America writer attacks critics of Sen. Kennedy: don’t mention his abortion record

In the lefty Jesuit weekly, something called America, there is a strong attack on, well, pretty much anyone who didn’t think that late Sen. Kennedy was just the bees knees.  Singled out for a pouring of the choicest liberal acid is our friend Patrick Madrid.

Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.

The Boors Who Demean Ted Kennedy
Posted at: 2009-08-27 08:18:22.0
Author: [Someone named…] Michael Sean Winters

My father is a very calm, imperturbable man. We speak just about every morning and his voice only rises when reporting that the Red Sox lost to the Yankees. [A man after my own heart.]  He rarely calls in the evening but he did so last night. He had gone to Mass at St. Joseph’s Living Center, in Windham, Connecticut, the nursing home where my mother died two years ago and where his sister is a patient. The deacon preached the homily and, according to my father, had spoken ill of Sen. Ted Kennedy because he was not pro-life[Just to be clear, for a prominent Catholic figure, not being pro-life is a serious matter, right?  Let’s go on.]

The news report of Kennedy’s death at the Catholic News Agency included this qualifying phrase: "though he worked hard for the poor" and mentioned his "dedication to education." The article managed four sentences on Chappaquiddick and an extensive account of his pro-choice voting record. (It also misspelled, three times, the name of Washington’s archbishop who is the Most. Rev. Donald Wuerl, not Donald Wurel.) The Catholic News Agency, alas, is not really a news agency like Catholic News Service. It is an ideological rant pretending to be a news agency.  [CNS isn’t also ideologically bent?  BTW… an organization can’t be "a rant".]

Someone named Patrick Madrid, [Excuse me, but if you are pretending to be a Catholic writer, you at least should know who Patrick Madrid is, even if you don’t chose to follow any of his work.  Winter’s comment reveals the sort of blinkers worn most liberals: they have a visor only on the right side.  Only their own kind are worthy of notice.] who runs a blog and is involved with something called the Envoy Institute at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina, decided to attack my colleague at NCR Sister Maureen Fiedler for her post remembering the late Senator. "Maureen, with all due respect," he begins, words that reek of condescension.  [Why assume Madrid didn’t mean that?] He writes: "Whatever his positive qualities may have been, and no doubt he had some, the tragic reality is that Senator Kennedy’s long political career was squandered by his vociferous, relentless promotion of abortion. [Well.. that is true.  Isn’t it?] And that, sadly, will be his enduring legacy. I agree with you that tears are appropriate upon hearing the news of this man’s death, but not for the reasons you are crying them." I have my moments of hubris but it has never occurred to me to tell another soul why and why not to cry, still less in a blog post.  [Ironic, this falling on the feast of St. Monica… but I digress.]

Who are these people[As I said before.  Liberals think that only their own kind, their own views are worthy of notice.  Everyone else is just a kook, the fringe.] To what level of boorishness have the spokespeople for the pro-life community descended? [If he asks this question, is he saying that he does not belong to the pro-life community?] And, it is any wonder we ["we"?] keep losing the political fight for life when some of our own exercise such obvious, callous, inhumane indecency as to ignore a lifetime of good works, [ummm… those good things can be recognized, but does that mean we turn a blind… or blinkered eye… from the harm that he caused for decades on the issue of life itself, at a national level?] render judgment not just on a man’s ideas but on his soul, and to speak ill of the dead when the body is still warm. [Wait a moment.  I don’t think that Patrick Madrid said anything about the state of the late Senator’s soul, which we simply cannot know.  He said that to cry over him was not appropriate.  Or did I miss something?  Madrid wrote: "I agree with you that tears are appropriate upon hearing the news of this man’s death, but not for the reasons you are crying them."] It is shameful. And, [Now comes the true aim of this philippic. It looks like he wants the American bishops to be silent about pro-abortion Catholic politicians.] I hope the bishops recognize that it is counter-productive to the pro-life goals we should share. Hatefulness is not attractive or persuasive. [And criticism is "hateful".]

To say that Sen. Kennedy was flawed is to say that he was a human being. [Okay… Errare est humanum.  But what, Mr. Winters, is the rest of that quote?  "…sed perseverare est diabolicum".  Sen. Kennedy persisted in his error, and his publicly scandalous support of abortion, despite the clear teaching of the Church in which he professed membership.] To dismiss his career because of his stance on abortion is to be ignorant of the complicated way the issue of abortion manifested itself in the early 1970s: [Huh?  Did Catholics not know that abortion was evil in the 70’s?  The Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et spes reinterated that fact in the strongest language.  Paul VI had issued Humanae vitae.  Perhaps the only people for whom this was "complicated" were the likes of the late Fr. Robert Drinan, SJ, and others who provided the arguments pro-abortion Catholics would lean on so as to dodge the truth of Catholic teaching in their public actions.]  I think Kennedy got it wrong [Thank heavens for that!] but I do not find it difficult to understand why and how he got it wrong. [Really?] If the pro-life leaders would stop ranting for a second and study that history [Liberals think conservatives are stupid.  Only they have the true and clear perspective.] they might become more effective at advancing their cause. Besides, Ted Kennedy got many more things right than he got wrong.  [Riiiight.  That one thing outweighs the others.  People can freely and with good conscience disagree and argue about the best ways to help the poor, improve public health, intervene in foreign lands, spend tax money, etc.  The sanctity of life from conception is not one of those things which Catholics may set aside.]

