Signs of Repentance or of the Status Quo? | Mark Brumley
Do canonical requirements for church funerals clear up misconceptions or foster more confusion about Church teaching on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage?
A canon lawyer friend of mine says Senator Edward Kennedy had a canonical right to a Church funeral. Not that my friend is a Kennedy fan: he just thinks Church law reads that way. I think he is right, though whether it should read that way is another matter. Toward the end of his life Mr. Kennedy attended Mass, led family prayers, and met with priests. These activities, my canon lawyer friend contends, are canonically acceptable “signs of repentance.”
“Signs of repentance?” you may wonder. Why are these needed? Senator Kennedy was well-known for stances at odds with Catholic teaching. For instance, he supported abortion rights—including partial-birth abortion—when he should have defended the right to life for unborn babies. He advocated experimentation on embryonic human beings when he should have stood up for their rights not to be manipulated and killed. And he also supported same-sex marriage when he should have upheld marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The positions Senator Kennedy took on those issues are, according to Catholic teaching, objectively gravely sinful. Indeed, they are so sinful that someone who does them should refrain from receiving Holy Communion (Canon 916). If he does not, and if he manifestly and obstinately persists in them, then he should not be admitted to Holy Communion (Canon 915).
This is not a question of judging a man’s soul but of his public actions. Such actions are, in themselves, contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. A Catholic who publicly supports abortion rights, embryonic experimentation, and same-sex marriage misrepresents to others the incompatibility of such things with Catholicism. Whatever a politician’s personal culpability before God, he is a “manifest sinner” in terms of his public actions when he supports such evils.
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