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A reply to Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carambula in re Kennedy’s funeral

September 9, 2009

Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carambula, Doctor of Dogmatic Theology and head of the Rome office of Human Life International, has written a criticism of the Catholic funeral recently accorded Sen. Edward Kennedy. I think several of the monsignor’s criticisms are ill-founded. Monsignor’s original article is here, my reactions (in CAPITAL LETTERS) are below.

AUTHOR’S NOTE AND PARAS 1-3. FOR PRESENT PURPOSES, GRANTED.

PARA 4. If a Catholic is engaged in politics, the Church has a right and a duty to request coherence from this person. AMBIGUOUS WORD, “COHERENCE”. WHAT DOES “COHERENCE” MEAN HERE? HOW IS IT TO BE ASSESSED IN THE EXTERNAL FORUM? THIS IDIOSYNCRACTIC USEAGE WILL CAUSE PROBLEMS LATER.

If, regrettably, this Catholic refuses to be coherent HOW DOES ONE DO THAT, “REFUSE TO BE COHERENT”? HOW IS “COHERENCE” TO BE ASSESSED?

the Church has the right and the duty to refuse him the reception of the Holy Eucharist as it is established in Canon 915: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” NO, THE CHUCH CAN ENFORCE CANON 915 ONLY IN THE FACE OF OBSTINATE PERSERVERANCE IN MANIFEST GRAVE SIN. IS THAT WHAT THE AUTHOR MEANS BY “COHERENCE”? IF SO, WHY CHANGE WORDS?

PARA 5. FOR PRESENT PURPOSES, GRANTED.

PARA 6. In the same way that publicly incoherent Catholics might be denied communion, OH? THIS WORD “COHERENCE” IS POORLY DEFINED AND IS BEING LOOSELY USED. BECAUSE IT HAS SUCH IMPORTANCE FOR HIS ARGUMENT, THE AUTHOR MUST EXPLAIN AND DEFEND HIS USE OF THIS TERM.

these persons can also be denied ecclesiastical funeral rites. WHAT PERSONS? “INCOHERENT” CATHOLICS? WHO ARE THEY?

The Code of Canon Law establishes, Can. “1184.1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals: 3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.”

PARA 7. The Code establishes two cumulative requirements to permit the ecclesiastical funeral of public sinners: some signs of repentance and the avoidance of public scandal of the faithful. QUITE WRONG. THE AUTHOR HAS LIFTED A QUALIFIER FROM ONE PASSAGE OF THE LAW AND ELEVATED IT INTO A CO-EQUAL REQUIREMENT WITH ANOTHER PASSAGE OF THE LAW.

PARA 8. We are informed by the press that the person THE PERSON? THE PERSON? IF WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT SEN. EDWARD KENENDY, WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? IF WE ARE TALKING ABOUT KENNEDY, NAME HIM. SUCH FASTIDIOUSNESS IN USING THE NAME OF A MAJOR PUBLIC FIGURE IS SILLY AND DISTRACTING.

who received the recent funeral in Boston gave some signs of repentance; RIGHT. WHICH IS ALL THE LAW REQUIRES. ONE NEED SIMPLY READ THE CANON TO SEE THIS.

but those signs were not specific at all with regards to the many grave and public violations that he committed against the teachings of the Church. SO WHAT? NEITHER THE LAW NOR CANONICAL TRADITION REQUIRE SUCH SPECIFICTY.

Even if the signs of repentance would have been judged sufficient by competent local ecclesiastical authority, the problem of the scandal remains because the ordinary of the place where the funeral was officiated could not have been ignorant that the funeral was going to be turned into a celebration of the life of that particular person. THIS SENTENCE MIGHT BE BADLY TRANSLATED, BUT I CANNOT IMAGINE IT MEANS WHAT IT PURPORTS TO SAY.

PARA 9. Here we should also remember the norm of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that establishes: “382. At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.” There is ample public evidence provided by the press that this norm was not respected in a recent Boston funeral and that fact is in itself a reasonable source of scandal. FINE, I HAPPEN TO AGREE (AND SAID SO HERE), BUT HOW THE FUNERAL WAS CELEBRATED IS NOT RELEVANT TO WHETHER KENNEDY SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED A FUNERAL IN THE FIRST PLACE.

