The Personalist Project

A propos of our discussion on anger and holy wrath, I am both dismayed and challenged by this passage from Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s blog entry describing his attendance at Senator Kennedy’s funeral.

At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end. Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

Is it fair to suggest that the critics of the decision to allow President Obama to give a eulogy at a Catholic funeral for a pro-abortion public figure are motivated by “judgment, anger or vindictiveness”? Can he give them no credit for concern with true and justice and moral clarity? And what of the irreparable harm done to the communion of the faithful by Catholic public officials promoting abortion and living scandalous personal lives?

What do others think?

LifeSiteNews has an article expressing an opinion more like my own (hat tip American Papist), by Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula, Doctor of Dogmatic Theology and head of the Rome office of Human Life International

In the same way that publicly incoherent Catholics might be denied communion, these persons can also be denied ecclesiastical funeral rites. The Code of Canon Law establishes, Can. “1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals: 3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.”

It’s that “public scandal of the faithful” that I thought missing from Archbishop O’Malley’s blog item—that I think missing from much of Catholic ethos and practice today. Needless to say, this ties into our forgiveness discussion as well. Can there be meaningful forgiveness where there is no repentance?

Msgr. Carambula gets even stronger and more specific:

We are informed by the press that the person who received the recent funeral in Boston gave some signs of repentance; but those signs were not specific at all with regards to the many grave and public violations that he committed against the teachings of the Church. Even if the signs of repentance would have been judged sufficient by competent local ecclesiastical authority, the problem of the scandal remains because the ordinary of the place where the funeral was officiated could not have been ignorant that the funeral was going to be turned into a celebration of the life of that particular person.

Comments (7)


#1, Sep 7, 2009 7:07am

I do not think that Cardinal O’Malley was talking about people having a problem with President Obama giving a eulogy. It seemed that he was referring to our current political climate.

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Sep 7, 2009 8:51am

I don’t know, JCS.  He seems to me to be very clearly directing his remarks toward Catholics who voiced outrage over the public tributes paid to Senator Kennedy in a Catholic Church and over the failure of the Catholic hierarchy generally to take Catholic public officials to task for their pro-abortion efforts and their scandalous personal lives.
Did you read the whole piece?

Teresa Manidis

#3, Sep 24, 2009 6:06pm

The demands of teaching (which I love) have, of necessity, limited the time I have available to peruse posts on the Personalist Project (a limitation I’m not as crazy about); so many posts, so little time! I’m really tempted to go for Jules’ post on ideology; and, as it is, I’m typing this with two thumbs on my iPhone; but, when it comes right down to it, I simply can’t pass this one up.

The fact that Edward Moore Kennedy did not serve time (as any other American would have done) for the 1969 homicide of Mary Jo Kopechne (and her ‘accidental drowning’ became a homicide the moment he fled the scene, and failed to notify officials of her death) is unconscionable; the fact that, for years afterward, the senator would joke about her death (see is disgusting; and both speak of an unbridled elitism, one which would later ‘permit’ this ‘exceptional’ Catholic leader to ‘vote in good conscience’ for things diametrically opposed to his professed religion; for Ted Kennedy remained ever ‘above’ such crass and common notions as absolute good and evil.

The fact that the church in Boston, headed by Archbishop O’Malley, has made much ado about the ‘wonderful life’ of Ted Kennedy is inappropriate; that the archbishop went on to imply that ‘angry’ and ‘divisive’ people like myself are what’s wrong with the church today, rather than ‘publicly incoherent Catholics’ (my new favorite phrase) is, as Katie charitably put it, dismaying, to say the least.

It would seem that the newest virtue is a short memory.


#4, Sep 25, 2009 12:19pm

I think that we should spend more time praying for Sen. Kennedy’s soul, and less time attacking Cardinal O’Malley.

Teresa Manidis

#5, Sep 25, 2009 4:21pm

The mentality behind JCS’ most recent comment has, in fact, been the subject of much discussion during the past few months, here on the Personalist Project’s website (see Truth as Interpersonal Breathing Space, Stevenson’s Wrath, Where’s the Wrath?, etc).

My so-called ‘attack’ of Archbishop O’Malley merely consisted of my finding his actions ‘inappropriate’, and his suggestions ‘dismaying.’

If we can no longer express divergent opinions in a calm and mature manner, without being subsequently accused of ‘attacking’ one another, then, truly, we no longer live in a free or civil society.


#6, Sep 26, 2009 4:52am

I politely suggest that saying “my mentality” has something to do with a society which no longer allows people to express their opinions, has nothing to do with what I am saying.

Having been personally acquainted with Cardinal O’Malley for the past twelve years, I can assure you that he is not glossing over Sen. Kennedy’s anti-life, anti-family record. He has always consistently spoken out in favor of life and traditional marriage in a state where it is never popular to do so. In using the word, attacking, I was not merely speaking of what has been written here about the Cardinal, but also elsewhere, so please do not take my comment personally.

Additionally, the real question, in all the debate over Sen. Kennedy’s funeral seems to be, did he deserve a Catholic funeral?

Katie van Schaijik

#7, Sep 26, 2009 5:12am

JCS, by coming here, to this forum, and urging us here to “spend less time attacking Cardinal O’Malley” you inescapably imply that that’s what we were doing.  And in so implying, you display a certain mentality: one that holds that there is no significant moral difference between criticism and attack and that neither is appropriate for Catholics.

Cardinal O’Malley’s “speaking out in favor of life and traditional marriage” has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic under discussion.

Further, no one here has raised the question of whether Sen. Kennedy deserved a Catholic funeral.

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