Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy, died today at the age of 88. The Knights of Columbus praised her as the founder of the Special Olympics, while pro-life leaders remembered her stand as a prominent Democrat who objected to the party’s increasing support for abortion.
"No one more than Eunice Kennedy Shriver understood better the power held by the most vulnerable in our society,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. “She fought for those hidden in the shadows of life, while acknowledging that they teach us far more than we could ever offer them. She was consistent in her championing of every vulnerable human life.”
According to the Susan B. Anthony List, Eunice and her husband, former Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, joined Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, Sr. and many other influential pro-life leaders in signing a full-page New York Times ad protesting the Democratic Party’s embrace of abortion politics.
The July 1992 ad, titled “The New American Compact,” denounced abortion as a drastic reversal of American progress towards liberty and justice for all. It declared the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade to be “the most momentous act of exclusion in our history” which deprived every unborn human being of the “most fundamental” human right to life.
The ad also called for support for policies that help both mother and child, concluding:
"We can choose to reaffirm our respect for human life. We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn. We can choose to provide effective care of mothers and children. And if we make those choices, America will experience a new birth of freedom, bringing with it a renewed spirit of community, compassion, and caring."
Jane Abraham, General Chairman of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Mrs. Shriver and her “heart for the most vulnerable” will be “deeply missed.”
“She fought for the dignity inherent in every human life, born and unborn. Her legacy will serve as a life-affirming example to young women everywhere, and for that we are so blessed,” Abraham added.
Mrs. Shriver was an early supporter of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. She and her husband also supported Democrats for Life of America and Feminists for Life.
Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl A. Anderson said that Knights of Columbus everywhere mourn the passing of Mrs. Shriver.
“While she made many contributions to society throughout her life, her greatest legacy is the creation of Special Olympics. Our involvement in, and support of, Special Olympics began 40 years ago, on the day that she and her husband, our brother Knight Sargent Shriver, held the first Special Olympics games in Chicago.”
Mrs. Shriver became an advocate on behalf of the disabled in part because of her developmentally disabled sister, Rosemary, the Associated Press reports. Rosemary was given a lobotomy at the age of 23 and spent most of her life in institutional care.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s personal dedication to the intellectually disabled inspired generations of Knights and their families to volunteer their time to her “unique approach” to affirm the “fundamental dignity of every person,” Anderson added.
"Her approach to this and all of the causes that she pursued was distinctively Catholic, and the depth of her faith, which she shared with her husband throughout their lives together, has been an inspiration to every Knight. We express our heartfelt condolences to Sargent Shriver and the entire Shriver family."
In an August 10 letter sent prior to Mrs. Shriver’s death, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, conveyed to her family “the warm greetings and paternal affection” of Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop Sambi said the Pontiff united himself spiritually with each of her family members and prayed that God will grant Mrs. Shriver, a woman of “ardent faith and generous public service,” the reward of her many labors, particularly on behalf of the physically and mentally challenged.