The National Catholic Review
Robert F. Drinan's unscheduled retirement
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Saturday, May 2, 1980, Chestnut Hill

Dottie Reichard, who had run the 1978 campaign, was worried. Something must be wrong. Massachusetts Congressman Robert F. Drinan, S.J., had seemed sad, silent, not himself all week. Over the years they had noticed that when these moods came along it was because he was having trouble with the Vatican. Now he had called her twice when she was out. She returned the call—he was in his Waltham, Mass., office alone.

“Bad news,” he said. “The pope says I can’t run again.”

Dottie drove to the office, where the two of them became very emotional and wept. But there was work to do. They assembled a core group of friends at Dottie’s lovely stucco house on hilly Monadnock Street, just a 10-minute walk from the Boston College campus in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Present were Father Drinan’s sister-in-law Helen; Jerome Grossman, who had persuaded him into politics; Tom Kiley, a former Jesuit; John Marttila, his campaign manager; and Robert and Ann Carleo. One had suggested the congressman might leave the Jesuits. Kiley told them: “You don’t know this man. He’ll never leave.”

Dottie’s phone rang. It was a neighbor, a New York Times reporter, calling to warn her that there was a Boston Globe photographer on the front lawn. How to escape?

While someone slipped out and moved Father Drinan’s car to the next block, Dottie led him through the basement and out the cellar door into the backyard, surrounded by one of those stone walls that New Englanders build to separate their property from their neighbors. He scrambled over the wall, headed for his car and disappeared. He had a meeting the next day with the provincial superior of the Jesuits in New England, the last of three who had fought the permission battle for him over the years.

The Last Days

A talk by Pope John Paul II, who assumed office in 1978, to the Latin American bishops at Puebla, Mexico, in January 1979, a harbinger of his removal of four priests in Nicaragua, was also a signal to Father Drinan’s Jesuit superiors that the clock had run out on the string of permissions that had kept him in Congress for five terms. At a meeting of the American provincials in October 1979, the new New England provincial, Edward O’Flaherty, S.J., and the Jesuit superior general’s representative, Gerald Sheehan, S.J., had several cases to talk about. One concerned a Jesuit who was campaigning for the ordination of women. The other was the need to “do something about” Father Drinan. The Jesuit general, Pedro Arrupe, had told Father O’Flaherty’s predecessor, Father Richard T. Cleary, that he wanted Father Drinan to leave Congress, but he left it to Father Cleary to determine the timing. Father O’Flaherty realized the time had come.

Several factors were at work. One was the personality of this new pope. His predecessor, Paul VI, was also both concerned by what he saw as the liberalizing tendencies of the Jesuits and opposed to priests holding political office; but he was also sympathetic toward the Society and was willing to allow more freedom because of his abiding trust. The new Polish pope, while he toured the world attracting huge crowds of worshippers, was quick to use his power to discipline and silence those he considered dissident or influenced by Marxism. The New York Times reported that in September 1979 the pope had directed the Jesuit general to remedy the “regrettable shortcomings” of Jesuits around the world, who had “secularizing tendencies” and did not practice “doctrinal orthodoxy” (May 6, 1980). And many noticed that the pope’s reaction was reserved when on March 24 El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass and when, later, crowds at his funeral were shot down.

Another factor, difficult to measure, was the growing determination by leaders in the American pro-life movement to remove Congressman Drinan from office. Since he was now apparently unbeatable in a Congressional election, their only means was an end run to ecclesiastical authorities, first to Cardinal Humberto Sousa Madeiros, the archbishop of Boston, and then to the pope in Rome. The conservative California Republican Congressman Robert Dornan was one of the congressman’s most outspoken critics. In May 1978 he approached Father Drinan on the way into the Congress and said, in effect, “Father, please do not cancel out my vote. Why are you doing this when it is against our Catholic training and the teaching of our church?” Father Drinan made no reply, turned and walked away. Mr. Dornan approached as many bishops as he could, including Cardinal Madeiros, and told a friend that he had succeeded in getting his letter on the pope’s desk. It is entirely possible that the Drinan issue was raised with the pope when he visited Boston in 1979.

