A postmortem on the postmortem of Ted Kennedy

Have we passed the mourning period for Ted Kennedy yet? Since his name now appears in the press less than Princess Di, I assume we have. I did not want to seem disrespectful at the moment of the Senator’s internment, and I thought I should wait to see if my reflections of the moment would prevail over time. They did, and I assume it is now safe to be disrespectful.

You see, there was a moment in time that I thought the Kennedy industry would set aside their usual pompous self importance and their habit of putting everything in their lives (and deaths) to some partisan political advantage. They presume that somehow their personal affairs (no pun intended) are of epic historic proportions. If their family constitutes an American dynasty it should be appropriately known as the Dysfunctional Dynasty.

I was hoping for some dignity in the latest Kennedy nationalized funeral. Now, I said “dignity” – not to be confused with pomposity and grandeur. In that, they are without peers. To be brutally blunt, the funeral and the reporting thereof, especially the left wing blogs, made me puke – well, figuratively.

The objectives of the Hyannis Port public relations machine were three-fold. First, was the effort to sanitize a history of debauchery and immorality that characterized the youngest of the Kennedy boys to a greater degree than his older siblings. No small task, to be sure. Second, to advance his legislative agenda. Third, to create the illusion of good standing with his Catholic Church.

I know one does not usually delineate shortcomings in obituaries – although the most dramatically flawed public figures often find their peccadilloes noted along side the accomplishments in the public press –especially if they are conservative or Republican.

However, the Kennedy obits, written and spoken, created an entirely fictional character. Listening to one speaker after another delineating the biography of Kennedy, the man, I was unable to find anything recognizable from my 45-years of observation of his public life (and a few personal involvements with him). Funereal protocol aside, I must say, there was not much to admire about the man other than his successful grasp of fame, fortune and power.

The second mission of the Hyannis Port public relations machine was to put as much steam behind the faltering healthcare legislation as possible. The funeral was less a wake than a lobbying event. “Single payer” and “public option” were as common an uttering as the more conventional “doesn’t he look good” and “he will be missed.”

Any hope of solemnity and dignity, evaporated in the crassly political content of the various memorial events. The Intercessions portion of the high Mass (in which God is called upon to bless specific pleadings) became a roll call of his liberal legislative agenda. Apparently, the Lion of the Senate was channeling his political roar through his own requiescat.

Obituary after obituary favorably referenced Kenney’s political causes, with an array of political guests advancing the illogical notion that Kennedy’s demise should, for some reason, end opposition to the liberal agenda – especially the current healthcare bill. Some suggested that they should pin Kennedy’s name on H.R. 3200 as if that, in and of itself, would de-putrefy the proposal.

Thirdly, there was the painfully obvious effort to turn the apostate into a devout Catholic. I do not think Mother Theresa could have been deemed a more faithful Catholic than the dead Kennedy based on the eulogies.

The low point was the letter to the Pope from the dying senator, carried to His Eminence by none other than President Barack Obama – perhaps the most powerful messenger angel ever so deployed. Keeping with the Democrats’ and the Kennedy’s propensity for the grand scale lie, Kennedy introduced the President to the Pope as a man of enormously deep faith.—who, incidentally, is still trying to figure out where to attend church in D.C.

The epistle to the Pope was nothing less than a pre-posthumous, self-serving stunt to make Kennedy appear to be a devout Catholic. It, too, contained Kennedy’s legislative agenda. The letter carried to the Pope served both the legislative and the canonization purposes.

However, the Holy Father was to smart to be suckered into a backhanded absolution of Kennedy’s Catholic failures. Teddy received a reply from a staffer that was more or less a boilerplate “thanks for your letter” response, with a promise of some prayers on the Senator’s behalf — much like the letter my wife’s grandmother received posthumously from the previous Vicar of Christ via a staffer.

The grandeur of the Catholic funeral would suggest the demise of one of the Knights of Malta. The praise of powerful clerics reinforced the image. Kennedy’s own priest/confidant gave an obituary that was so biased that even the press called it an attempt to refute any critics who might question Kennedy’s devotion to and good standing with the Church of Rome. Not only was Kennedy given the appearance of a general absolution for his apostasy, but it was alleged that his separation from the Catholic Church never occurred.

Despite the best efforts of the powerful Kennedy media mill, there were hints of the bad Catholic Kennedy. In a sly political move, the funeral was shifted from the likely Boston Cathedral to a lesser church so there would be an excuse for Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley to take a pass on officiating. He had been under considerable of pressure from pro-life Catholics to reject a high ritual canonization-style ceremony. At Arlington Cemetery, it was retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who did the honors.

Dealing with the letter from the Pope …er … not the Pope, the Kennedy media spinners began selling the notion that it is the tradition of the Pope to answer through underlings. Of course, this is true for all the mundane mail the Pontiff receives, but the Pope actually does communicate in writing when he see fit. He did not see fit in this case. Put in its proper perspective, the Pope showed more contempt than respect for the public relations gimmick.

According to the Catholic Church, anyone who engages in abortions, patient or practitioner, and anyone who supports abortions exists outside the Catholic communion. It is an excommunicable offense – beyond the simple matter of confession and absolution. Repentance and forgiveness requires a course correction. Senior Church theologians have placed the encouragement of abortions as an automatic excommunication. You will recall that when running for President, Senator John Kerry was denied communion for his stand on abortion.

It seems to me that no amount of power and money, and no level of corruption within the Church, can alter God’s mandates as Catholic teachings state and enforce them. On this issue alone, Kennedy cannot offer himself as a devout Catholic adherent. He may not have been a Catholic at all in the eyes of the true Church.

The Catholic Church’s bending to the power and money of the Kennedys has garnered it significant and well deserved disrespect. Bending dogma to accommodate Kennedy’s cash-on-the-barrelhead annulment of his 25-year marriage to his first wife and mother of his children; to overlook his stand on abortion, the Church’s most fundamental issue of the day; and to turn a blind eye to his public infidelity and his repeated tendency to cause scandal (another major Catholic no-no) have all harmed the Church more than it helped him. The Church’s granting him its highest rituals, honors and endorsements have shown the Boston Catholic hierarchy to be as easily bought off as a Chicago city inspector.

Even from the grave, Kennedy is his own salesman. His recent book is little more than a long press release to spin his tawdry legacy into a Camelot fantasy. To entitle his autobiography “True Compass” is reflective of his unmitigated gall. “Crooked Shillelagh” might have been a more appropriate title.

Following the assassination of brother John Kennedy, there was a folk ballad with the lament “Johnny we hardly know ya.” In hearing the funeral oratory and examining the posthumous autobiography, one can come to the same conclusion about Teddy.

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