Tag Archives: ethel kennedy

“The Kennedys” Miniseries Review

4 Apr

Television review: ‘The Kennedys’

Despite several strong lead performances, it turns out that even an eight-part miniseries can’t do justice to the story of one of the country’s most dynamic, if flawed, political families.

April 01, 2011|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic


The main problem with “The Kennedys,” the rumor-plagued, eight-part series that was rejected by the History Channel, which had commissioned it, before landing at ReelzChannel, is not one of politics or even accuracy but of scope. It is impossible to tell the story of this iconic family even in eight parts, even by limiting the timeline, as creators Stephen Kronish and Joel Surnow have done, to the years between the beginnings of World War II and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. There is too much back story, too many important events, and too many Kennedys.

Kronish addresses the last of these problems by simply cutting the family in half. “The Kennedys” that the title refers to are Joe Sr. (Tom Wilkinson), Rose (Diana Hardcastle ), John F. (Greg Kinnear) and his wife, Jacqueline (Katie Holmes), Bobby (Barry Pepper) and his wife, Ethel (Kristin Booth). Fourth daughter Patricia is seen briefly in one of the later episodes, married to Peter Lawford and playing hostess to one of his Marilyn Monroe-studded soirees, while Rosemary, the victim of an early lobotomy, appears briefly in flashback. But Kathleen (who died in an airplane crash in 1948); Eunice, who founded the Special Olympics and was married to Kennedy advisor Sargent Shriver; Jean, who eventually became U.S. ambassador to Ireland; and Edward (Teddy), the longtime Massachusetts senator and onetime presidential candidate, are not only not present, they are never even mentioned.

Which is much more troubling than the various scenes of infidelity (Joe’s and Jack’s), election “rigging” (Joe’s), mob connections (Joe’s) and drug use (Jack’s and Jackie’s) that have apparently raised the blood pressure of Kennedy historians, History Channel execs and various industry watchers for reasons that, while watching the actual episodes, is inexplicable. There is nothing in “The Kennedys” that hasn’t appeared before in reputable books, films and articles in the Kennedy-obsessed “Vanity Fair.”

An argument could be made that a channel called “History” might want to avoid docudramas, which rely on artistic interpretation, but if it was the intention of producer Surnow, a political conservative, to sully the Kennedy name, he certainly went about it in a strange manner. Jack and Bobby emerge splendid, smart and heroic despite their flaws, and even Joe, though portrayed as a ruthlessly ambitious father and truly awful husband, appears in the end guilty of little more than old-time campaign tactics and a once-oppressed immigrant’s dream of joining the ruling class.

Casting went a long way toward balancing the script’s inclusion of the unsavory side of being a Kennedy. Wilkinson can do just about anything at this point in his career, and he illuminates equally Joe’s hubris and desperate fear of failure, while, with his perpetually worried eyes, Kinnear plays a JFK in constant pain — from his back, from his father’s expectations, from his own infidelities. Don Draper certainly never felt this guilty about getting a little on the side.

The revelation of “The Kennedys” is Pepper, most recently seen as the snaggletoothed villain in “True Grit,” who delivers an Emmy-deserving performance, slowly building a Bobby who becomes the family’s, and the Kennedy administration’s, spine of steel, aware of the choices and sacrifices he is making and prepared to make them every time. As attorney general, Bobby is the president’s hammer even as he attempts to be his conscience.

The scenes among these three men alone are worth trying to find out if you get ReelzChannel. Unfortunately, they are too often being moved through historical events as if they were chess pieces and are surrounded by a supporting cast not up to their level. Holmes is pretty as Jackie, but her emotions are confined to happy (“I love him”) and sad (“He cheats on me”), with absolutely no nuance and only the occasional flash of spirit, intellect and inner strength that made Jacqueline Kennedy an icon in her own right. As Ethel, Booth is almost unbearably perky in early episodes, although she mellows as the series unfolds; the scenes between Bobby and Ethel are far more poignant and powerful than those between Jackie and Jack. Hardcastle (married to Wilkinson) can’t do much with a Rose who spends most of the series saying her rosary and making pronouncements about God’s will in a broad Eastern accent — it isn’t until the final episode that mention is made of the crucial role Rose played in the political careers of her sons.

But she is just another victim of the genre’s biggest danger. In attempting to be both sprawling and intimate, “The Kennedys” winds up in a narrative no-man’s land. So the tensions of Bobby taking on organized crime, the riots in Mississippi, the Cuban missile crisis and the strained relationship of the brothers with J. Edgar Hoover and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson are treated with the same time constraints and dramatic emphasis as Joe’s endless “recovery” from his stroke and Jackie’s realization that being a first lady is difficult.

