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Cardinal John O'Connor gets last word at his own funeral

By John Mallon*

Columns by John Mallon

BERNARD Law did his old friend proud.

For those who missed it, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston preached at the funeral of his close friend John O'Connor, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York.  O'Connor was a bold and fierce preacher on the subject closest to his heart: the sanctity of human life.  

The funeral, broadcast live nationwide, was attended by the president and vice president, their wives and numerous dignitaries including the mayor of New York City.  

At one point in the sermon, O'Connor's hand picked homilist said, "What a great legacy he has left us in his constant reminder that the Church must always be unambiguously pro- life."

There was a beat and then applause broke out.  It grew louder, increasing as the cameras fixed on the Clinton-Gore party showing them on screens throughout the cathedral.  Cardinal Law attempted to quiet the crowd with his hand, when suddenly the congregation began to stand up, applauding in a wave that moved from the back of the church to the front.  If it hadn't been a funeral they would have cheered.  It was a defiant, pivotal moment.  

Then the bishops and cardinals in the sanctuary stood up.  The elder George Bush stood up applauding, as did his son somewhere off camera.  The camera panned back to the Clinton- Gore party who looked bemused and bewildered.  

Having no water glasses to reach for as they did in 1994 when Mother Teresa received a thunderous ovation for telling the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that there could be no peace as long as a mother could kill the child in her womb, Clinton leaned back and started whispering in Hillary's ear.  Gore's face was as blank, flat and white as a sheet of paper.  Behind them another abortion "rights" supporter, Rudy Giuliani, began to applaud, albeit weakly, and stood.  And lest they be the only ones left seated, the Clintons and Gores lamely stood up but refrained from applauding.  

It was not Cardinal Law's intent to embarrass anyone.  He was merely doing his job and honoring his friend.  The vehement applause came from the people.  

When the applause subsided, Law quipped, "I see he hasn't left the pulpit." Even a news commentator said it was as if O'Connor himself had spoken "from beyond the grave." Even through the TV screen you could feel the presence of that humble but larger than life churchman fill St. Patrick's Cathedral one last time, driving home the message he lived.

The leaders of the free world are currently the hierarchy of the culture of death and it is difficult to know what those poll-conscious politicians took away from that anointed moment, but I have some suggestions.

Perhaps they can no longer smugly snicker up their sleeves, take the Catholic vote for granted and play us for suckers.  They can no longer ridicule other Christians and pro-lifers while claiming to be "compassionate" and "for the children" as they condone scissors being driven into infants' skulls, their brains sucked out and the unborn chopped into pieces and sucked out of their mothers with industrial strength vacuum machines.  They are on the wrong side of history.  In no small part thanks to John O'Connor, the future belongs to life.

Well done, Cardinal O'Connor.  Requiéscat in pacem.

*John Mallon is contributing editor for Inside the Vatican magazine and a member of The Daily Oklahoman's Opinion Board of Contributors.  Visit the Daily Oklahoman Editorial page.  This article originally appeared in The Daily Oklahoman on May 19, 2000.  Send an e-mail to John Mallon.