Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress

Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress

Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress

Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress

Synopsis

Raymond Schroth's Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress shows that the contentious mixture of religion and politics in this country is nothing new. Four decades ago, Father Robert Drinan, the fiery Jesuit priest from Massachusetts, not only demonstrated against the Vietnam War, he ran for Congress as an antiwar candidate and won, going on to serve for 10 years. Schroth has delved through magazine and newspaper articles and various archives (including Drinan's congressional records at Boston College, where he taught and also served as dean of the law school) and has interviewed dozens of those who knew Drinan to bring us a life-sized portrait. The result is a humanistic profile of an intensely private man and a glimpse into the life of a priest-politician who saw advocacy of human rights as his call. Drinan defined himself as a "moral architect" and was quick to act on his convictions, whether from the bully pulpit of the halls of Congress or from his position in the Church as a priest; to him they were as intricately woven as the clerical garb he continued to wear unapologetically throughout his elected tenure. Drinan's opposition to the Vietnam War and its extension into Cambodia, his call for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon (he served on the House Judiciary Committee, which initiated the charges), his pro-choice stance on abortion (legally, not morally), his passion for civil rights, and his devotion to Jewish people and the well-being of Israel made him one of the most liberal members of Congress and a force to be reckoned with. But his loyalty to the Church was never in question, and when Pope John Paul II demanded that he step down from offi ce, he did so unquestioningly. Afterward, he continued to champion the ideals he thought would make the world a better place. He didn't think of it in terms of left and right; as moral architect, he saw it in terms of right and wrong.This important book doesn't resolve debate about issues of church and state, but it does help us understand how one side can inform the other, if we are listening. It has much to say that is worth hearing.

Excerpt

The best reason to write a book about Father Robert F. Drinan, S.J., is the importance of his life and career, both in his own time and today. Whether the overall impact of his ten years as the first Roman Catholic priest elected to Congress was positive or negative will be debated for years to come. He decided to answer the question of whether the public roles of the priest and politician are compatible by actually playing both roles. He called himself a “moral architect” and made his reputation as an opponent of the Vietnam War, in his drive to impeach President Richard Nixon, and as a lifelong advocate of human rights. But his defense of legalized abortion clashed with his priestly image and brought on his forced retirement from Congress. the questions raised about church and state, law and morality, by his controversial congressional career and forty years as a law professor and writer remain alive today.

Whenever I have written a book, it has had to be about someone I admired—the men who created and wrote for The Brooklyn Eagle; the war correspondent and brilliant radio and tv commentator Eric Sevareid; the authors of the Christian classics; young Jeff Thielman, the Boston College graduate who worked with poor street children in Peru; the presidents, faculty, and students of Fordham University; the missionaries, parish priests, and professors of the American Society of Jesus. And, when Robert F. Drinan, S.J., died in early 2007, I saw that I should try to tell his story.

I hope the reader will find this account, as a friend advised, “critically appreciative, both of Drinan’s personal ways, and far more importantly, of his public policy effort.”

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