“I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path … I have done my best.” – Edward M. Kennedy
“If I ought, I can.” – Pelagius, the 4th century heretic
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” – The Apostle Paul, Romans 3:20-24
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 2:8-10
See Kennedy’s full letter below and read Jill Stanek’s comments on Kennedy’s misrepresentation of free will vs. grace. It is tragic if this was his misunderstanding until the end. But it is even more tragic if his misunderstanding of grace influences others to think, “If I ought, I can” with the “help of faith, try to right my path.” It is tragic if we think that our justification before God lies with whether “I have done my best.”
Scripture is clear that there is none righteous, none who is able even with the help of faith to right their own path. This justification comes as a free gift of grace and it is this grace that transforms us into keepers of the law. The inability to keep the law on such a fundamental issue as protecting innocent human life is due only to the lack of grace. It’s a good lesson on why politicians who are professing Christians can’t keep God’s law on this one vital point.
Most Holy Father, I asked President Obama to personally hand-deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Roman Catholic faith is to me, and I am so deeply grateful to him.
I hope this letter finds you in good health. I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our church and inspire our world during these challenging times. I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life.
I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful family. And both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained and nurtured and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path.
I want you to know, Your Holiness, that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States senator.
I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I’m committed to doing everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I’ll continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.
I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God’s blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me.