Rev. Patrick Tarrant of Our lady of Victory Church, priest to the Kennedy clan, discussed with TheBostonChannel.com the role faith played in the final days and moments of Senator Edward M. “Teddy” Kennedy’s life.
“The truth is,” Fr. Tarrant said, who was called to the compound shortly before Kennedy passed, “he had expressed to his family that he did want to go. He did want to go to heaven. He did want to die…
"I think the whole world knows certain parts very well, but I think there's another part of his life that very few people know, and that's his deep faith. His very deep faith in God and his love for his family" Tarrant said.
Recalling how Kennedy, the fierce political crusader, led the family in prayer at the death of his sister Eunice, Fr. Tarrant remarked "He was there and very reverent. I wish the world had known that part of him, but that was his secret. It was like it was the secret of his power, to be involved in doing good for others and it was what, I believe, drove him."
Kennedy’s passing has been marked by condolences from friends on both sides of the aisle.
While we didn't see eye to eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service," said President George H.W. Bush.
Respect for the man and his service, combined with a disagreement on some critical issues, was a tone struck by many in the Catholic community as well.
"His deep and personal commitment to causes affecting the poor and needy among us flowed from his deep Catholic faith, and the life and outreach of Jesus Christ," said Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles in an interview with CNS, who joined forces with Kennedy on immigration reform.
"Over the years, however, I was never able to bring him to promote fundamental rights for one important group in our society -- the unborn."
And the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano offered a similar assessment: “Edward Kennedy was constantly in the front lines of battles such as those for protection of immigrants, arms control and a minimum wage for the less well-off. But unfortunately he also took positions favorable to abortion."
His support for stem cell research and gay marriage also put him at odds with Church teaching.
In as much the abortion issue complicates how one views Senator Kennedy’s Catholicism, the issue continues to complicate the passage of the health care legislation he was so adamant in his final months to see passed; and as the crucial 60th vote, his passing puts the future of the bill in question.
As the Wall St. Journal reports, “Most versions of the Democratic health plan would create subsidies for lower-income people to buy private health insurance. If that insurance includes coverage for abortion, as many existing private plans do, it effectively means federal taxpayers are subsidizing abortion, critics of the legislation argue. While it gets less attention than some other parts of the plan, abortion has often been raised by critics at town-hall meetings during the August congressional recess.”
This debate combines with a controversy of how Senator Kennedy’s seat will be filled. The senator, shortly before his passing, had pushed for a change in Massachusetts law to allow for Governor Patrick to make a temporary appointment, when in fact Democrats had pushed for the opposite policy under Governor Mitt Romney.
As the New York Times reports, “Republicans have attacked Mr. Kennedy’s proposal as flagrantly partisan, and indeed, the state’s Democrats are in the awkward position of being asked to reverse their own 2004 vote to keep vacant Senate seats empty until a special election.”
The article continues, “Until that year, Massachusetts law had called for the governor to appoint a temporary replacement if a Senate seat became vacant. But when Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, was running for president in 2004, the Democratically-controlled State Legislature wanted to deny the Republican governor at the time, Mitt Romney, the power to name a successor if Mr. Kerry won. The resulting law requires a special election 145 to 160 days after the vacancy occurs.”
Joseph Kennedy, the senator’s nephew, is already being mentioned as possible successor to the seat held by “Teddy” for so many decades.
Paul Ciarcia, Communications Associate