While this “greatest-hits” pace does take the potential sting from the more salacious details — Jack’s infidelities are few and far between, Frank Sinatra is blamed for any mob-related fallout, the pep-me-up shots Jack and Jackie receive do little more than pep them up — it also buries the fine performances of its leading men, who too often seem to be simply marching toward their characters’ inevitable doom.



RFK Jr.’s Wife Guilty of DWI

23 Jul
FILE – In this Sept. 18, 2008 file photo, Mary Richardson Kennedy, the wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is shown. The wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has resolved her New York drunken-driving case by pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Mary Kennedy pleaded guilty Thursday, July 22, 2010 to driving with ability impaired. She was arrested in May after a police officer reported seeing her drive over a curb outside a school in Bedford, 30 miles north of New York City. (AP Photo/Andy Kropa, File)

RFK Jr.’s wife guilty of driving impaired in NY

By JIM FITZGERALD (AP) – 8 hours ago

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. — The wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. settled her drunken-driving case without jail time Thursday night by pleading guilty to a minor charge.

Mary Kennedy admitted in court that her driving ability was impaired when she drove over a curb outside a school in Bedford, 30 miles north of New York City, in May.

Robert Kennedy, who has reportedly filed for divorce, was not in court. He also was not among the many relatives and friends who wrote supportive letters to Town Judge Kevin Quaranta.

“He was not asked,” said Mary Kennedy’s lawyer, Kerry Lawrence.

Robert Kennedy’s mother, Ethel Kennedy, and his sister Kerry Kennedy wrote letters, with Ethel Kennedy telling the judge her daughter-in-law is “kind, loving, gentle and generous.”

Mary Kennedy, 50, would not comment after the court session. Her lawyer said she was “pleased to get some closure.”

The charge of driving while ability impaired is a violation and carries no jail time. The judge fined Kennedy $500, suspended her driver’s license for 90 days and ordered her to attend two drunken-driving programs.

The judge also said Kennedy’s psychiatrist must submit quarterly reports about her progress.

“You’re going to have to live up to the continuation of your treatment,” he told Kennedy.

“Absolutely,” she replied.

The judge told Kennedy the letters from family and friends, including actor Dan Aykroyd and environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, praised “your life, your role as a parent.”

“I hope we don’t see you here again,” he added.

Kennedy was arrested May 15 on a charge of driving while intoxicated after a police officer reported seeing her drive over the curb. Her only passenger was a dog.

Police said her blood-alcohol level was 0.11 percent; the legal limit is 0.08 percent.

The arrest came three days after Robert Kennedy filed a matrimonial action with the Westchester County clerk’s office, naming his wife as defendant. Several news reports said he had filed for divorce, and most such filings are divorce suits, but the papers are sealed and both Kennedys have refused to comment. Lawrence would not comment Thursday night.

Robert Kennedy, a prominent environmental lawyer, is the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, both assassinated in the 1960s. Mary Kennedy is his second wife. They have four children.

Robert Kennedy had two children with his first wife, whom he divorced in 1994.

Bedford police said in May that they had responded to the Kennedy home twice in the week before Mary Kennedy’s arrest but no crimes had been committed.

Mary Kennedy’s DWI Hearing Continued

10 Jul

Mary Kennedy, right, the wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., leaves Bedford Court in Bedford with her sister on Thursday, as she appears on her DWI charge. The matter was adjourned until July 22.

 Mary Kennedy, right, the wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., leaves Bedford Court in Bedford with her sister on Thursday, as she appears on her DWI charge. The matter was adjourned until July 22.

(Photo: Mark Vergari / The Journal News)


BEDFORD, NY — The wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appeared Thursday night in Town Court on a drunken-driving charge in a brief hearing that ended with no resolution to her case.

At her previous court appearance May 28, Mary Richardson Kennedy’s lawyer predicted he could wrap up her case Thursday. But Town Justice Kevin Quaranta said she needed to provide the court with more information. He did not say what was required, but Kennedy, 50, was previously ordered to undergo an evaluation to determine if she needs treatment for alcohol abuse.

The hearing was continued to July 22.

Kennedy was arrested about 9 p.m. May 15 outside St. Patrick’s School after she steered her 2004 Volvo station wagon over a curb while driving to an annual carnival there.

She was charged with driving while intoxicated after her blood-alcohol level measured 0.11 percent, police said. The state’s legal limit is 0.08 percent for DWI.

Kennedy pleaded not guilty. During the May 28 court appearance, she was ordered to surrender her driver’s license and undergo the evaluation.

The arrest exposed problems in the Kennedy household, with police records detailing several domestic disturbances.

