Ted Kennedy leaves mixed Catholic legacy

Ted Kennedy leaves mixed Catholic legacy

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy


Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) passed away last night at the age of 77 after a battle with brain cancer.  Kennedy, a Catholic, will be remembered for his service to the poor, and dedication to education but also his opposition to pro-life issues.

After a long struggle with brain cancer, last night Sen. Kennedy took a turn for the worse while at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.  Surrounded by his family members and a priest, Fr. Patrick Tarrant, he passed away around 11:30 p.m.

Fr. Tarrant told BostonChannel.com that Kennedy died while his family prayed.  “They'd been praying all day, and it was a wonderful experience for me. I don't see it that often," Tarrant said.

Kennedy, known as “Ted” was the younger brother of both U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Sen. (D-NY) Robert Kennedy who were both assassinated in the 1960s.  Their sister, Eunice Kennedy Schriver, who was lauded by the pro-life community died exactly two weeks ago at the age of 88. 

The family released a statement following his death saying, “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.” 

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston also emphasized Kennedy’s devotion to social work as well as his loving family who “stood by his side” as he “faced his illness with courage, dignity and strength.”

“For nearly half a century, Senator Kennedy was often a champion for the poor, the less fortunate and those seeking a better life.  Across Massachusetts and the nation, his legacy will be carried on through the lives of those he served,” the cardinal said in a statement. 
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. also offered his condolences to Kennedy’s family and emphasized the senator’s commitments to “alleviating poverty” as well as his strong support of the area’s Catholic schools. 

Wuerl recalled that for five years, the senator and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) organized a dinner to benefit the schools.  “As a result, thousands of disadvantaged children in the District of Columbia have had their lives transformed through a quality Catholic education."

Both Wuerl and O’Malley offered to pray for the repose of Kennedy’s soul and that his family may find strength in Christ.

Kennedy's political aspirations were curtailed by an incident in 1969, when he accidentally drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick island in Massachusetts.  While Kennedy was able to escape from the car, his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne could not free herself and drowned.

Kennedy did not report the accident until nearly nine hours later. 

With so many questions as to why he waited to contact the police as well as with his fragmented account of the incident, his aspirations for the U.S. presidency remained unfulfilled.

Kennedy was involved in other controversies.  As a Catholic, though he worked hard for the poor, he was criticized by bishops and pro-life leaders for supporting Roe v. Wade, the use of fetal tissue in experiments and for voting against a ban on partial-birth abortion.

Although he did not support legalized abortion early in his political career, he later earned a 100% NARAL Pro-Choice America rating.  In contrast, Kennedy was rated as voting 0% of the time on pro-life issues.

Sen. Ted Kennedy will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to his brothers John and Robert.