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

Raymond A. Schroth
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 432
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    Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress
    Book Description:

    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 architectand 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4872-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    In 1964 Anthony J. LoFrisco was a young lawyer and a 1955 Fordham University graduate who considered himself a very conservative Republican, not someone who usually attended lectures and not someone for whom the civil rights movement was anything he could do more than read about. But when he saw an item in theNew York Law Journalabout an upcoming lecture by a Jesuit, he thought, because he knew Jesuits well from Fordham, he’d drop in. The speaker was Robert F. Drinan, S.J., the dean who was shaking up Boston College Law School and who was already making a...

  6. 1 A New Beginning
    (pp. 8-36)

    Dottie Reichard, who had run the 1978 campaign, was worried. Something must be wrong, she thought. Drinan had seemed sad, silent, not himself all week. Over the years those close to him 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 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...

  7. 2 Breaking out from a World Frozen in Time
    (pp. 37-62)

    During the 1942 spring semester the war mobilization moved swiftly. Day after day, when Father William Leonard, S.J., a theologian and liturgist who had enormous influence on the boys, especially on Bob Drinan, called roll in class, someone would answer, “He’s gone, Father.” Following Pearl Harbor, Leonard himself had twice asked the provincial for permission to join the Army as a chaplain and had been refused. The third time, because enrollment had fallen so drastically—it dipped as low as 200—that there was less need for teachers, the provincial said yes. In April a group scheduled to graduate in...

  8. 3 Moving Up
    (pp. 63-86)

    After ordination, in the pre–Vatican II course, the fourth year of theology was usually a mixture of the two worlds—taking some more courses in preparation for the climacticad gradoral exam, in which a panel of professors grills the young priest on all he was supposed to have learned during the seven years of philosophy and theology and grades him from a six to a ten. In the minds of some examiners, these final orals were not just a measure of whether the young Jesuit had learned his philosophy and theology well enough but also whether he...

  9. 4 “The World Turned Upside Down”
    (pp. 87-104)

    When General Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington after the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the band struck up an old march, “The World Turned Upside Down.” There would be a consensus of not just historians, but most of those who actively participated in the action and passion of America in 1968, that the song symbolized not yet another victory but at least another revolution: political, cultural, and in many ways religious. There was a string of events during the 1960s that those involved will remember as long as they live—including where they were and what they were doing when...

  10. 5 A “New Politics” Candidate
    (pp. 105-125)

    Like Jerome Grossman and all those who were across from Grant Park at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 during the police attacks, Arthur Obermayer, a scientist, intellectual, philanthropist, and activist, was determined to do whatever he could to make sure that something like this could not happen again. For the previous ten years he had been president of the Moleculon Research Corporation of Cambridge, which had been doing secret work for the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission. Because he was concerned about the U.S. defense posture, he did not want to see national resources...

  11. 6 The “Miracle” Election
    (pp. 126-151)

    In a February 16 letter to his would-be constituents on Boston College Law School stationery, Dean Drinan invited voters to the February 21 caucus in Concord and reminded them that his new book,Vietnam and Armageddon,would appear on May 6 as an “outline of a new challenging foreign policy for the United States in the 1970s.” And, he asserted, his visit to Israel in 1964 made him highly qualified on Middle Eastern affairs. In a subsequent letter he pointed to his article in the currentTheological Studieson abortion for those who had questions on that subject, which was...

  12. 7 The Age of Less-Great Expectations
    (pp. 152-171)

    During the first week of January 1971 Father Robert F. Drinan moved into another new world, one that called for him to assume a new role and a new identity. And the decade of American history into which he was carried had begun to accumulate its own unforeseen peculiarities. Dubbed in 1976 by author Tom Wolfe “The Me Decade,” the 1970s had a new ethos that grew in some ways out of an idealistic, positive, revolutionary movement—the morally based protest against the Vietnam War—that had propelled Drinan into office. But now it was beginning to shatter. James T....

