"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
For the fourth and only surviving son of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy, the path to liberal lionhood began on Dike Road on the night of July 18--19, 1969.
Had Chappaquiddick never happened, Kennedy would have had every incentive to try, as his older brothers did, to arrest the leftward lurch of the Democratic party, which weakened Democrats' ability to compete for the White House.
Ted, after Chappaquiddick, had to find another path to glory, one that did not include a sojourn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. His choice revealed a certain native shrewdness: Morally debarred from the presidency, he would be the liberal lion that the older brothers--who valued possession of the White House more than they did the whimsies of the Left--could never be. The older boys were retrospectively endowed with liberal halos, as a concession to their martyrdoms; the kid brother would obtain the same crown in life.
By hewing with so little deviation to the liberal line, Kennedy has been able to maintain his dominance in the party.
Ted Kennedy did much good. But one is left with a sad feeling of "if only": If only he had channeled his immense power and celebrity and charm and Senate effectiveness differently – to defend the weakest, the unborn; to promote liberalism informed by his Catholic faith rather than in conflict with it; to promote the civility for which was credited behind the scenes, but which he so undercut with his attack on Robert Bork. How different would the Democratic Party and the country be today?
Some will focus on his personal sins -the assumed repentance or lack of same (of which they will likely have no real knowledge, just hunches) and some will presume to know the state of his soul, but those will be the inveterates, working from long-habit. Most Christians will, I think, understand that “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies not over and done” and will simply pray in hopes that Kennedy had made a contrite and humble confession of his failings and sins. Others, of course, will suggest that Kennedy’s pro-abortion positions, in and of themselves, should damn him forever in the eyes of God.
Thankfully, God knows more, and sees more, than the rest of us, because eventually we’ll all need to count on his mercy, as we face his justice. For all that we know of Kennedy, there is much we do not know. A family member who works with the very poor once told me that when he was in a real fix and unable to find help for, for instance, a sick child in need of surgery, a phone call to Kennedy’s office would set the “Irish Mafia” of professional people -doctors, lawyers, pilots and such- into brisk motion. I think an examination of the life of every “great” person (and I mean “great” in terms of power and influence) will expose deep flaws and surprising episodes of generosity.
So, upon hearing of his passing, I say “ah, he’s gone, then,” make a Sign of the Cross, and think of what C.S. Lewis wrote of Purgatory:
Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ – ‘Even so, sir.’