Just two days before the DWI arrest, Bedford police filed a state domestic incident report after a 911 hang-up call from the residence on South Bedford Road. Police reported that Robert Kennedy, a leading environmentalist, drove the couple’s children to the carnival that day after an argument with his wife, telling police she was intoxicated and “acting irrational.”

On May 10, Mary Kennedy called 911 herself, police said. Officers responding to the house reported she was “visibly intoxicated” and had “great difficulty collecting her thoughts and articulating her reasons for calling.” She told police her husband was “verbally abusive to herself and her children,” records state.

Twice in 2007, Robert Kennedy told police he was worried that his wife might hurt herself, including once that September when he restrained her in the roadway after driving her to Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco to see a psychologist.

By Shawn Cohen, The Journal News. Full article at http://www.lohud.com/article/20100709/NEWS02/7090332/Mary-Kennedy-s-DWI-hearing-continued

NY Renames Triborough Bridge for RFK

20 Nov

The Triborough Is Officially the R.F.K. Bridge

R.F.K. Memorial  Bridge
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke at the ceremony formally renaming the Triborough Bridge in memory of his father. (Photo: Jacob Silberberg for The New York Times)

The Triborough Bridge — Robert Moses’s three spans connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx — was formally renamed on Wednesday for Robert F. Kennedy.

At a ceremony in Astoria, Queens, Gov. David A. Paterson, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, former President Bill Clinton, other dignitaries and members of the Kennedy family paid tribute to Kennedy, the New York senator and United States attorney general in his brother’s administration who was assassinated 40 years ago [pdf] during his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The move to rename the bridge had the support of the Kennedy family and was championed by Mr. Paterson’s predecessor, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in March. But doubts remain about whether drivers will use the new name, and some have questioned the use of $4 million in state funds to make new signs at a time when New York faces steep deficits.

Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., who represents Astoria, said in a statement on Wednesday:

Robert Kennedy was a great man, but this isn’t the time. While one agency that gets money from the state is raising fares and cutting service to the neighborhood at the foot of the bridge, another has somehow found a way to spend millions of dollars on changing the signage of it.

None of that criticism, however, was evident at the ceremony itself, which was attended by members of the Kennedy family.

The Kennedys and their friends boarded buses to the event outside the Waldorf-Astoria on Wednesday morning. The caravan proceeded with a police escort to the bridge.

Upon arrival, family members were given gold apple pins for their lapels to distinguish them from other guests. Among those in attendance were William J. vanden Heuvel, who was an aide to Kennedy at the Justice Department, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, former Mayors Edward I. Koch and David N. Dinkins and Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney who was one of Kennedy’s boyhood friends.

Ethel Kennedy, seated in the front row next to Mayor Bloomberg, stepped to the podium to receive the signed bill renaming the bridge from Gov. David A. Paterson. She also helped unveil the new green road sign, designating the bridge, at the end of the ceremony.

During his remarks, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made a point of naming family members on the stage who had not yet been mentioned — “so I don’t get into trouble later” — among them Max Kennedy, Rory Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Caroline Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith.

Mr. Clinton, in his remarks, made one noteworthy mistake: He discussed the importance of the bridge in linking Harlem, Queens and the Bronx — where Kennedy had done important work in “Bed-Stuy.” Mr. Clinton — who prides himself on being an adopted New Yorker with an office in Harlem and a wife who represents the state in the United States Senate — should probably know that Bedford-Stuyvesant is actually in Brooklyn.

Robert F. KennedyThe Triborough Bridge has been renamed for Senator Robert F. Kennedy. (Photo: John F. Kennedy Library)

Mr. Paterson, who signed the bill renaming the bridge over the summer, called the renaming “a fitting tribute to the man and his legacy.” He added, “Robert F. Kennedy was a champion of social justice and human rights and his spirit is kept alive by his family’s continued commitment to those causes.”

Mr. Bloomberg cited Robert Caro, Moses’s biographer, and Jack Newfield, the journalist, and mentioned that Tony Bennett, the singer, helped entertain the gathering when Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia dedicated the Triborough Bridge in 1936. Mr. Bloomberg added:

I think it’s only fitting that the name of such an incredible bridge reflect both the grandeur of its scale and the significance of its purpose.

Robert F. Kennedy is a perfect match in both regards. He climbed mountains — literally. In fact, there’s one in Canada named for him. But he also scaled plenty of mountains in his political career, cracking down on organized crime, helping his brother resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis, and fighting for equal opportunity for all Americans — from Bed-Stuy to Birmingham.

As United States attorney general, a U.S. senator from New York, and later, as a candidate for president, Robert F. Kennedy thought on a grand scale and achieved what many thought impossible.

