The Kennedy legacy on faith and politics

Last night, we at Interfaith Voices (a public radio show) sponsored a marvelous evening, a fundraiser, with many of the great Kennedy women: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Vicki Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy and Kathleen’s daughter Maeve McKean.

Both Vicki and Kathleen reflected on the Catholic social justice tradition – a concern for the “least of these” – that is central to the Kennedy legacy, and the Catholicism that shaped who they are. Vicki talked about how faith became more and more important to Senator Kennedy in the last 10 years of his life. She quoted passages on faith from his memoir, True Compass, a book that is an excellent read, and might make a great Christmas gift for someone.

She also revealed what may be new information: when Senator Kennedy asked President Obama to deliver his letter to the Pope, the President never asked what it said; he simply said “yes.”

Kathleen emphasized her “big” faith, her “Big God,” if you will. And she decried what many progressive Catholics feel these days: the excessive focus of the Catholic bishops on one or two issues (abortion and gay marriage), as if these were the be-all and end-all of Catholicism.

Many NCR readers would have loved the evening.

(Ethel Kennedy is the widow of Robert Kennedy. Kathleen is their eldest daughter and the former Lt. Gov. of Maryland. Vicki Kennedy is the widow of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Kathleen’s daughter, Maeve, works with women who have AIDS).

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