By Jacqueline L. Salmon
There’s no doubt that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy came from the “social justice” tradition of Catholicism — a belief system that more conservative Catholics view as a rather wobbly kind of faith.
Probably one of the best articulations of his faith came in a 1983 speech he gave at Liberty Baptist College (Jerry Falwell’s school–now called Liberty University). In it, Kennedy made clear that, unlike orthodox Catholicism, he didn’t see one path to Truth:
“I am an American and a Catholic,” he said. “I love my country and treasure my faith. But I do not assume that my conception of patriotism or policy is invariably correct, or that my convictions about religion should command any greater respect than any other faith in this pluralistic society. I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly on it?”
(Many thanks to CBN’s David Brody for the transcription). Like many American Catholics, Kennedy differed significantly from Catholic teachings in crucial areas: embryonic stem-cell research, contraception, same-sex marriage and abortion. Indeed, he had a 100 percent score from the abortion-rights group NARAL on abortions and 0 percent from the National Right to Life Committee.
Yet his supporters would argue that he lived out his faith by championing causes long embraced by Catholicism–compassion for the poor and vulnerable, support for arms control, suspicion of war, the right to health care, the rights of workers.
Kennedy worked with Catholic bishops and Catholic Charities officials on issues like immigration, the federal minimum wage and health coverage. But he earned plenty of criticism from Catholic leaders for his support for legalized abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.