Some last words on the last rites

Some final thoughts about the momentous events that surrounded the death of Senator Ted Kennedy.

• When the funeral cortege traveled to Boston from Cape Cod, it followed a route up Route 3 and the Southeast Expressway. Hearing that news, a large crowd of locals gathered on the Savin Hill Ave. bridge and quietly awaited the funeral vehicles (see photos at right).When several helicopters covering the procession appeared overhead, people surged to the fence for a better view. Later, smaller groups gathered along Old Colony and Morrissey boulevards as the funeral cars completed a last drive through downtown and South Boston, and proceeded to the Kennedy Library.

• Father Jack Ahern, the new pastor of the multi-parish St Peter’s/Mother Teresa Holy Family churches, relates that the Ted Kennedy was baptized here in Dorchester. Father Ahern says he knew the youngest Kennedy was born here at St. Margaret’s Hospital on Jones Hill, but a check of the records at St. Peter’s reveal that the newborn apparently was baptized in the sanctuary of St. Peter’s on Bowdoin Street on Feb. 28, six days after his birth. Parish records show that the godparents were two of Ted’s siblings, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Rosemary Kennedy.

• Many local residents remember that during his unsuccessful challenge of Kennedy in the 1994 Senatorial election, Republican candidate Willard “Mitt” Romney derisively referred to Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury as “Kennedy Country.” Last week, it brought satisfaction to note that the focus of the Senator’s last few days in the city were in Dorchester, and the JFK Library, and in Roxbury, at Mission Church. As a counterpoint to Romney’s long-ago scornful dismissal, our neighborhoods were clearly and unapologetically “Kennedy country” last week. Then again, the outpouring of grief and emotion was transcendent, and seemed prevalent in many parts of the country, a widespread outpouring of love and respect for our “Lion of the Senate.”

• Not so, however, from the band of haters who gather under the mantle of something called the “Catholic Action League.” Referring to the Senator’s funeral mass as “a scandal,” spokesman C. J. Doyle attacked the church for giving a Christian burial to what he termed “one of America’s most notorious opponents of Catholic morality.” He also attacked the church leaders including “Rev. Raymond Collins, Rector of the Basilica; Rev. Mark Hession, Kennedy’s parish priest from Our Lady of Victories Church in Centerville on Cape Cod; Rev. J. Donald Monan, of Boston College; and Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, who thanked President Obama for his words and his presence.” This vengeful group further ravaged Fr. Hession and Cardinal O’Malley himself for suggesting “that the late senator had found eternal salvation.” Most often, it’s best to ignore the anti-Christian vitriol that spews from Doyle and his followers. But these hateful words, spoken on the day their fellow Catholic was being laid to rest, deserve to be examined and rejected.

• On that note, two Roman Catholic churchmen – Cardinal Sean here in Boston, and Cardinal McCarrick of Washington – deserve to be acknowledged for giving witness to the final ceremonies of a fellow Catholic. When O’Malley, who officiated at the funeral mass, engaged in a public discussion with President Obama, it was in stark contract to the Indiana bishop who last spring declined to attend commencement at Notre Dame University when this same president received an honorary degree. And perhaps the most moving moments of the long week came at the graveside in Arlington, when Cardinal McCarrick revealed an exchange of letters between Kennedy and the pope. His quiet tone in the hush of twilight was a compelling example of the Christian belief in the power of redemption.