Sunday, August 30, 2009

Father Orsi of Ave Maria University: No Christian Burial for Ted Kennedy

And I blogged Friday about some Catholic voices that are—to use Earl Ofari Hutchinson’s fine phrase—hating on Ted Kennedy as this public servant with a distinguished career is eulogized and buried. Some American Catholic commentators were outraged that Senator Kennedy was given a Catholic burial.

These include Father Michael P. Orsi, who, as I noted in a previous posting, is a Research Fellow in Religion and Law at Tom Monaghan's Ave Maria University. Father Orsi argues that a Christian burial is a privilege reserved “for those who have lived a Christian life.” And he believes that Senator Kennedy did not deserve such a burial.

As the previous posting to which I link above notes, Father Orsi appears to be something of an expert in distinguishing rights from privileges. At the end of July, he published an editorial attacking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for maintaining that health care is a human right and not a privilege.

Interesting, isn't it, how the Catholic tradition of human rights comes down to the right and privilege of big business to do anything it wants anywhere in the world? That is, it comes down to that singular right and privilege in the interpretation of neocon Catholic thinkers like Father Orsi.

The right of free enterprise. The right of unfettered capitalism.

But not the right to health care. Nor the right to a decent Christian burial.

I somehow don't hear the preoccupations of Jesus and the gospels in the rhetoric of those who would deny Christian burial to a public servant with whose politics they disagree, or the right of health care to an indigent family—while they bend over backwards to defend the right of the rich to rob the poor.

The graphic for this posting is an illustration of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31, from the 11th-century Codex Aureus of Echternach. In the gospel story, the rich man refuses to give crumbs from his table to Lazarus, a beggar who lies wounded outside the rich man's door. When the rich man dies, he is tormented in hell, while Lazarus lies in Abraham's bosom. The rich man then pleads with Lazarus for a drop of water to slake his thirst . . . .