He stood at the summit and saw the true soul of America. And like the great bridge that stretches above us, he tied us together: people of every color, every class, every creed. He united us — as New Yorkers and Americans — in the common cause of social justice. He devoted his life to the belief that America should be a place where any child — regardless of race or religion — has an equal shot at realizing the American dream of getting a good education, and of being elected to our nation’s highest office. He knew that day would come. And it has.

(Wikipedia has already responded, redirecting its Internet visitors to the old Triborough Bridge page to the new page for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge.)

After the ceremony, streets were closed to allow the convoy of Kennedy relatives to return to Manhattan. A party to celebrate the renaming is scheduled for Wednesday night at Chelsea Piers.

Interview with Kerry Kennedy

8 Sep
Kerry with her mom Ethel Kennedy at a recent benefit for the Riverkeeper organization, headed by Kerrys brother, Bobby Kennedy, Jr.)

Kerry with her mom Ethel Kennedy at a recent benefit for the Riverkeeper organization, headed by Kerry's brother, Bobby Kennedy, Jr.)

Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child of Robert F. Kennedy and a human rights lawyer, spoke to Boston Globe religion reporter Michael Paulson about her new book, “Being Catholic Now.” The interview took place Aug. 22 in Hyannis Port. Below is an edited transcript of the interview:


Q: What inspired this?
A: So, what happened is that I was feeling conflicted because my Catholicism is so deeply important to me — it was my sense of connection to the almighty, to humanity, to my heritage, my upbringing. And my Catholicism informed my view of the world, and the work that I do every day on social justice issues. And yet, so often when I went to church, I was confronted with words and symbols that were anathema to my values. I was in a, for many years, in a northern Virginia parish which didn’t allow girls as altar servers, and in which every Sunday, in the midst of horrendous poverty, and living in a world where a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, the only thing we seemed to be praying for was that women would stop having abortions, and it just didn’t seem right. And then there was the whole pedophile scandal, and the mishandling of that by the bishops. So this was all sort of brewing. It wasn’t something that I was very conscious of, or focused on, particularly, but at a certain point I thought, I need to resolve this issue. And I looked at my three daughters, and the way I was raising them, and I wanted them to have this tremendous gift of faith that I really do view as a gift, but I also want to feel comfortable with saying they ought to be catholic. So I thought it was time to take some time and reflect more deeply on these issues.

Q: This was recently, that a parish allowed no girl altar servers?
A: This is now. There is only two bishops in the country which did not allow girls as altar servers, and one of them is northern Virginia.

Q: I have a sense of you parents as very devotional. Where does your Catholicism come from? What role did it play in your upbringing?
A: Well, it was central to my upbringing. I mean, we woke up in the morning and we were down on our knees consecrating the day to Lord Jesus. Then we’d go down for breakfast, and we’d say prayers before breakfast. Then we’d finish breakfast, we’d say prayers after breakfast. Prayers before and after lunch. Prayers before and after dinner. Read the Bible after dinner out loud. And then before bed spend about 20 minutes with the entire family saying prayers together. Church every Sunday. After my father died, we went to church for a long time every day, and then every other day during the summer. And we said prayers in between those times. Prayers for things, to St. Anthony to help find something that was lost. Prayers to St. Christopher when we got on a boat or in a car or in a plane to go someplace. There were St. Christopher medals around all of our necks. There were statues of Our Mother, and in every room of our house were a cross, the Bible, and then all sorts of religious books. And in the dining room, in the kitchen, and on every single bedside in my mother’s house, there is not one but two Mass schedules. So this is very present. And Bobby (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) probably told you this, but his entire bedroom was decorated with the life of St. Francis, with a book that had been cut out and had been framed — the life of St. Francis. So it was very, very present.

Q: Was this from your mother or your father?
A: Both. You know, my father thought about being a priest. And my mother — and I think everyone who spends 12 years in Catholic school thinks about being a nun — actually more than that because she went to Manhattanville College as well. My mother goes — she’s a daily communicant. So I think on both sides.

Q: What was your relationship to Catholicism as you grew up?
A: I went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart for four years. It was interesting to me because, in a family where men were clearly favored over women, this was an atmosphere, a world, run by strong, determined, smart women in leadership, who had high expectations of the girls, and this tremendous sense of love and commitment to the wider world. We had a nun — the head of the order there, was the reverend mother, was called mother Mouton, and she was this wonderful French woman, and there was a rule at Sacred Heart that you weren’t allowed to talk in the halls, and I was forever talking in the hall and always being sent to her, and she always did the same thing, which was that she would wrap her arm around me, give me a lollipop, and said, ‘Jesus loves you, no matter how you misbehave,’ which was pretty wonderful, and then she would talk about the war in Vietnam. And it was a very different form of discipline and sort of vision of the world, and one that was full of love and outrage at injustice, and that had a great influence on me. This was fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grade, and then I went to Putney School in Vermont.

