Shortly before his death, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking for the pontiff to pray for him as he struggled with an aggressive form of brain cancer, it was revealed at his graveside service Saturday evening.This is largely a Catholic thing and one which I've no desire to engage, but the perception to outsiders does seem kind of tacky and arrogant, as if the Pope is supposed to bless rich politicians who support abortion, and if he doesn't he's fair game to be publicly embarrassed by the publishing of the letter he apparently ignored. Maybe it's not as bad as having grandkids shilling for government-run universal health care to religious chants of "Lord hear our prayer" in a final intercession, but darn close.
Well, as soon as that hit the press this came out, apparently unknown to even CNN. In it we get more of the letter, and a response, which kind of makes the Time story above kind of erroneous. First, a snippet of the letter, with emphasis added to make a point:
I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war.Sounds a bit political for a heart-felt letter to the Holy Pontiff asking for a blessing. Time said there was no reply, but apparently there was, and here it is according to Cardinal McCarrick:
"Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States senator. I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone. 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 has the letter which you entrusted to President Barack Obama, who kindly presented it to him during their recent meeting. He was saddened to know of your illness, and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particularly grateful for your promise of prayers for him and for the needs of our universal church.That's good, because the Pope should be a man of forgiveness. But it's strange they held it back and let several media outlets report stuff like this:
"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. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the Risen Savior to all who share in His sufferings and trust in His promise of eternal life.
"Commending you and the members of your family to the loving intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort and strength in the Lord."
Back at headquarters, however, there is little room for nuance. "Here in Rome Ted Kennedy is nobody. He's a legend with his own constituency," says the Vatican official. "If he had influence in the past it was only with the Archdiocese of Boston and that eventually disappeared too."Just what in tarnation is going on!?