Father Drinan seems to have been able to file away in the bottom drawer of his consciousness the issue of the three-way relationship connecting abortion, his priestly identity and his role in Congress, while in other minds—for example, Father Arrupe’s—this issue came to the fore. On April 10, 1979, Father Drinan wrote the Jesuit general a long letter trying to convince him that he is a “very important moral influence” in Congress, using the word “moral” six times on the first page. He describes his work on the criminal code as an opportunity to introduce into law a higher morality with regard to crime. His role as a congressman had led to his board membership at Bread for the World; his book Honor the Promise, urging support for Israel, received attention because he is a congressman. About to visit China, he suggests that he is doing in Congress what his fellow Jesuit Matteo Ricci did in China centuries ago. He encloses the citation on his Villanova honorary degree.

On Feb. 5 Father Arrupe wrote the New England provincial superior agreeing to allow Father Drinan more time to extricate himself from Congress; but he cannot understand Drinan’s position on the federal funding of abortion or how he resolves in his conscience the scandal caused by his position.

On Sunday, April 27, 1980, the Roman headquarters of the Society of Jesus called Father O’Flaherty with the news that John Paul II had ordered that Father Drinan withdraw his candidacy for a sixth term. Father O’Flaherty informed Father Drinan immediately but also agreed to appeal. Father O’Flaherty repeated to officials in Rome the familiar argument that this would be perceived as Vatican interference with American politics and pointed out that the date for filing a candidacy was May 6, just over a week away. On Monday night Jerome Grossman had dinner in Washington with the congressman. He sensed that something was bothering him: he was not himself. But Father Drinan told no one. He kept it all to himself. On Saturday, May 3, the Vatican said its decision was final.

The Long Weekend

As Father Drinan drove from Dottie Reichard’s house a few blocks away back to his gloomy little room in St. Mary’s Hall on late Saturday afternoon, he had a lot to do. He had a personal meeting with his provincial superior coming up the next day; to prepare Monday’s press conference. He had known this was coming for a week, but it is very likely that he entertained the fantasy that somehow the provincial’s appeal would work its magic, as it had every two years before. On the surface this was simply the application of canon law; in reality it was part of a pattern of decisions by the pope to silence what he saw as dissident voices and thereby to strengthen the “true faith.” Now Father Drinan had a day to prepare himself to face the press and explain why he would not simply break away, serve the people, as so many Jesuits had done in recent years. What would he say?

As he turned into Boston College, with St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, where he had celebrated his first Mass, a few yards away, we can be confident that his mind raced back to 1942, when he decided to become a Jesuit. Now that vow of obedience was depriving him of what he most loved—that job in Congress where he was doing so much good. But if he had not gone to Boston College and become a Jesuit and then dean of the law school, would he ever have had a chance to be where he was today? Now he had to reach deep down into the spirituality the Society had given him and find God’s will in this most terrible moment of his life.

That Sunday morning in Washington, Ken Bresler, who was 12 when he first worked on Father Drinan’s 1970 campaign and was now his legislative assistant, headed for the office when the phone rang. It was Clark Ziegler, the congressman’s administrative assistant, calling to tell him, “Rome says Drinan can’t run again.”

As he headed down the corridor of the Rayburn House Office Building, Mr. Bresler kept telling himself it was a joke. But it was no joke. For him Congressman Drinan was a unique link between the Christian and Jewish people. He knew that the Jesuit motto was “AMDG,” a Latin abbreviation of “For the greater glory of God,” and he felt that in working for the congressman he too was doing “G-d’s work.” In the office faces were filled with hurt.

One Catholic staff member announced, “I’ll never set foot in a Catholic church again.”

In the Boston Globe office Sunday night the page-one editor decided to run “Vatican Tells Drinan Not to Run Again” as the lead story, and he juxtaposed it with a large photo of the pope in Kinshasa, Zaire, perched on a high wooden throne, shaded by a thatched palm. He had ordained eight African bishops and told his audience to “leave political responsibility to those who are entrusted with it.” Nine people had been trampled to death and 69 injured in the rush to see the pope.

Drinan Meets the Press

That morning, May 5, before an audience of 30 reporters plus friends and supporters in Boston, as Arrupe in Rome issued a statement thanking Father Drinan for his loyal compliance with the directive reflecting the “expressed wish” of the pope, Father O’Flaherty gave the background facts. Father Drinan, in a short statement, asserted that he had spent 10 of his 27 years as a priest as a member of Congress, and that “I am certain that I was more influential as a priest in those 10 years than in my 14 years as dean of the Boston College Law School.” He listed his travels to Argentina, Russia and Southeast Asia and said he looked forward to flying to Amsterdam the coming Sunday for a conference to liberate Anatoly Scharansky from prison.

