My friend Dr Gerry Nadal has a thought provoking piece over at his blog Coming Home which may make me change my mind on whether Geraldine Ferraro deserves a Catholic funeral. Its about mercy, not covering up her public sin of being unabashedly pro-abortion.
Something is radically wrong here. If the people seem indifferent to abortion, might they be mirroring their bishops? The point of public censure of such politicians is at once medicinal for the politician, and catechetical for the laity. If the Kennedy’s and Ferraro’s of our time do not merit public censure and prohibition of Eucharistic reception in life, then it seems pointless and even cruel to suddenly get serious about their souls in death.This funeral discussion has more to do with the cowardice of our bishops than we may like to admit. Catholic politicians use bishops to lend them support, maybe not verbally, but they rush to St Patrick's Day parades to file past St Patrick's Cathedral wearing shamrocks waving and smiling. What does that tell the Catholic faithful who are often too lazy to look at any programming other than ESPN and the parade? Images speak louder than words to a public which is only semi-engaged in their spiritual lives. They lead to this kind of thought,
"These guys are just one of us. They're OK to vote for. Why not, our bishops seem to support them? "
Why don't the bishops fight for their salvation before they die, by telling them in plain language the true state of their souls and arguing with them about their sins? Its not condemnation, its an act of mercy. Its a spiritual act of mercy to admonish the sinner.
St Maria Gorretti cared more for Alessandro's soul than for her own life, when he was threatening to defile her, she didn't beg for her life, she told him, "No, no, no, its a sin, you'll go to hell!" Maria cared more for Alessandro's soul than he did. It should be the same for the bishops, They should be willing to become unpopular for the sake of Ted Kennedy's or Geraldine Ferraro's eternal destiny. This is hardly martyrdom.
They may be doing it privately, but if a sin is public, it requires a public denunciation for the sake of the scandal it causes, for the bad catechesis as Gerry Nadal says.
Remember Cardinal O'Connor? Here is a tribute to him on EWTN's website.
Cardinal O'Connor battled with prominent Catholic abortion rights supporters, most notably with former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee. Cardinal O'Connor refused to accept their position, writing in 1990 that Catholics who opposed the Church's teachings on abortion by "advocating legislation supporting abortion, or by making public funds available for abortion ... must be warned that they are at a risk of excommunication. If such actions persist, bishops may consider excommunication the only option."He gave pro-abortion politicians a run for their money, just ask Mario Cuomo who coined the phrase, "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but I don't want to inflict my beliefs on others". The good Cardinal never let him or Geraldine Ferraro away with that kind of doublespeak, and they both treated him shamefully. They imposed excommunication on themselves by supporting abortion publicly and never publicly apologized. Cardinal O'Connor cared for their souls more than they did and did them the favor of pointing that out to them, despite their rude responses. That is why, at his funeral, President and Mrs Clinton were forced to stand for a ten minute ovation when his courageous stand on life issues was lauded. It was a wonderful teaching moment, I was never prouder to be a Catholic in New York than that moment.
Maybe we should support a Catholic funeral for Geraldine Ferraro because of how desperately she needs our prayers. I think the reason we balk at Catholic funerals is because they become canonizations, like Teddy Kennedy's in Boston. We know these politicians thumbed their noses at Catholic moral teaching and no one corrected them publicly from the chancery. Then, their friends, fellow crooked politicians, knowing the cameras are rolling, use the occasion to extol those virtues which happen to fall within Catholic teaching, like advocating for the poor, while ignoring their pro-death stand on abortion. All of this happens while the Cardinal is silent, within the Holy Mass. It's intolerable!
Wouldn't it be refreshing to pro-lifers and instructive to lukewarm Catholics who see Ferraro's funeral in the news to hear a bishop say, "we know that if she did not repent of voting for the death of millions of unborn children, then she is in hell, so let us pray for God's mercy on her immortal soul."
Now that's Catholicism, justice and mercy!