  13. 8 Close Calls
    (pp. 172-194)

    One of Drinan’s Jesuit friends was Mike Lavelle, dean of Cleveland’s John Carroll University Business School, who would occasionally invite him to speak—for example, at the annual Bench and Bar alumni dinner in the spring of 1972. Lavelle was never known to be cowed by negative reaction to his straightforward presentations on social justice. Mary Kay Kantz, whose husband, Paul, was a John Carroll alumnus of the 1960s and worked there for thirty years, remembers the night vividly. The audience was politically and religiously conservative, well off, with many not pleased with the evening’s speaker; some were still grumbling...

  14. 9 “My conscience tells me . . .”
    (pp. 195-212)

    One of the cultural icons suggested to represent the 1970s—an age when people turned inward, when personal freedom counted for more than civic responsibility, or when families broke up, and violence in films became more routine and more bizarre—was the William Friedkin film of William Peter Blatty’s bookThe Exorcist.The novel and film were based, allegedly, on a true story of a Jesuit priest who drove the devil out of a child in Washington, D.C., years before. That priest from time to time gave lectures to Jesuit novices that included his encounter with Satan. The story, situated...

  15. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  16. 10 The Moral Architect
    (pp. 213-237)

    Thin, medium height, almost totally bald; his skin has a “translucent quality accentuated by the unrelieved black of his clerical garb.” His eyes, very deep-set, punctuate his conversation, as they roll around, close as he pauses to reflect, then “dart skyward in mock alarm or dismay.” He is controlled in his intensity, yet playful, as he presses his long, thin fingers together in front of him, massages his face, and then jabs them into the air for emphasis. In the fall of 1973 Drinan sat down—when he wasn’t jumping up to stalk around his office, or slumping into his...

  17. 11 Around the World
    (pp. 238-265)

    Cngressman Drinan’s four-page occasional newsletter to his constituents summed up the achievements of 1974 and outlined the challenges ahead in 1975, celebrating the end of the “dark night” of Watergate and offering hope, based on the arrival of “75 new and generally progressive Democrats” in the House and the “erosion of the seniority rule.” This, it was hoped, might lead to a decreased military budget, national health insurance, a coherent energy policy, and antitrust measures against multinational corporations. Drinan was appalled that in five months 50,000 to 100,000 had died of starvation in Bangladesh while 26.6 percent of the administration’s...

  18. 12 Latin America, Israel, and the Last Campaign
    (pp. 266-294)

    Drinan’s expedition to Argentina was in the tradition of his 1969 flight with an investigating committee to Vietnam—a team of concerned human rights activists, this time representing Amnesty International, who wanted to talk to presidents and prisoners, visit scenes of alleged crimes, and question the victims as well as those responsible. They wished to alert the larger world to a local crime that demanded global attention.

    It was also a foreshadowing of a major direction his life and career were about to take. What he learned in Argentina he would reinforce the next year in El Salvador, and the...

  19. 13 “Hurt, bitter, and confused”
    (pp. 295-315)

    In many ways, the travels of Drinan’s last two years in Congress were trips that summed up the pattern and goals of his life. The persona of the advocate for the oppressed—particularly black people, immigrants, refugees, and victims of dictatorial governments—was first implanted on his 1969 trip to Vietnam, where he employed the research method of listening to a cross-section of the society, from prisoners to presidents, then returning home to paint the shocking scene he and his committee had experienced and to ask what the American citizens and their religious leaders were going to do about his...

  20. Epilogue: Resurrection
    (pp. 316-348)

    Once Pedro Arrupe had carried out the very unpleasant task—unpleasant for both Drinan and himself—of removing Drinan from office, he turned his attention to two major items on his agenda. Like Drinan, he had been struck in his travels through the Third World by the pathetic sight of thousands of refugees, including the boat people fleeing the after-effects of the Vietnam War, as they made their way through the world, from one unwelcoming port or beach to another. Because he knew the history of the various Jesuit houses in Rome, he knew that in the early days of...

  21. Notes and Sources
    (pp. 349-358)
  22. Bibliography and Interviews
    (pp. 359-366)
  23. Index
    (pp. 367-394)