I am grateful to have had these opportunities as a moral architect. I can think of no other activities more worthy of the involvement of a priest and a Jesuit.

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.

I undertake this new pilgrimage with pain and prayers.... I hope that in God’s providence I may be given an opportunity to work to alleviate world hunger and to stop the arms race.

On Thursday Congressman Drinan flew back to Boston College to support the kick-off of Barney Frank’s campaign for his seat. He responded to the many letters about his firing with, “God’s ways are not our ways.”

Fred Enman, a young Jesuit novice and a lawyer, at Georgetown for his novitiate “experiment,” in which Jesuits in training get a taste of different aspects of Jesuit life, asked Father Drinan how he felt. He replied, “Hurt, bitter and confused.”

Listen to an interview with Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., an associate editor of America, is the author of Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest to be Elected to Congress (Fordham Univ. Press, 2010), from which

Comments

Christopher Linstrom | 5/7/2011 - 9:11am
To Walter Mattingly, You have given us some great and wonderful insights into this most difficult and tragic issue. Thank you. Chris Linstrom
Christopher Linstrom | 5/7/2011 - 9:03am

Career Interrupted (March 7, 2011)


 


Raymond A. Schroth's "Career Interrupted" (March 7, 2011), makes short mention of the ability of Fr. Robert F. Drinan, S.J., to “file away…the three-way relationship connecting abortion, his priestly identity and his role in Congress.”


This highlights exactly the crux of the pro-life belief that elective abortion is "life interrupted." For us, life is of “one piece” and cannot be subdivided into pre-born and born. Malachi Martin’s The Jesuits (Simon & Schuster, 1987) develops this in a clearer way. Although Rep. Fr. Drinan voted for public funding of abortion, he himself personally considered it infanticide. How he could have voted in favor of it is simply not understandable to the pro-life mind. “Obeying the law” is not a justifiable explanation.


Rep. Fr. Drinan was an ordained Catholic priest long before he was elected to the U.S. Congress. He passed the Democrat’s “litmus test” and remained there for 10 years. He went to his grave with the knowledge that he personally helped fund the killing of thousands of innocent, pre-born children. That is indeed a heavy burden for anyone and certainly any Catholic priest to bear. May God have mercy on him.


His work and career will one day be forgotten. The life- affirming and truly liberating life of Blessed Pope John Paul II the Great, Fr. Drinan’s nemesis, will never be forgotten.

Richard Peddicord | 3/15/2011 - 11:59am

I was surprised to see Raymond Schroth's subtitle to his book on Fr. Drinan, viz., "The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest to be Elected to Congress."  For the record, the illustrious Fr. Gabriel Richard (from the then Michigan Territory) was the first Catholic priest elected to Congress.  He served in the House of Representatives from 1823 to 1825.  His tenure in office predates Fr. Drinan's by almost 150 years.

Katherine McEwen | 3/11/2011 - 1:45am
Hard as that decision may have been for Father Drinan, to stay true to his vow of obedience the ONLY thing he could have done was not run for office again.  Sometimes surrendering to lawful authority-human and/or supernatural-is the hardest right decision a person can make.
Norman Costa | 3/10/2011 - 9:30pm
 
@ Walter:

Thanks. It was very thoughtful.
 