Yesterday, watching the news shows, it was especially moving to see Kennedy’s political foes, conservatives like Sen. Orrin Hatch, come on and praise their former colleague. Kennedy maintained such friendships, which had their political usefulness, because of his heartfelt, contagious, infectious Catholic humanity, because he did not keep score, because he was quick to forgive, because he did not take himself too seriously, and because he saw that the promise of American democracy was greater than its failures. [All admirable qualities.] These loudmouths from the right should study his behavior and emulate, not castigate him. As I watched Sen. Hatch recall his memories of Ted Kennedy, I cried. I suppose Mr. Patrick Madrid will tell me I cried for the wrong reason. I don’t think so.

There is an old adage: de mortuis niihil nisi bonum

I subscribe to this.  I will not make any firm judgment about the state of the late Senator’s soul.  In the course of a career of decades in the Senate, Edward Kennedy unquestionably made his positive contributions.   But as his mortal remains are laid to rest, we cannot simply ignore what was a keystone of his political life: Senator Kennedy was a famous defender of abortion rights, more famous for his stance precisely because he was Catholic.

Sen. Kennedy will be exalted by Catholic liberals precisely because he was a liberal.  May will lionize him because he was a Democrat.  All of them will seek to diminish his record on abortion. 

What the writer of this piece did, however, is use this opportunity to argue that the bishops should not speak out forcefully or act in the case of pro-abortion politicians.  "I hope the bishops recognize that it is counter-productive to the pro-life goals we should share."

This is why we must not allow the left simply to set aside Sen. Kennedy’s pro-abortion record even as we readily acknowledge his achievements and, in charity, pray for the repose of his soul and God’s forgiveness for his failings.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. 4mercy says:

    It is unfortunate that the author of this piece was not as charitable to Patrick Madrid and PM was to Ted Kennedy. We can be charitable and respectful of the dead without lying about them. There is no way to remember Sen. Kennedy without mentioning his stance on abortion – he himself made that the case. He was not neutral on abortion, he was close to rabid in his support of it. All the good in the world can not balance out his aggressive promotion of the taking of innocent lives.

    With all of my heart I hope that he repented and I pray for his soul out of love for a brother in Christ.

  2. 4mercy says:

    oops! I meant to type “as Patrick Madrid was to Ted Kennedy”

  3. Chrysologus says:

    Patrick Madrid’s comments do seem reasonable and accurate, and it seems probable that, given the tone of her piece and the publication she writes for, Sr. Fiedler’s reference to Kennedy’s defense of “women’s rights” includes the so-called right to abortion. I don’t understand why Sean Michael Winters took Madrid’s comment so poorly, though I can see how the final line about tears might’ve been seen as arrogant.

  4. Supertradmom says:

    Thanks for your good comments here, Father Z. I am glad for the few sensible reviews in the midst of the adulation….which is painfully politically correct.

  5. a catechist says:

    God bless the unnamed deacon in CT for calling a spade a spade from the ambo. We need honest preaching from all our clergy.

  6. Dr. Eric says:

    I think the writer of the article has his head in the sand or up- being a Christian I can’t finish the sentence. Patrick Madrid is much more well known throughout the world than the writer of the piece or the nun whom he tried to defend. His books sell like hotcakes and he speaks all around the world. I am not particularly over enthused of his answers when I call EWTN or Catholic Answers as they all entail “You can get a copy of my book…” but he does the Church a great service with his multimedia ventures.

  7. Dr. Eric says:

    That should have been “over enthused WITH his answers” -I need to go back to high school English.

  8. Cavaliere says:

    Here is part of a novena prayer to St. John the Baptist taken from the Raccolta for the upcoming feast of his martyrdom on Aug. 29th.

    O martyr invincible, who, for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, didst with firmness and constancy withstand the impiety of Herod even at the cost of thine own life, and didst rebuke him openly for his wicked and dissolute life; by thy prayers obtain for us a heart, brave and generous, in order that we may overcome all human respect and openly profess our faith in loyal obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ, our Divine Master.

