Skip to comments.Newton Remembrances for Father Robert Drinan
Posted on 02/19/2007 11:14:43 AM PST by Alex Murphy
This past Sunday, thanks to Mayor David Cohen, the city of Newton paid special tribute to Father Robert Drinan, who was our Congressman for ten years until the Pope asked him to retire from Congress and Barney Frank replaced him. He had been the Dean of the Boston College Law School and a well-known theologian, author and educator. Since his retirement from Congress, he had been teaching at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, and he passed away on January 28. He was a frequent visitor to his sister-in-law and nieces, who currently live in Newton.
At the remembrance, Congressman Barney Frank stated that Father Drinans election had been the catalyst to convert Massachusetts Congressional delegation from its moderate positions into probably the most liberal Congressional delegation in the U.S. He inspired many people to become politically active, as evidenced by the packed crowd at the Newton War Memorial Auditorium, including a majority of the Board of Aldermen and our state representatives.
Other invited speakers were Jerome Grossman, the initiator of the Vietnam Moratorium and chairman of Drinan Congressional campaigns, and Sheila Decter, who related Father Drinans strong support for Jewish issues.
I was requested to recount how Father Drinan got started in his political career. One of the highlights of my life was the unanticipated opportunity in 1969 to change the course of events in this Congressional district, in this state and in the nation. Then as now, there were a number of groups opposing the unwinnable and unjust war in which the U.S. was involved. Our Congressman then was Philip Philbin, the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a hawk on the Vietnam War. I was co-chairman of the Newton Coalition for New Politics, and we were looking for one strong candidate who could defeat Philbin. Usually, candidates decide they want to run for office and then seek supporters. But here, had a major advantage. We already had supporters ready to work for and contribute to a peace candidate, so we could choose the person who had the leadership ability and strong moral convictions about the war and other values important to us. I had recently heard an impassioned speech by Father Drinan at a Vietnam Moratorium rally at Boston College and felt that he had the conviction and stature to be an ideal candidate. First, in a telephone conversation, then at a meeting of the Newton Coalition for New Politics, and finally to the district caucus organizers, I suggested Father Drinan.
The initial enthusiasm was great. He was a well-known author, educator, legal scholar, and religious leader. He had a strong moral compass and was not willing to compromise his convictions for the sake of expediency. He was a true leader, his values were clear, and he could express his views eloquently and effectively. On the other hand, he always had a good story to tell and enjoyed interacting with people on a personal basis.
Because he was just a possible name and not a candidate, the caucus organizers asked me to lead a three-person delegation to ask Father Drinan to run in the district caucus, which ultimately had only three candidates including John Kerry. My original contact with Father Drinan was by telephone one Sunday afternoon to set up an appointment. He was somewhat put off by the idea and said, Send me a letter indicating who you are and why, out of all possibilities, you would want to consider me. I followed through with the letter, but I anticipated a negative response. However, when he received my letter, I got a telephone call in which he said he was dubious but would like to hear more and would be willing to meet with us. Each time I spoke with him as we were trying to set up a convenient meeting time for all of us, he seemed more enthusiastic. Finally, when we did meet on a snowy night in his Boston College Law School office, he was ready to go. He had already gotten approval from his superior, the Jesuit Provincial in Boston, and he read us a statement by Fr. Arupe, the international head of the Jesuit order, encouraging priests to become active in politics. He was enthusiastic about running, and we were elated to have found a candidate of his prominence.
From the beginning, I had assumed that a Catholic priest would easily garner the Catholic vote, and this would be a major source of his support. Democrats within the Congressional District were about equally split between Catholic, Protestant and Jewish voters. As the campaign Treasurer I participated in dealing with many of the behind the scenes concerns. Quickly, it became clear that Catholics were very conflicted about a priest in politics, especially one who thought so independently. Fr. Drinans views were consistent with Church doctrine, but he did not feel that they should be imposed on non-Catholic. For example, he thought that abortion was a sin but should not be considered a crime. Furthermore, Catholics considered priests to be highly moral individuals and messengers of God, whereas politicians were not to be trusted; they would say one thing to get support and then do another. Indeed, as the campaign progressed, it became very difficult to get any prominent Catholics within the district to support Fr. Drinan publicly. On a number of occasions, Fr. Drinan would be disturbed by late night telephone calls from irate Catholics who did not like what he was doing. As a priest and educator, his views were highly respected and rarely questioned; as a politician, he became subject to vigorous and vicious attacks for exactly the same views he had expressed before. It was a personally difficult time for him, but he did not falter because he was a very determined and dedicated man. He felt that this was his new calling, and he plunged ahead with all the energy and conviction he could muster. He felt he could have a greater impact on the important issues as a member of Congress than solely as an educator and priest. In the end, to everyones surprise, when the actual vote was reviewed precinct by precinct, Fr. Drinan did quite well in the predominantly Catholic areas. Although they opposed his running for Congress, in the secrecy of the voting booth they supported his election. In the intervening years he has become a source of pride and motivation to many Catholics.
We will all miss him, but he inspired so many people to great accomplishments that his impact will remain for many generations.
Where's the "barf" advisory?
And may God have mercy on those Catholics.
There have always been Judases.
Drinan only got worse with age--shilling for Clinton, defending partial-birth abortion, and (in his last public act) heralding Nancy Pelosi at a very well-publicized mass. He was evil to the bone.
*In a thread that references Barney Frank, FR D's. successor to his, um, seat, I think your choice of words is ill-advised
And now he will reap what he sowed.
And I will always remember him during the Clinton hearings. Defending the "Creep." It hurt to see a priest do that. V's wife.
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