C Walter Mattingly | 3/10/2011 - 8:55pm
All I can speak for is what happened in our parish. The young lady who had the miscarriage (it was early in the second trimester, not the end) was heartbroken and asked the pastor to provide the service, and responding to her need, he did so. A tiny coffin either contained the remains of the baby or merely represented the baby, I didn't ask.
To address your question, this was the first preborn, or newborn for that matter, funeral I have attended. I would think, however, that it takes a certain imaginative and empathic strength to recognize the unseen prepartem child as much your child as a postpartem one. An analogy might be that we read about a traffic death on a certain corner and we take note of it, but don't suffer perhaps. But if we see the death occur on the corner, we definitely have a stronger empathic reaction. Neither one is more dead or tragic than the other, but it takes no imaginative empathic response for the second as it might for the first because we have seen and heard its occurrence with our own senses. We have fully known the life and death of one, but not as fully known the other, and the natural response is different, although the essentials of the event are not. And yet I have seen a few people who take the misfortunes of another about as solemly as that of their own.
There are so many tragedies that have resulted from our society's separation of sexuality from family, unwanted pregnancies and abortions being perhaps among the most tragic. It is a passionate issue, as the question of abortion involves the first two rights of our own Declaration of Independence, life and liberty. But there is a reason life comes before liberty. It is the first right. By this I don't include the recent case of the abortion at the Catholic hospital to save the life of the mother when the alternative is that both she and her child die. That makes no sense to me on the face of it. But if the mother is not faced with likely mortal peril, I don't think an elective abortion can be justified. As I perceive it, it is a direct affront to God's gift of human life. 
Perhaps this is irrelevant to you, but in his youthful skeptical apostacism, James Joyce said to his brother that the only thing he believed in was a mother's love for her child. One of the hardest things for me to stomach is that the special bond that providence has provided to bond the mother with her child in maternal love, that it begins as a part of her and ends as her child, is now used as the excuse to justify aborting it: it is a part of the mother's body which she has a right to excise, like a cyst or a wart. As the bard once intoned, don't think twice, it's alright.
I don't have fully adequate answers for the inconvenience or even suffering an unwanted child may bring upon the mother, but killing an innocent child is not one of them. Developing a moral sense by allowing moral instruction in our school systems would go a long way toward an answer, I believe.


Norman Costa | 3/10/2011 - 11:05am
 
@ Walter:

Thanks for responding.

I am not addressing concerns of bioethicists, so I do not see how I am underestimating issues they raise. I am trying to understand what it means, at a very deep level, for the Church to be pro-life. Is a distinction being made between the death of a fetus and the death of a child brought to term. I am refering to the distinction in how the Church responds to the death of either.  Is there a distinction, or not? Is there a difference in the Church's attitude to the death of either one?

The funeral mass and memorial service your cite is the first I have known. Thank you for the information.

There is still the matter of holding hostage the lives and health of mothers and their babies over the lives of fetuses. Do we not speak up when the lives of mothers and babies are being held for ransom to insure the continuation of life for fetuses? Does this not seem like a surreal turn of events? Is this not a cynical attack on womanhood and children? Is this a campaign for the unborn, or an excuse to justify a sadistic and dehumanizing treatment of our women and children?
 
 
C Walter Mattingly | 3/10/2011 - 8:35am

Norm,
I have a partial answer to your question #17.
We had a funeral mass service and the following year a memorial service at our church for one of our choir members who had a miscarriage at the 6th month.
I think you seriously underestimate the general and growing consensus of medical bioethicists on the question of the fetus as human person and the attendant issue of whether human life is being killed in an abortion. The famous Princeton bioethicist, Peter Singer, concedes that abortion is taking a human life. He also believes we are merely great apes, and favors giving the mother up to 30 days after birth to decide whether or not to commit infanticide upon her infant child.
I recommend to your consideration Fr John Kavanaugh's book, Who Counts As Persons? His is perhaps the best definiton of the human fetus I have encountered: an embodied human career. 


 

THOMAS FARANDA | 3/8/2011 - 4:48pm
Fr, Drinan was a long term supporter of abortion. Years after leaving Congress he wrote an op ed in the NY Times - 1996 - supporter the legality of partial birth abortion.
The only reasonable explanation for this is the old refrain "My Party Right or Wrong, but Right or Wrong, My Party." He was baptized a Catholic, but born a Democrat. Tragic for the Church and the Jesuit order.
Norman Costa | 3/7/2011 - 2:16pm

@ Richard J.:

Regarding "... the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the last remaining Christian member of Pakistan’s federal cabinet."

May he rest in peace. His death follows on the murder of Salmaan Taseer. 

"Pakistan's Christians, already poorly represented in power, worried about what Bhatti's death meant for them. "We do not have the freedom of expressing our point of view," said Bishop Samuel Azariah, presiding bishop of the Church of Pakistan. "Why is the majority in the sin of silence?" Bhatti's brother-in-law, Yousaf Nishan, said he felt "very insecure". He said: "In this society you can't open your mouth, even if you want to say something good, because you're afraid who you might offend." 