PARA 10. We should also remember that Catholics that are scandalized by this recent funeral in Boston WHAT RECENT FUNERAL IN BOSTON? OH, KENNEDY’S.

have a right to express their complaints to competent Church authorities in accordance with the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum of the Congregation for Divine Worship of March 25, 2004, that establishes: “184. Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.” YES. THEY CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT LITURGICAL ABUSE IN THIS FUNERAL (THERE WERE SEVERAL INSTANCES I NOTED), BUT NOT ABOUT WHETHER CANON LAW WAS FOLLOWED IN GRANTING KENNEDY A FUNERAL.

PARA 11. To uphold the teachings of the Church with regards to the responsibility of Catholic political leaders is a two-fold exercise of mercy. I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT TO BE AN EXERCISE IN JUSTICE, PERHAPS IN CHARITY, BUT MERCY? NO. ELSE, WHAT LEGAL CONSEQUENCE IS BEING FORGONE HERE, AS HAPPENS IN SITUATIONS OF MERCY?

First, it is for the good of the soul of the politician. ECCLESIASTICAL FUNERALS ARE IRRELEVANT TO THE STATUS OF THE SOUL OF ANY CATHOLIC, POLITICIAN OR OTHERWISE. WHAT DOES THE AUTHOR HAVE IN MIND HERE?

A politician that is acting contrary to fundamental teachings of the Church in his public life is risking his eternal salvation. YES.

So to warn this person in due canonical fashion and then, if he persists, to apply to him canonical sanctions will help him to repent and change his life. SANCTIONS? WHAT SANCTIONS? DENIAL OF A CHURCH FUNERAL IS NOT A SANCTION, AND THEREFORE NO PENAL PROCESS NEED BE FOLLOWED. AGAIN, IMPRECISE TERMINOLOGY IS CONFUSING THE ISSUE.

The Church, sharing the infinite love of Jesus Christ, does not want that any of its members should perish and be deprived of eternal life. OKAY, BUT SO WHAT HERE? WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE FUNERAL QUESTION BEING DEBATED?

PARA 12. Second, it is an act of mercy towards society, AGAIN, MERCY? HOW SO?

because any thing that tends to confuse or blur the Christian message of salvation damages the ability of the Church to fulfill her saving mission. OK? BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MERCY? SUCH POOR LANGUAGE USAGE THROWS DOUBT ON THE ACCURACY OF OTHER TERMS USED HEREIN.

As a consequence in this particular case it would have been an act of mercy towards all Catholics and to many other persons of good will who suffered scandal by this recent funeral WHAT FUNERAL? KENNEDY’S, I GUESS.

to deny it. NO, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A VIOLATION OF CANON LAW TO DENY A CHURCH FUNERAL TO ONE WHO SATISFIED THE MINIMAL REQUIREMENTS OF LAW FOR HAVING ONE, AS I ARGUE KENNEDY DID.

PARA 13. In conclusion, the Church should examine with attention the recent funeral in Boston WHAT RECENT FUNERAL IN BOSTON? KENNEDY’S?

and determine in an official and authoritative way if corrective action is necessary to avoid the furtherance of this type of scandal in the future. EXACTLY WHAT SCANDAL? THE LITURGICAL ABUSE THAT OCCURRED IN THE FUNERAL? SURE, I AGREE. BUT THAT A FUNERAL WAS GRANTED IN THE FIRST PLACE? THAT WAS NOT SCANDALOUS, THAT WAS FOLLOWING THE TRADITIONAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW.

MY CONCLUDING REMARK: IF MONSIGNOR WOULD LIKE TO SEE CANON 1184 REPHRASED (SAY, BY REQUIRING THAT SPECIFIC REPENTENCE BE SHOWN FOR EVERY GRAVE SIN), HE MAY OF COURSE SUGGEST IT. (I THINK SUCH A STANDARD IS UNREALISTIC IN THE PASTORAL ORDER, BUT WHO AM I TO DECIDE?)

BUT IF, AS IT SEEMS, MONSIGNOR IS ARGUING THAT THE CURRENT CANON WAS NOT CORRECTLY FOLLOWED IN REGARD TO GRANTING TED KENNEDY’S FUNERAL, I THINK HE IS SIMPLY WRONG.

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