It makes the parish priest look like he is being unreasonable [Exactly!] and not following the Church for his own agenda. I have been to too many Catholic Funerals where an important person has died, or a family member of a priest, or a religious has died, and the very people who will not allow this for their parishioners break every norm. (In my diocese for example, priests have the choir sing the "Gloria" at their parent’s Funeral because we are suppose to be joyful. [Or, God forbid, "Danny Boy", or similar.] Of course, the bishop and his Liturgical Director encourage this.)
I agreed with your question. When did we stop praying for the deceased at a funeral?
Perhaps when we gave up Black vestments and the Dies irae.
Didn’t Pius XII warn against the loss of black vestments?
Some past entries of relevance…
- The Exceptional Catholic
- Fr. Sirico: Sen. Kennedy and also cultural Catholics who “relinquish the substance of the faith if it gets in the way”
- America writer attacks critics of Sen. Kennedy: don’t mention his abortion record
- Comments in the press about Sen. Kennedy’s passing: the abortion issue does surface
- NCR’s Sr. Fiedler gushes over the death of the late pro-abortion Catholic Senator