    What would the writers over at NCR or America have said about St. John for this? After all Herod was a builder like his father and even invited the poor and immigrants to inhabit the cities he built. Surely because of this John could have overlooked Herod’s adultery. Morevover Herod wasn’t a follower of our Religion and we can’t impose our beliefs on others, right? Besides if Herod had lived in America in our age he could have simply asked for an annulment, arguing like Sen. Kennedy, “that his marriage vow to be faithful had not been honestly made.”

  9. priest up north says:

    Not directly related to this article, but in the bigger picture of this whole incident of Senator Ted Kennedy’s death:

    I wince at the thought (and my prediction) that come Saturday, whether it is the homilist or President O., that they will “judge” him to this effect: Now he is in heaven.

    Pardon me, but when we are instructed not to judge(period), or is it suddenly all right to judge if we say “good things” about a person and ignore the bad? This whining of those who say we should not be acknowledging his pro-abortion record is terribly hypocritical: for they will be the first to “judge” him and say that he has now gone home. Let us all pray for the repose of his soul. Eternal rest grant onto him O Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen

  10. Greg Smisek says:

    How kind of Mr. Winters to provide such an excellent example of sophisty (ad hominem, straw man, red herring, non sequitur, etc.) for the upcoming Logic, Philosophy, Communication, and Journalism courses.

  11. LuisFernando says:

    Ecc 10:1
    Dying flies spoil the sweetness of the ointment. Wisdom and glory is more precious than a small and shortlived folly.

    Change “flies” for “unborn children” and “shortlived folly” for “`longlived´ crime”, and you get the right picture for the Ted Kennedy´s discussion.

    PD: I´m from Spain and my english is not the very best you can read, so if you find big mistakes on my comments… sorry.

  12. PS says:

    OK, as a long-time reader of both MSW’s blog and yours, Father, I can attest to a couple things:

    He is indeed guilty of wearing “liberal blinders.” (And no disrespect Father, but I have sometimes felt the same thing about you, though the blinders would be pointing you in the opposite direction as Winters’.)

    That said, he does a pretty good job of drawing lines in the sand on basic Catholic issues in ways that many liberal Catholic public figures do not when it comes to the liberal side of an issue (the following is a good example):

  13. thereseb says:

    I look forward to the same non-judgmental attitude in Democratic journalistic circles when George W Bush goes to meet his Maker, with non of his inconsistencies or failings dwelt upon……

  14. thereseb says:

    Dr Eric – how can you possibly say this about the author Michael Sean Winters?
    ” Patrick Madrid is much more well known throughout the world than the writer of the piece ..”

    Why, last year George Weigel, in the National Review Online announced the following exciting honour in prospect for him:

    “By combining low-grade sourcing, a faux-authoritative voice, and leftist political spin in equally impressive measures, Michael Sean Winters and the editors of the Washington Post’s “Outlook” section have won the pole position in this year’s chase for the coveted Father Richard McBrien Prize in Really Inept Vaticanology (named for the Notre Dame theologian who memorably announced that Joseph Ratzinger couldn’t possibly be elected pope, less than 24 hours before Ratzinger was elected). ”

    And where stands Mr Madrid, in the race for the Fr McBrien Prize?

  15. Thereseb, I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected :)

  16. ssoldie says:

    No one said anything about his soul, but actions speak louder then words, one can definitly judge on one’s action’s.

  17. TJM says:

    Patrick Madrid, congratulations for your firm stand. Many of Ted Kennedy’s actions, if you read the late Michael Kelley’s account years back, were often evil, particularly with regard to how he treated women. If he were a Republican he would have been driven and hounded from office by the Democratic auxiliary, the mainstream media. Tom

  18. AndyMo says:

    Borrowing from Mark Shea, I submit that Ted Kennedy will be remembered for all the good in politics in the same way that Pontius Pilate is. Pilate was a great governor who rose to power doing great things for the people. Naturally, he is only remembered for the most important issue in his life: the crucifixion of Jesus.

    A lifetime of good works does not make up for the single most important area where Kennedy got it wrong: the millions of lives of unborn children.

    Do I know the state of his soul? No, and I pray that he and I both find mercy before God. But considering he died on the day when our Gospel spoke of whitewashed sepulchers, let’s not lie about his life, either.

  19. Cy says:

    Poor Mr. Kennedy. We must pray for him. We can hope that he made a full and frank confession on his deathbed, where there was a priest.

    He had been avoiding death his whole life. I think the Chappaquidick incident initiated his pathological support for abortion, as if he spent his life convincing himself (and blotting his conscience out with alcohol) that killing is not killing. He spent his life in a penumbra of denial.

    Finally, regarding this “Jesuit” magazine it ought to be re-titled “Americanism” rather than America in keeping with our Holy Father Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical teaching of a century ago.

  20. tour86rocker says:

    Fr Z you’re right, it’s stupefying to think that they’re presenting Patrick Madrid as some “unknown” character. Can we at least admit though, that Madrid could have phrased himself better?

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