Q: Did you go to a Catholic college?
A: No, I went to Brown and then I went to Boston College Law School.

Q: And did you continue, once you were not living at home, practicing Catholicism?
A: No, when I was in high school I went to Mass every once in a while, and certainly anytime I was at home, but on my own, every once in a while. My roommate in high school was also very, came from a very traditional Catholic family, so we would go off together to church on occasion. And then when I was in college, I went through confirmation, and then when I got married I really went to church every Sunday, and have basically done that since then, which was 1990, when I was 30.

Q: And why did you return?
A: I returned because I wanted to have a stronger relationship with God, and a deeper sense of spirituality.

Q: And did you find that at church?
A: Sometimes. As I say, I was conflicted, and increasingly conflicted, because sometimes I would leave church feeling elated, and sometimes I would leave church feeling very angry and frustrated by the insensitivity to social justice issues that to me are part and parcel of Catholicism, of our faith. On the other hand, that was sort of what was happening on the home front, but my work is in international human rights, so I was in Poland at the height of the Solidarity movement and witnessed the tremendous influence of the Catholic church giving refuge to Solidarity activists, and encouragement, and the tremendous role of the pope in encouraging that movement for freedom. And then I worked in El Salvador and Guatemala, Mexico, all of these places during the 80s when there was so much violence, and when the church again was just this tremendous sanctuary, and where Archbishop Romero, for instance, really led, was the spiritual force behind so much of the movement for freedom. And again, in Korea, South Korea, where the combination of the Catholic church and other Christian churches gave sanctuary, strength to the democracy movement there. And a few years ago, 2003, I went to Liberia. I have to tell you, virtually every country I’ve gone to, the Catholic church is on the cutting edge of social change. Really extraordinary. And I can tell you so many stories about that. But in Liberia, the Catholics account for about 7 percent of that population, and during the 14 year civil war, when Charles Taylor was the dictator, the Catholic church was the only institution that kept schools open and kept hospitals open. And this is in a country that is maybe 70 percent Methodists, and they had a lot of missionaries there, but they weren’t able to keep those institutions open, and the government institutions closed down, but the Catholics kept them open, and so it has just played this enormously important role. And I saw the, you know, I went to the Catholic church program, which was rehabilitating child soldiers, and another Catholic church program, this was so incredibly moving, where they were bringing together people from two communities who had basically slaughtered each another. And that, and the Catholic church there also started their peace and justice program on the Catholic radio station, (which) was really the only voice of opposition throughout the Taylor regime, and the fellow who ran it was a guy called Kofi Woods, he was, because of his work, on those issues, with the Catholic church. He was picked up by the minister of justice and his three thugs during the Doe regime and tortured and left to rot in a prison cell, and then when the Taylor regime came into power…that minister of justice and those three thugs were picked up by Taylor, and thrown into the same prison cell he had been in. And he (Woods) had been freed, and he was a lawyer, and went to visit them, and he said, ‘I’ve come to see if you’ve been mistreated,’ and he said, ‘I will take your case for free,’ because there is no lawyer in the country who would defend them. So he went to defend his own torturers, and that was his sense of faith. So for me, I was witnessing the mighty spirit, and the tremendous capacity of this institution which was so much a part of my history, and my family, and my sense of spirituality and my vision of social justice in the world, and then coming back and hearing bishops who were protecting their turf instead of protecting children and playing three-card monte with the pedophile priests and blaming it on people who are gay. So it was important to me to resolve that.

Q: So when the sex abuse crisis exploded, were you surprised?
A: I guess I wasn’t so surprised that it was going on, because I think so many of us knew, or had heard stories, or had friends who that had happened to. The thing that was surprising to me in the sex abuse scandal was not that children were being abused by priests, but that the bishops were protecting them, and that the bishops were refusing to take responsibility for their own failure to protect. I think that was surprising and enormously disappointing and disturbing. But the thing that I came to realize in writing this book is that the church is not the candles and the robes and the beautiful cathedrals, and it’s not the bishops and what they do or don’t do, or the proclamations that come down from the Vatican on occasion, but it’s all of us. That’s the meaning of Catholicism — universal — and there are a billion Catholics. So it’s the community, a Catholicism based on the idea that we should love God and we should love one another. So, as Robert Drinan in this book pointed out, the pope apologized for 92 things that the Catholic church had done wrong, and he (Drinan) said, ‘These are fallible people and I expect them to do fallible things in the future as well.’ And so I think that that is a source of comfort for me, to view it sort of in that way, that we’re all fallible, and we’ll all make mistakes, but that this is an important institution to be part of.

