Senator Kennedy's Final Attempt at Salvation

The passing of Senator Edward Kennedy was truly the end of an era.  He had been extolled as the "lion of the Senate."  Understandably, given the impact of his life, the news media were filled with stories about Kennedy, his family, his trials and tribulations and his contributions.  I was most surprised to read that a month before his death Senator Kennedy had written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, which was delivered to him by President Obama. As a practicing Catholic, I took great interest in Kennedy's thoughts about his Catholicism at the end of his life.

In the letter, Senator Kennedy asks the Pope to pray for him.  He gives a rendition of the good work he has performed in what seems like an attempt at achieving justification by those works.  Any properly catechized Catholic understands that this is impossible. However, a misunderstanding of this very point was instrumental in causing the Protestant Reformation and many Catholics, poorly understanding their faith, still believe they can work their way into Heaven.  I felt saddened upon reading the letter, realizing that this man was facing his death not as a lion, but as a fearful lost sheep who was about to meet his maker and knew that his prospects for salvation, according to the teachings of his Church, were not good.

After listing off his "good works", Senator Kennedy wrote this:

"I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God's blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."

The Holy Father did not respond personally, but the Vatican sent a letter to Senator Kennedy.  It states in part:

"His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the Will of God, our merciful Father."

Certainly, the letter was cordial and even offered an apostolic blessing.  Of course, what else can the Pope do?  He is, after all, in the business of blessing.  However, by reading the above sentence, it is obvious that the letter was in fact a subtle admonishment.  It calls for Senator Kennedy to "accept the gift of joyful surrender to the Will of God."  This is something that Kennedy surely needed to do.

Ted Kennedy lived a life very much separated from the teachings of the Catholic Church and in fact from any traditional Christian teaching. His actions showed no joyful surrender to the Will of God, but rather a resistance to it.  Senator Kennedy was vehemently pro-choice, attempting to relieve himself of responsibility by stating that while he was personally pro-life he must promote and vote for pro-choice legislation, contrary to the teaching of the Church requiring politicians to act in accordance with a properly formed conscience.  He openly disagreed with the positions of the Catholic Church on the most fundamental human values that the Church teaches.  In doing so he was in fact in the condition of latae sententiae excommunication from the Catholic Church. The Vatican letter was really an exhortation that Kennedy in his final days repent of his sins and renounce the positions he held that were antithetical to the Church and the teachings of the Pope. It was, in fact, a letter giving him a last chance to repent. I hope and pray that he did.

I have heard it said that Senator Kennedy was the kind of man who, if passing by a person down in the street, would go to that person and pick him up.  No, based upon available evidence, Senator Kennedy was in fact the kind of man who would turn to other people and direct them to pick him up. Senator Kennedy could not even bring himself to extract a drowning young girl from a car he drove into the water.  He did not personally sacrifice his own comfort for the good of others, but made sure that other people do so. He championed legislation that made everyone else pay for programs and services he felt some people deserved.  Yes, he was always willing to pay for social programs, but with everyone else's money.

In fact, in 2002, on an income of more than $1 million and with a family fortune in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Sen. Kennedy contributed just $2,714 to charity.  He personally gave a smaller percentage of his income to charity and a much smaller percentage of his net worth to charity than the average American working person does. We have all heard the charity begins at home, but with Senator Kennedy, charity began in everyone else's home and ended in his.

Senator Kennedy claimed in his letter that he never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of the Catholic faith. Yet, he lived a life of debauchery and self-indulgence, regularly criticizing the teachings of his church.  Senator Kennedy believed that standards of behavior are different for members of his family than they are for other members of the Catholic Church. He never surrendered to the authority of church teaching, rather he openly defied it.

Senator Kennedy was decidedly not my favorite person.  Still, I said a prayer for his soul.  As a faithful Catholic Christian I must do so.  However, in looking at the evidence I am not very confident that his soul is in a pleasant place.  Senator Kennedy was called a lion, but we must remember that lions often eat the young of other lions. He championed the right to kill babies and supported legislation that took other people's money while failing to practice charity himself.  He lived much of his life in a manner contrary to Christian principles. In his final days, he wrote the letter to the Pope that underscored the workings of the liberal mind.

In his last days, afraid for his soul, he asked for the prayers of the Pope, who has neither the power, nor I am sure the inclination, to grant what Kennedy really wanted; assurance of salvation.  No Christian should ever presume to pronounce any person among the lost, as the Mercy of God is infinite and such pronouncements are in themselves sinful. I truly hope and pray that in the end Ted Kennedy did repent and submit to the Will of God.  But given that his letter to the Holy Father contained no renunciation of his position on abortion I am fearful that he did not. I am sure the Pope did pray for him and hoped for his conversion because the Church teaches that prayers are not efficacious for those who die in mortal sin.