"Bhatti's death casts an ever longer pall over the case of Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy last November. Bhatti was one of three politicians who agitated for the release of the mother-of-five; now all three have been silenced. Salmaan Taseer, the Punjab governor, was killed by his own guard outside an Islamabad cafe while Sherry Rehman lives in hiding, advised against public appearances for fear of assassination."

Read MORE

Shahbaz Bhatti discussed threats to his life in an interview, about 4 months before his murder. Watch HERE:

The prospects for the future in Pakistan are not just bleak, they portend calamity, possibly, on a nuclear scale. Here are the thoughtful and informed writings of two Pakistani intellectuals and professionals: Omar Ali, and Pervez Hoodboy.


Norman Costa | 3/7/2011 - 1:44pm

Please, is anyone in a position to answer my questions in no. 17, above? Thanks.
 
@ L. B.:

Please, what was Fr. Drinan's error in thinking at the time he supported Barney Frank to replace him in Congress? At that time, I did not know anything about Barney Frank, or who he was, or that Fr. Drinan supported him. Thanks.
 
Richard O'Connor | 3/7/2011 - 11:18am

     The same day I read the feature article on Fr. Drinan in your Lent issue, I read about the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the last remaining Christian member of Pakistan’s federal cabinet.        


     What a contrast between these two “Catholic” politicians! 


     One would expect the priest’s last words would have been, “I want a place at the feet of Jesus.  I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for myself and to say I am following Jesus Christ.  I consider myself privileged if, in my effort and struggle to help the needy, the poor, persecuted Christians, Jesus would accept the sacrifice of my life.  I want to live for Christ and for Him I wish to die.”  But no, these were spoken by a “common” man, Shahbaz Bhatti, now a martyr saint. 


     The article didn’t say what the last words of this once bitter and confused Jesuit, still obviously held in high esteem by his Order, were.  Does Mr. Schroth’s book tell all?  Fr. Arrupe isn’t the only one who can’t understand Drinan’s thinking on federal funding of abortion or how he resolved in his conscience the ten years of scandal he gave.


     Richard J. O'Connor

JOSEPH CLEARY II | 3/6/2011 - 5:40pm
The question not really explored here by the author is would the Pope have required Father Drinan to stand down from elected office in 1980 even if his views on public funding of abortion services and similar related topics had been more consistent with the expressed views of the Bishops.

My Jesuit friends at the time pointed out to me that Father Drinan was the most visible elected clergymen in the world and the Pope was being confronted with "why is Drinan allowed to run for office in the United States but Father So-and-so is not permitted to do the same in another country?"

Certainly his disagreement on abortion funding did not endear Father Drinan to the Bishops in the United States. But a strong case can be made that Mr. Frank would have succeeded him in congress any event that fall.

 
Lawrence Velasco | 3/5/2011 - 6:45pm

I believe it was absolutely right to have Fr. Drinian give up his


 congressional office. It is well known that politicians must


 compromise and give in to other politicians if they want to see their own issues


succeed.  Federal Funding of abortion is morally objectionable. His choice of


 supporting Barney Franks as his replacement was another error in thinking.


 Father Drinian's support of abortion was scandalous and did more harm 


 to Catholics who bought into his federal funding philosophy. He knew


 his power to influence and led the faithful astray on this important


 subject. Thank God he was faithful to his vow of obedience and did not


 run for office again. I believe there is a real danger when the world


 has religious leaders making laws. Religious institutions are damaged


 when the secular media confuses the public by reporting a religious


 politician's dogmatic error as alternative truth. Many Western nations


 have a problem with Middle Eastern countries that are governed or


 controlled by religious leaders. Imagine the problems we would have if


 we had priests and bishops serving in Congress and State legislatures today and making laws.




 


 Thankfully the days of the Holy Roman Empire and all of the political


 corruption that existed then are gone.




 


 L.B. Velasco

Lawrence Velasco | 3/5/2011 - 6:44pm

I believe it was absolutely right to have Fr. Drinian give up his


 congressional office. It is well known that politicians must


 compromise and give in to other politicians if they want to see their own issues


succeed.  Federal Funding of abortion is morally objectionable. His choice of


 supporting Barney Franks as his replacement was another error in thinking.