Q: Did you ever toy with leaving the church?
A: No. Not precisely. There was a time, as I said, in between high school and when I got married, I guess, where it just wasn’t very central to my life, the church itself. But I was still always praying. So it was not, there wasn’t a time when I said, OK, I’m not going to be Catholic anymore. I think that’s a very, very, very difficult thing to do.

Q: Are you raising your daughters in the church?
A: Yeah, and I teach CCD at our local church, St. Patrick’s in Armonk, NY.

Q: You go to Mass?
A: Yeah.

Q: When did you start working on this project?
A: In November 2005.

Q: You could have written a memoir or something more journalistic. How did you think, I’m going to go talk to other people?
A: Well there were two ways that I thought about that. One is I wrote another book, called Speak Truth to Power, and that is interviews with human rights defenders around the world, and I greatly enjoyed that and I learned a lot from talking to other people, and so that’s why I chose to approach it in this particular way.

Q: Do you think you did it because you hungered to do another book, or was there something personally you were hoping to get?
A: I was trying to resolve that issue, of how do people who disagree with what the institutional church is saying to them look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘I am a Catholic.’ And what I found is that absolutely everybody disagrees with the church. The cardinals disagree with the church, and the nuns and the priests, and even Tom Monaghan disagrees with the church, so everybody has a disagreement, which is interesting to me. It’s just not a monolith at all. It’s an enormous organism with a lot of moving parts and people with strong opinions and I think that that’s good. I also think that Catholicism is inherently about contradiction. So much of the New Testament is about Christ arguing with the Pharisees and with the scribes and with the Jewish leaders of the day, and as Pope Benedict said, it’s a quest for the truth. And so if you’re going to have a quest for the truth, you’re going to have a lot of questioning of authority. And we’re taught to have obedience to authority, but we’re also taught to revere saints, so many of whom were burnt at the stake or martyred because they questioned authority. And then we are told that Christ has died but Christ is coming again. And when Catholics say I don’t understand this, how can this really be transformed into the blood of Christ, is this really the body of Christ that we are eating now, they are told, ‘That’s the mystery,’ and ‘Go in peace,’ and that’s sort of it. And so I think that, in a way, I think it’s good, because it prepares us to deal with so many other parts of life, where there are conflicting emotions. At the moment of greatest love, there is greatest fear, and at the moment of enormous repression, there is resistance, and therefore a chance at revolutionary change. And so I think our lives are full of contradictions.

Q: How did you come up with the list of who you wanted to talk to?
A: Well, I wanted a diversity of people, from a lot of different professions, so there’s historians and doctors and comedians, political commentators and politicians, and so a diversity of professions. And I wanted people who are known to have a strong intellectual sensibility on some issue, not necessarily on this one, and then I wanted a mix of men and women.

Q: Were most of them people you already knew?
A: It was a combination, and there’s also people who are conservative, from the conservative side of the church, and more progressive side of the church, and then there are also Democrats and Republicans, you know, Bill O’Reilly to Bill Maher.

Q: Did anybody turn you down?
A: One person.

Q: Do you want to tell me who?
A: No.

Q: And how did people respond when you said, ‘I want to explore with you how you relate to this faith’?
A: They were very open about it, and enthusiastic about talking about it, and it was kind of great, because a lot of the people I talked to are used to interviews — you must find this as well — but they’re not used to interviews about this. And so there’s a kind of raw honesty that you get in discussing this subject with people who don’t discuss it professionally, and insight that you might not otherwise get. And a lot of them were very funny, and wonderful. Nancy Pelosi saying, ‘My mother always wanted me to be a nun,’ and then I said, ‘But did you want to be a nun?’ and she said, ‘No, I wanted to be a priest.’ And Susan Sarandon, who said that during her first days at Catholic school, she was told that she had an overabundance of original sin. And Bill Maher, who is so, basically he said ‘I’m on a mission, I’ve been given this gift, to stop organized religion.’ He’s very funny, in talking about the number of people who God slaughtered in the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah alone…Some of it is kind of funny and ridiculous like that, and then a lot of it was very deep. One of the people who I was surprised by in my interview was Andrew Sullivan, because I disagree with almost everything he’s ever said or written politically, and yet, on this subject, he was so deep and passionate and reflective — it was very, very interesting to me, about what it means to be a devoted Catholic and gay and HIV-positive, and how he grapples with that. And then some of them were deeply moving. Gabriel Byrne talking about being a victim of pedophilia when he was a child, and how he attempted to grapple with that, and Danny McNevin, talking about the same issue, and then of course Anne Burke who led the independent audit committee was fascinating about her frustration with the bishops in trying to get them to take responsibility for the crisis, and yet how that experience really deepened her faith.

