RIP Father Drinan

Rev. Robert F. Drinan, the first and only Catholic priest to serve as a voting member of Congress, has died at age 86.

A five-term member of the House of Representatives, Father Drinan was one of its most liberal members. His strong anti administration stands earned him a place on the Nixon “enemies list.” His upset victory over US Representative Philip J. Philbin , a 14-term incumbent who was vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in the 1970 Democratic primary in Massachusetts Third Congressional District was a high-water mark in the New Politics, which brought the antiwar movement to the ballot box….

Supporters saw his entering Congress as a logical union of his legal and spiritual vocations. “Our father, who art in Congress” became a popular, if unofficial, campaign slogan.

Yet many of Father Drinan’s most vehement detractors were Catholics who opposed him politically because they saw his electoral career as detracting from his priestly calling. He further angered some Catholics with his show of independence from the church, supporting federal funding of abortions and opposing constitutional amendments that would have banned abortion and allowed prayer in public schools.

In 1980, Pope John Paul II ordered Father Drinan to either forgo re election or leave the priesthood. With “regret and pain,” Father Drinan announced he would not seek re election.

“It is just unthinkable,” he said of the idea of renouncing the priesthood to stay in office. “I am proud and honored to be a priest and a Jesuit. As a person of faith, I must believe that there is work for me to do which somehow will be more important than the work I am required to leave.”

Father Drinan’s unexpected announcement set off a scramble among prospective successors. The winner was US Representative Barney Frank , then a state representative from Beacon Hill….

On July 31, 1973, he introduced the first resolution to impeach [President Nixon] — though not for any high crimes and misdemeanors relating to the Watergate scandal, but rather over the administration’s secret bombing campaign in Cambodia.

A remarkable story, a remarkable man.

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4 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Yes. May his example continue to inspire us

    to think and to take action

    I listened while sitting on the ground making my sign

    "Struggle for Justice Health not War"

    at the Washington Mall the other day

    I listened to those on the stage

    And listened to those all around me

    "Silence is no longer an option"  -Jane Fonda, and likely many before her  over the years


    "Pull Out Now!!"  -A leader of Code Pink who also urged  Hillary to deliver this message to G.W.

    Keep Saying It.  Take Action. Make it happen.


  2. Father Drinan: A True Hero

    I wanted to offer a few thoughts on Father Drinan. I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as an intern in his Washington office in 1978.  I consider him a true American hero. He was a wonderful inspiration to me and to the other young, idealistic interns in the office. His courage in his defense of civil rights and in his opposition to the war in Viet Nam should always be remembered.  I will be truly and deeply missed. Rest in Peace, Father Drinan.

    Rep. David Linsky

  3. Wait, there's more...

    Anyone who cares about civil liberties should know that Rep. Drinan was personally responsible for driving the final nail in the coffin of the much loathed House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC).

    I wish we had more like him today.

    Ave et vale magister!

  4. A piece of history

    For those who want to read more about Father Drinan there's a great collection of press coverage and tributes at the Georgetown University Law Center site. He was an extraordinary human being and we need more people like him willing to run for public office. 

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