As I reported here last night Rev. Robert Drinan passed away yesterday at 86. Drinan, born in Boston, a former Dean at Boston College Law School, “left Boston College’s administration to become the first Roman Catholic priest elected to Congress and who in 1973 filed the initial impeachment resolution against President Richard M. Nixon.” Drinan’s election also became a “landmark in US church-state relations.”
“Father Drinan was a forever gentle, resilient, tenacious advocate for social justice and fundamental decency,” said Senator John F. Kerry, who was Father Drinan’s campaign manager in 1970.
Tomorrow Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Edward Kennedy, and their colleagues in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation will introduce a resolution written by Drinan’s successor, Rep. Barney Frank, honoring the groundbreaking Jesuit priest and former Congressman Rev. Robert Drinan. The former Boston College and Georgetown University professor, and advocate for peace and defender of the disadvantaged passed away Sunday.
“In the most divisive days of Vietnam when things were coming apart, this incredible man and most unlikely of candidates showed America how a man of faith could be a man of peace. He lived out in public life the whole cloth of Catholic teachings,” said Kerry. “Father Drinan was a gentle, resilient, tenacious advocate for social justice and fundamental decency. It’s appropriate that we honor him in Congress, where he served with such conviction, and continues to be an example to all of us.”
The Boston Globe reports that Drinan, “did his seminary work at Weston College in Cambridge. (Daniel Berrigan , who would later become a noted peace activist, was a classmate.)”
He received a master’s from Boston College in 1947 and two law degrees from Georgetown University Law Center, the first in 1949 and a master’s in law in 1951. Ordained in 1953, he received a doctorate in theology at Rome’s Gregorian University.
In 1955, he returned to Boston College as associate dean and professor at its law school. He became dean a year later, a position he held until 1969. Father Drinan served as Boston College’s vice president and provost from 1969 to 1970. During his deanship, the law school went from being “a moribund institution,” as a federal judge once described it, to ranking among the nation’s more highly regarded law schools.
Father Drinan found himself increasingly involved in public issues. He served as chairman of the advisory committee for Massachusetts of the US Commission on Civil Rights. As part of an ecumenical group, he went to South Vietnam in 1969 to assess the state of religious and political freedom there.
Asked in a 1970 Globe interview why he was running for Congress, Father Drinan answered with a series of questions. “Why? Why not? Jesuit priests always have been avant-garde. Right?”
His candidacy drew nationwide attention. The conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr. called Father Drinan “the greatest threat to orderly thought since Eleanor Roosevelt left this vale of tears.” He won a three-way race in November by 3,000 votes.
Also elected to Congress in 1970 were such vehemently anti war Democrats as Ron Dellums of California and Bella Abzug of New York. Yet Father Drinan drew particular attention. In January 1974, George H. W. Bush , who was then Republican Party chairman, said there wasn’t another congressman whose defeat he more strongly hoped for than Father Drinan’s. He promised a major GOP drive to unseat him. None materialized.
RELATED IN THE NEWS: The Priest on the Hill