Q: How did you choose Cardinal McCarrick?
A: I have always deeply admired him, and it was actually kind of interesting, because I think he’s mentioned in four different interviews in my book as somebody who others admired — John Sweeney and E.J. Dionne and Andrew Sullivan. So there you go — for Cardinal McCarrick to be admired by that diversity of people is pretty extraordinary. So I went to talk to him and you know what’s amazing is he said that he started school in a classroom where they had three kids to a bench and 70 kids in his class — I think that was first grade or kindergarten — can you imagine? How — I mean, if you spend even five minutes with six year olds, trying to imagine organizing 70 of them, it’s pretty incredible.

Q: What surprised you?
A: There were pleasant surprises, moments of laughter in interviews that were unexpected, and moments of insight, for instance, talking to Andrew Sullivan as I just mentioned, or when Bob Drinan was talking about abortion rights, and in the midst of this discussion he was having with me, we were in his office and the phone started to ring, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s the pope, telling me to shut up.’ And so that was kind of funny. And different things were sort of wonderful. Donna Brazile…told a very, very moving story about her wanting as a child, knowing as a child, that she’d grow up to be a priest, and that in her youngest years the black kids, the black families had to stay in the back of the church, and then after Martin Luther King died they could move more and more forward, and then she, at a certain point, would get to the church, she’d make sure she was in the front row, because she had to see what the priest was going to do, because she was going to be a priest, and she had to know what he was doing up there. And how when he would preach, she would listen to what he’d say, and then go back and read the Bible passage and see if she agreed with him or not, and come back and ask him questions. A very active, involved and engaged child. And when her mother asked her in passing one day what she was going to do, and she mentioned she was going to be a priest, (she learned) to her shock, that women couldn’t be priests, it’s just not possible…So there were things like that, that were very moving. And again, I think Danny McNevin’s story about the impact of being a victim of pedophilia, on him and his family, is deeply moving, and his quest to seek justice, and how difficult that has been.

Q: So how did all this affect your faith?
A: You know, it deepened it tremendously. And the sense of spirituality, I think primarily because I started thinking about it. You’re writing a book about something, you start thinking about it a lot more, and talking to people about it a lot more, and learning about it, and that has been a wonderful experience. I also happen to belong to a fantastic parish in Armonk, New York, and I have a great, great, great, great pastor, who is always quoting Dorothy Day, and puts a picture of Gandhi with a halo over his head on the altar.

Q: You say it deepened your faith but also you were confronted by so much injury — these girls who wanted to be priests, these boys who were abused, the gay man — over and over again you ran into people who have conflict with the church in some way. How do you think about that?
A: I think that the church has done enormous harm over the years, and continues to do enormous harm to people in different ways. The institutional church does that. But that is separate and apart from my sense of connection to the Almighty, when I pray. And that is something that I think is part of the mission of being a Catholic is to expose those areas of injustice, and try to confront them, and I hope through this book I have advanced that in some small way.

Q: What is your hope that readers will take away from this?
A: I hope that they’ll feel like they’re not alone…I hope that people will feel that there are a lot of others out there who are grappling with the same issues: Should I raise my children Catholic? What does that mean? Am I a good Catholic? What does it mean to be a good Catholic today? If I’m not following the way I was taught as a child, or that my parents approached the religion, does that mean that I’m somehow missing something, or that I’m bad? And I hope also that others might feel a sense that the essence, the goodness of Catholicism, of that relationship with God, of that sense of love, can be embraced without embracing the parts of the institutional church which are anathema to your values, to one’s values.

Q: You work in the human rights world, you live in the Democratic political orbit, do you find that you have to defend being Catholic?
A: Sometimes, yes. I mean, people aren’t openly aggressive about it, but there is, yes, skepticism, and sort of, sometimes a look of confusion.

Q: How do you think being a Kennedy affects your relationship to the Catholic Church?
A: Traditionally there was a very strong one, I think, in my grandparents era, and in my parents. I don’t have a particular relationship with the hierarchy of the church. I have wonderfully important relationships with people who are at different stages of that hierarchy — some higher and some lower, but it’s not an institutional relationship. But I’m also not in political office, so it’s just a little bit different.

Kennedys to Descend Upon Denver for Dem Convention

12 Aug
Will RFK Jr. address the convention? Stay tuned...

Will RFK Jr. address the convention? Stay tuned…


If you’re headed to Denver for this year’s historic Democratic National Convention, here are a couple of events you won’t want to miss:

On Wednesday, August 27, the Kennedy family hosts a celebration of the RFK Memorial’s 40th Anniversary featuring:

Ethel Kennedy
Beth and Joseph Kennedy, II
Kathleen and David Townsend
Mary and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Senator and Mrs. Edward M. Kennedy
Kerry Kennedy
Vicki and Max Kennedy
Senator Hillary Clinton
Mayor John Hickenlooper
Senator John Kerry
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid

This once-in-a-lifetime affair brings together family and friends to mark 40 years of making a difference and will benefit the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial.