 Father Drinian's support of abortion was scandalous and did more harm 


 to Catholics who bought into his federal funding philosophy. He knew


 his power to influence and led the faithful astray on this important


 subject. Thank God he was faithful to his vow of obedience and did not


 run for office again. I believe there is a real danger when the world


 has religious leaders making laws. Religious institutions are damaged


 when the secular media confuses the public by reporting a religious


 politician's dogmatic error as alternative truth. Many Western nations


 have a problem with Middle Eastern countries that are governed or


 controlled by religious leaders. Imagine the problems we would have if


 we had priests and bishops serving in Congress and State legislatures today and making laws.




 


 Thankfully the days of the Holy Roman Empire and all of the political


 corruption that existed then are gone.




 


 L.B. Velasco

Norman Costa | 3/4/2011 - 4:00pm
 
Why do we not have a wake, funeral Mass, and Catholic burial when a woman miscarries?

Why do we not call a priest to the hospital, when a woman is admitted with a determination of inevitable spontaneous abortion, for the purpose of baptizing the fetus?

Why do we not counsel pregnant women on the baptism of their fetuses should they miscarry? 

Why do we not announce, in church, the death of a miscarried fetus, as we might announce the death of a child.
LARRY | 3/2/2011 - 6:56pm
While a good Catholic must sincerely believe that it is the Spirit that guides the Church through human means, and that what the pope decrees today must be God's expressed will for us at this present moment, one may prudently consider whether a time-limited papal decision, a papal decision made today, may be wise for all time.

I am thinking of a statement by the poresident of Notre Dame University that I thought made very good sense some 35 years ago. At a New Orleans press conference he was being asked about Fr. Drinan's holding public office. Fr. Hesburgh answered that "many political issues today are in reality true moral issues: think of hunger, human rights, education... Because of that, I think religious, priests, ministers and rabbis are seriously attracted to government today, because they rightly think that this is their stock in trade."

But that was before John Paul II barred clerics from public office.
Richard Sullivan | 3/2/2011 - 6:21pm
For those who interpret the mind of God and his position on abortion, it seems to me, that they cannot conclude that abortion is intrinsically evil when as many as 50% of all pregnancies in God's plan end in natural abortion. Perhaps abortion is intrinsically evil only for human beings because they are not God. That sounds silly.

I could never be for abortion because I could never terminate the life of a fetus. I doubt that Father Drinan could have either although he may have voted for multi faceted legislation that included funds for the poor to have access to abortion. I have no knowledge as to any such vote. Surely those who blast Father Drinan have a long litany of such votes.

For me, Father Drinan represents all that is good about priests and Jesuits. An egotist would not have bowed his head to the wishes of the benign or the malevolent dictator John Paul II, whichever he was. The only thing I feel certain about is the characterization of him as a dictator and he is going to be declared a saint. Figure that?
Norman Costa | 3/1/2011 - 5:45pm
 
@ TF Brzozowdki:

Thanks for taking the time to express an opposing view.

It is the hostage takers of the body-snatched pro-lifers that have created this dilemma for politicians, and us, indirectly. In my opinion, it is not so much a pro-life tactic to end legal abortions. If all pro-choice politicians said, "OK! Put the money back in for women and children, without funding or promoting abortions, and we will vote for it," I doubt they would introduce such a bill. That is why I call their ploy anti woman and anti poor.

"Join us in the fight to save the unborn. Kidnap women and children, hold them hostage, and let them die if pro-choice politicians do not meet our demands!"
 
 
THOMAS BRZOZOWSKI | 3/1/2011 - 2:15pm
On Feb. 5 Father Arrupe wrote the New England provincial superior agreeing to allow Father Drinan more time to extricate himself from Congress; but he cannot understand Drinan’s position on the federal funding of abortion or how he resolves in his conscience the scandal caused by his position.

I guess I would have to "vote for Pedro" on this one. A non suquitur by Mr. Smith. Could Fr. Drinan have been against the federal funding for abortions and also against "cutting everything out from under mothers and their children"? Such faulty logic could excuse all politicians who chose to ignore every holocaust, with the reasoning of having to pick their battles. I guess that's what happens when you're a politician first and a Jesuit second.