Kennedy's letter gives us insight into the mind of a man who had the very liberal inclination to look for instant gratification but also had the deeper understanding that the very principles of modern American liberalism are morally indefensible. Despite his obvious concerns, he could not bring himself to write three words so contrary to liberal thinking: "I was wrong."
The passing of Senator Edward Kennedy was truly the end of an era.  He had been extolled as the "lion of the Senate."  Understandably, given the impact of his life, the news media were filled with stories about Kennedy, his family, his trials and tribulations and his contributions.  I was most surprised to read that a month before his death Senator Kennedy had written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, which was delivered to him by President Obama. As a practicing Catholic, I took great interest in Kennedy's thoughts about his Catholicism at the end of his life.

In the letter, Senator Kennedy asks the Pope to pray for him.  He gives a rendition of the good work he has performed in what seems like an attempt at achieving justification by those works.  Any properly catechized Catholic understands that this is impossible. However, a misunderstanding of this very point was instrumental in causing the Protestant Reformation and many Catholics, poorly understanding their faith, still believe they can work their way into Heaven.  I felt saddened upon reading the letter, realizing that this man was facing his death not as a lion, but as a fearful lost sheep who was about to meet his maker and knew that his prospects for salvation, according to the teachings of his Church, were not good.

After listing off his "good works", Senator Kennedy wrote this:

"I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God's blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."

The Holy Father did not respond personally, but the Vatican sent a letter to Senator Kennedy.  It states in part:

"His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the Will of God, our merciful Father."

Certainly, the letter was cordial and even offered an apostolic blessing.  Of course, what else can the Pope do?  He is, after all, in the business of blessing.  However, by reading the above sentence, it is obvious that the letter was in fact a subtle admonishment.  It calls for Senator Kennedy to "accept the gift of joyful surrender to the Will of God."  This is something that Kennedy surely needed to do.

Ted Kennedy lived a life very much separated from the teachings of the Catholic Church and in fact from any traditional Christian teaching. His actions showed no joyful surrender to the Will of God, but rather a resistance to it.  Senator Kennedy was vehemently pro-choice, attempting to relieve himself of responsibility by stating that while he was personally pro-life he must promote and vote for pro-choice legislation, contrary to the teaching of the Church requiring politicians to act in accordance with a properly formed conscience.  He openly disagreed with the positions of the Catholic Church on the most fundamental human values that the Church teaches.  In doing so he was in fact in the condition of latae sententiae excommunication from the Catholic Church. The Vatican letter was really an exhortation that Kennedy in his final days repent of his sins and renounce the positions he held that were antithetical to the Church and the teachings of the Pope. It was, in fact, a letter giving him a last chance to repent. I hope and pray that he did.

I have heard it said that Senator Kennedy was the kind of man who, if passing by a person down in the street, would go to that person and pick him up.  No, based upon available evidence, Senator Kennedy was in fact the kind of man who would turn to other people and direct them to pick him up. Senator Kennedy could not even bring himself to extract a drowning young girl from a car he drove into the water.  He did not personally sacrifice his own comfort for the good of others, but made sure that other people do so. He championed legislation that made everyone else pay for programs and services he felt some people deserved.  Yes, he was always willing to pay for social programs, but with everyone else's money.

In fact, in 2002, on an income of more than $1 million and with a family fortune in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Sen. Kennedy contributed just $2,714 to charity.  He personally gave a smaller percentage of his income to charity and a much smaller percentage of his net worth to charity than the average American working person does. We have all heard the charity begins at home, but with Senator Kennedy, charity began in everyone else's home and ended in his.

Senator Kennedy claimed in his letter that he never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of the Catholic faith. Yet, he lived a life of debauchery and self-indulgence, regularly criticizing the teachings of his church.  Senator Kennedy believed that standards of behavior are different for members of his family than they are for other members of the Catholic Church. He never surrendered to the authority of church teaching, rather he openly defied it.

Senator Kennedy was decidedly not my favorite person.  Still, I said a prayer for his soul.  As a faithful Catholic Christian I must do so.  However, in looking at the evidence I am not very confident that his soul is in a pleasant place.  Senator Kennedy was called a lion, but we must remember that lions often eat the young of other lions. He championed the right to kill babies and supported legislation that took other people's money while failing to practice charity himself.  He lived much of his life in a manner contrary to Christian principles. In his final days, he wrote the letter to the Pope that underscored the workings of the liberal mind.

In his last days, afraid for his soul, he asked for the prayers of the Pope, who has neither the power, nor I am sure the inclination, to grant what Kennedy really wanted; assurance of salvation.  No Christian should ever presume to pronounce any person among the lost, as the Mercy of God is infinite and such pronouncements are in themselves sinful. I truly hope and pray that in the end Ted Kennedy did repent and submit to the Will of God.  But given that his letter to the Holy Father contained no renunciation of his position on abortion I am fearful that he did not. I am sure the Pope did pray for him and hoped for his conversion because the Church teaches that prayers are not efficacious for those who die in mortal sin.

Kennedy's letter gives us insight into the mind of a man who had the very liberal inclination to look for instant gratification but also had the deeper understanding that the very principles of modern American liberalism are morally indefensible. Despite his obvious concerns, he could not bring himself to write three words so contrary to liberal thinking: "I was wrong."