What do you say upon the death of someone whom you neither admired nor respected? In general simple silence is in order. And in general I don’t feel the impulse to comment on the death of a prominent person merely because he or she was prominent, only if his or her position and career seem of special significance.
That is the case with Senator Kennedy. His death is an important public event. He was not only very prominent, but very influential, and in my opinion that influence was more harmful than not. And he has been an especially irritating presence to me, as to many Catholics, because he was so very publicly Catholic. Some of those who fought him politically liked and respected him personally, and that speaks well of him, but I can only view him as a public man. I won’t speak any further ill of him, but neither will I pretend to mourn.
In time all our controversies will belong to another world, a world we will have left behind, and who can say what their relationship, and ours, will then be to this one? And even within this world they will become historical, no longer of practical moment, long since resolved for better or worse, spoken of as Eliot spoke of the English civil war in Four Quartets:
We cannot revive old factions
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the constitution of silence
And are folded in a single party.
Senator Kennedy is of that party now, though our war is not over, and what God’s view of his role may be is not for me to conjecture. I hope he will receive the same mercy that I hope to receive: Lord, have mercy on him and on us all.