"Women and children first, - preferably the living ones." A Catch-22, wouldn't you say, as one has to be alive to included in the above dictum. Nice try spinning it though.
Norman Costa | 2/28/2011 - 5:20pm
 
The dilemmas for Drinan are the same dilemmas for us all.

There are crimes against fetuses.
There are crimes against women.
There are crimes against children.
There are crimes against families.

We have to chose, sometimes, where we put our efforts and support, to the detriment of the others.

For some 'Right to Life' politicians, their campaign has mutated into a movement against women and the poor.  Theirs is a crass and  disingenuous plea for the unborn, while cutting everything out from under mothers and their children. They are holding women and children hostage. If they do not get their way, mothers and children will suffer and die.

I would like to think we would abide by the dictum, "Women and children first," - preferably the living ones.

It is my view that Drinan understood the choices and the dilemmas. Like any politician, one has to pick his or her battles, and make decisions that are never perfect. The reason is that the choices are never obvious, and they demand judgment in the light of what is possible.

I do not envy the politicians and clergy and laity that have to confront these extremely difficult dilemmas and, of necessity, must render a decision.
 
david power | 2/28/2011 - 2:47pm
Nobody is perfect and the complexity of life throws everybody off in different ways. But how on earth did he file it away? I seriously pondered this for a while.How could a man who obviously in different ways had a moral compass lose it completely on abortion? In the end he faced an inner trial and it is truly a wonder that he chose Christ over congress. Apart from other things I would be interested in the book to discover his spiritual life.  The pope himself lost his moral compass when his own interests were at stake and so would most of us if the truth be told. Thank God literally that He chose Peter.

Thanks for posting this and I hope to see another chapter.
Frank Gibbons | 2/27/2011 - 5:33pm
The Bhudda said ""There are five kinds of Evil Karma which are difficult to extinguish, even if one were to repent of them. What are the five kinds of offences? The first one is killing the father, the second one is killing the mother, the third one is abortion....

Father Drinan was wrong.
M MARIALOUIS | 2/25/2011 - 10:31pm

I AM A JESUIT 83 years old,sixty years a jesuit.first i thank God FOR THE GIFT OF FR DRINAN TO the SOCIETY;WHAT AN EXAMPLE for me! to be inwardly free(indifferent, according to ignatius)  always to say LET YOUR WILL BE DONE;THIS IS ALSO THE VIRTUE OF ARRUPE,when ordered to lay down office as SUP GEN aND FR DEZZA was appointed DELEGATE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II;I CONsider it a blessing to belong to a COMPANIONSHIP which is blessed with companions like ARRUPE and DRINAN.
i have a visceral dislike for JOHN PAUL II AND BENEDICT XVI who persecuted people like ARRUPE and Drinan.THEN WHY OBEY THEM;just because i have been taught by IGNATIUS,AS arrupe AND DRINAN were. i thank GOD for having blessed the SOC OF JESUS with men like DRINAN and ARRUPE and  wHO were given the grace to DISCERN xt IN OUR SUPERIORS.
I wish i could read DRINAN'S biography.
Marialouis s.j.?

David Smith | 2/25/2011 - 8:12pm
Thanks.  I assume this is part of a biography.  I hope there'll be more in the book about Robert Drinan the man and the priest, not just the politician - his family, his youth, his writing, personal friendships and conflicts, intellectual development, and so forth.  I imagine most readers will forgive the political bias of the biographer :O)
6466379 | 2/25/2011 - 5:49pm
Somehow, sooner or later if one sincerely attempts to follow Christ, a great test of Faith will come. Fr. Robert Drinan survived that test, leaving us an invaluable legacy in Obedience. This model is much needed in our Church today.

As with any great test, Fr. Drinan was soul-shakened by the Papal decree to abandon his political service, in which he had done much good, but unfortunately also got mired in pro-abortion political  experiency. But when the test came, just  as he did years before in becoming a Jesuit, "he left all" to follow Christ!

God knows we all make mistakes, but I admire and respect Fr. Drinan's practice of heroic virtue when the chips were down! May he rest in peace! No, he IS resting in the peace of the Christ he served so well!
Peter Lakeonovich | 2/25/2011 - 4:02pm
Frank,

You are right that St. Ignatius may not be proud of Fr. Drinan's record on abortion, but surely he would be proud of Fr. Drinan's obedience in not running for another term.  If that caused Fr. Drinan to have a conversion, then I'm sure St. Ignatius would be proud.

