A Different Kind of Liberal: On the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, and a “pro-life liberal”

Only 13 days separated the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics, from the death of her brother Ted last week. But amid the wall-to-wall coverage and the stream of retrospectives for the senior senator from Massachusetts, it was easy to forget that he wasn’t the only famous Kennedy sibling to enter eternity this month. Liberalism’s most important legislator probably merited a more extended send-off than his sister. But there’s a sense in which his life’s work and Eunice’s deserve to be remembered together – for what their legacies had in common, and for what ultimately separated them. What the siblings shared – in addition to the grace, rare among Kennedys, of a ripe old age and a peaceful death – was a passionate liberalism and an abiding Roman Catholic faith. These two commitments were intertwined: Ted Kennedy’s tireless efforts on issues like health care, education and immigration were explicitly rooted in Catholic social teaching, and so was his sister’s lifelong labor on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired. What separated them was abortion.