The reception is from 3:30 PM – 5:30 PM on August 27 at Denver’s
Brown Palace Hotel, 321 17th Street.


Champion: $5,000

Activist: $1,000

Advocate: $500

To RSVP or for more information call: 202-463-7575, ext. 301

Click here to view PDF File of Printable RSVP Card:


Looks like that Wednesday will be a busy one for Bobby. He’s also slated to give the keynote address at SUNFEST, hosted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) at Coors Field in Denver.

The solar festival will not only feature the speech from RFK Jr. and remarks by national and local elected officials, but the latest in solar energy technology will be on display for the public along with live entertainment by the Chuck McDermott Band (band that performs with Bonnie Raitt) and other celebrity guests.

Certainly sets a good tone for what is being touted as the “greenest” political convention in history.

Here’s the lowdown:

WHAT: SEIA SUNFEST 2008 outdoor concert and solar festival

WHO: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter
U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (CO)
U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-7)
U.S. Representative John Hall (NY-19)
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper
Rhone Resch, president of SEIA

WHEN: Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Noon — 4 p.m. MDT

WHERE: Coors Field
2001 Blake Street
(Entrance on Wynkoop Walkway and 19th Street)

Some of our more observant readers may have already noticed that Bobby Kennedy’s engagements seem to overlap that afternoon. Sunfest runs from noon-4 p.m. and the RFK Memorial reception is from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., so a bit of creative scheduling might be required if you plan to attend both events. The good news is – they are just a few blocks apart and shuttles run constantly.

As for the Really Big Question we keep getting asked – “is RFK Jr. going to speak at the convention?” – please hang in there a little bit longer while details of who’s-speaking-when are being finalized. An announcement will be posted at http://RFKin2008.com very, very soon…


Copyright RFKin2008.com. Used with permission.

For Kennedys, Return to Indiana is Bittersweet

6 May


From the Boston Globe

By Brian C. Mooney, Globe Staff

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — There’s a strong nostalgic undercurrent to the Indiana battle that culminates Tuesday with the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama evoking the memory of the last great Democratic primary in the Hoosier State — the triumph of Robert F. Kennedy 40 years ago. Members of the famous political clan have been stumping for both candidates all over the state in the runup to the critical vote.

Kennedys supporting each candidate have followed in Bobby Kennedy’s footsteps by visiting the famous West Side Democratic and Civic Club, which was one of his memorable stops on Dyngus Day, the Monday after Easter, which is marked in many Polish-American communities by political events.

In 1968, Kennedy sang a Polish song and addressed a huge crowd at the club that spilled out into a neighborhood that was once almost entirely Polish but is now racially mixed.

This year, his daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, visited the club on Dyngus Day with former president Bill Clinton and the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea. Less than two weeks later, Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, and one of their sons, Max, stumped at the same club for Obama. Ethel Kennedy accompanied her husband on the campaign swing that year through South Bend, which also included a huge rally that closed off streets downtown.

Another son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., has also been campaigning for Clinton, while his cousin, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, has stumped for Obama. Their uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, is one of Obama’s most prominent supporters, and his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, telephoned a gathering of Catholics for Obama last week in South Bend.

Robert Kennedy won the Indiana primary in May of that year, his first after a late entry into the nominating contest, defeating favorite-son Governor Roger Branigan, who was a stand-in for President Lyndon B. Johnson until he withdrew from the race before the Indiana vote, and then a proxy for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey on primary day. Eugene McCarthy, like Kennedy, running on a platform opposing the Vietnam War, finished third. Kennedy was assassinated four weeks later in Los Angeles, on the night he won the California primary.

His Indiana campaign inspired a group of young Democratic activists in the largely Republican Hoosier State.

Julie Vuckovich, on leave from the staff of Senator Evan Bayh to coordinate Clinton’s campaign in the Second Congressional District, has a vivid memory of seeing Kennedy stop, shaking hands along Miami Street south of downtown South Bend. She said it inspired her to volunteer for his campaign.

“It was magical,” recalled Owen “Butch” Morgan, who as a college student watched the Kennedy motorcade make its way to the West Side Democratic club. “I couldn’t get in; it was packed,” said Morgan, now chairman of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party and a Clinton supporter in this year’s race.


Original story at: http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2008/05/bittersweet_nos.html