Kennedy’s death also brings the Church face-to-face once again with the fact that there is a massive problem of basic Catholic education – catechesis – among the faithful. So many Catholics – even some clergy – make an absolute out of prudential issues such as economic policy, while relativizing absolutes, such as abortion, euthanasia, and marriage. This is done in the face of clear, binding teachings from John Paul II, who said that no other right is safe unless the right to life is protected, or, as Pope Benedict wrote recently in Caritas in Veritate, that life issues must be central to Catholic social teaching. This also marks the passing of a certain type of cultural Catholicism – Northeast, Irish and increasingly Italian, concerned with obtaining political power while maintaining an identification with the Church, yet happy to relinquish the substance of the faith if it gets in the way. Indeed, today such cultural Catholics have dispensed even with the identity aspect and are often outright hostile to the Church of their baptism.