Three statements in this article are telling:

1.  "Now Father Drinan had a day to prepare himself to face the press and explain why he would not simply break away, serve the people, as so many Jesuits had done in recent years. What would he say?"

2.  "Now that vow of obedience was depriving him of what he most loved—that job in Congress where he was doing so much good."

3.  One Catholic staff member announced, “I’ll never set foot in a Catholic church again.”

The common denominator of all three statements above is that they portray a self-centered mentality - - - rather than a Christ-centered mentality.

To the question in No. 1 above, "explain why he would not simply break away," break away from what?  From the Church?  Nonsense.  Fr. Drinan was a Companion of Christ.  There is no breaking away, not from Christ, not from the Church, not from the Society.

To the silly statement in No. 2 above that what Fr. Drinan loved most was the job in Congeress, I would say that's highly unlikely.  Fr. Drinan was a son of St. Ignatius, a man created of the First Principle and Foundation, a man created to praise, reverence, and serve God.  God is what Fr. Drinan loved most.   More to the point, the vow of obedience does not deprive.  Never. It liberates.  Fr. Drinan exemplified that when he chose to make the vow and then again when he chose to honor the vow in submitting his will to the will of the Pope.  That is real freedom.

To the Catholic staff member, where is thy faith?  Fr. Drinan would be disappointed in your statment.

AMDG.

ed gleason | 2/25/2011 - 1:45pm
Where was the Vatican voice when the fascists in Central America gunned down the church members in the late 70s and 80s. ???  "we say they were not fascists ... they were anti-Marxists"
Norman Costa | 2/25/2011 - 1:29pm
 
@ Raymond A Schroth:

Thank you for your article.

I remember when Father Drinan left the life of politics, and I remember being disappointed and confused as to the reason.  All that I knew was that Pope John Paul II required him to leave, and there was little in the way of news reporting that explained why.

There was little doubt that Fr. Drinan was a strong moral force in Congress - and at a time when it was sorely needed. Also, I think that had he stayed, and made it possible for other priests to serve, we might not have witnessed the discrimination against a Catholic priest being appointed the official Chaplain of the US Congress.

This matter is a very tough one to sort through. Politics is, by definition, a matter of compromise and the art of the possible. There are many ordained, and self-ordained, clerics in elected office in the U.S. Some are even sincerely religious. Why should there not be Catholic clergy in elected office?

Organized, tax-exempt, religious institutions should not be active wavers of political banners. Yet the interests of Catholic constituents should have a voice in Congress. I would rather have a public figure, like Drinan, with some amount of transparency representing Catholic interests, than the secret backroom dealings of corrupt Cardinals and Bishops.

John Paul II was a man of enormous faith, and great personal and moral courage. Yet, his understanding serious human issues, like clergy sex abuse of minors, left a great deal to be desired.

We now have a core in Congress that can best be described as insensitive and intolerant. An example of this is the morphing of the pro-life campaign into hostage taking of almost all medical, educational, social, and economic support for poor and low income mothers and their children. Let us not forget the very programs that reduce the nukbers of unwanted pregnancies and the need for abortions.

"You got the rest of the legistlative session to give us what we want! If we do not get it, then we will start to kill the mothers and babies, one every minute! Their deaths will be on your conscience!"
 
ANN CLEM | 2/25/2011 - 12:59pm
The person who looks at the issue of funding for abortion is so tunnel visioned that his blinders don't allow him to realize that there is a much broader issue to be addressed here.  The supporters for funding are not necessarily saying they believe that abortion is always right.  Remember the news of the Catholic hospital who lost their Catholic standing because they allowed an abortion where there was no other possibility for the mother's life to be saved? Let her die! Too many pro-lifers are merely pro-fetus.

Thank you, Church Leadership for expressing your narrow mindedness, AGAIN!
LEONARD VILLA | 2/25/2011 - 12:31pm
Fr.Drinan should be doing penance for his actve cooperation with abortion and the scandal he has given. I always had the impression he was more concerned about being perceived as a liberal than a Catholic.  The Holy See was right to rein him in but it did not go far enough and I cannot imagine St.Ignatius being proud of his legacy.  The bottom line: for all other social issues to matter you first have to be alive.