Thursday, 3 September 2009

Two witnesses

I expect that some will be none to pleased at my putting these two testimonies side-by-side in the same post. But, in both of the events to which these testimonies refer (the awarding of an honorary degree to Barack Obama by Notre Dame university and Senator Kennedy's funeral Mass) I think the appropriate category for evaluation is that of witness. In these situations, what was the witness given to Catholic faith and teaching?

Chronologically, the first witness I am linking to is that of Bishop John D'Arcy in an article in America magazine: The Church and the University. In this article, the Bishop in whose diocese the University of Notre Dame is located gives an account of his own engagement with the controversy surrounding President Obama's visit and articulates his concerns about the failure of those responsible for the governance of the university to fulfil properly its vocation to witness to Catholic faith.

The second witness is that of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, explaining in a very careful way his decisions with regard to Senator Kennedy's funeral. After reading this post, it is not possible for anyone to say that, in his attendance at and participation in this funeral, Archbishop O'Malley was in any way condoning or supporting the views and political intentions of Senator Kennedy and President Obama on abortion - indeed, it appears that at the time of the funeral itself, Archbishop O'Malley gave a very clear signal of that to President Obama himself. If they do say that, it is a misrepresentation. I think it is also fair for him to have pointed out that those who did pay respects to Senator Kennedy by watching at the roadside as the hearse passed or visiting during the lying in state did have positive elements of his life to which they could give recognition.

Pope Benedict's response to Senator Kennedy's letter was caring and considerate. I think it indicates the pastoral principle according to which Archbishop O'Malley participated in the funeral Mass. The Apostolic Blessing can appear a kind of routine courtesy of the Holy See - but, in appropriate conditions at the point of death, it is an act to which the Church attaches a plenary indulgence. I was particularly struck by its implications on this occasion.

As some of the comments to Archbshop O'Malley's post suggest, I do think there are still some questions to be answered about the funeral liturgy itself. What exactly was the witness that the liturgy itself gave?

1 comment:

Joe said...

This is a link to Catholic Analysis comment on the participation of Cardinal O'Malley in the funeral of Senator Kennedy: