Drinan, Robert F. 1920-2007 (Robert Frederick Drinan)

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Drinan, Robert F. 1920-2007 (Robert Frederick Drinan)


See index for CA sketch: Born November 15, 1920, in Boston, MA; died of pneumonia and congestive heart failure, January 28, 2007, in Washington, DC. Priest, politician, attorney, educator, college administrator, and author. A Jesuit priest, Drinan was a law professor who served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat representing Massachusetts' Fourth District in the 1970s. A 1940 graduate of Boston College, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1942 and was ordained in 1953; the next year he finished his doctorate in theology from Gregorian University. Meanwhile, he was also pursuing law studies. He earned an LL.B. and LL.M. from Georgetown University in 1949 and 1950, respectively, and was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar that year. Five years later, Drinan was also admitted to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1956 to the Massachusetts State Bar, as well. His career began not in a church but in the classroom when he joined Boston College as a law professor and assistant dean in 1955. He was named dean in 1957, a position he continued in until 1970, also serving briefly as vice president and provost. Always interested in secular affairs as much as religious ones, Drinan had decided to run for Congress. He won the Democratic seat from Representative Philip J. Philbin and remained in office for the next ten years. The initial election victory gave him the distinction of being the first Catholic priest to serve as a voting member of Congress (Rev. Gabriel Richard had been a nonvoting congressman in the 1820s). During this time, Drinan proved himself a very liberal politician, even voting for federal financing of birth control and abortions, which was against the Catholic Church's stand on the issue. Also a pacifist, Drinan railed against the Vietnam War and was a key player in having the House Internal Security Commission (formerly the Committee on Un-American Activities) dismantled. He earned the ire of President Richard Nixon when he called Nixon a "fascist war criminal." The remark resulted in Drinan's name being added to the president's infamous list of enemies. Drinan also took the initiative to begin work on impeaching Nixon, though he planned to do so on grounds that the president had illegally ordered bombings in Cambodia. Other legislators were already moving to impeach Nixon concerning the Watergate scandal, however, so Drinan's proposal was dropped. The priest did not run for a sixth term only because the pope decided to enforce a canon law that stated a priest could not serve in political office. Bowing to the will of the Church, he accepted a post as a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in 1981, where he taught constitutional law and other courses. Despite leaving politics, Drinan still made his voice heard on many issues. He became a recognized authority on legal ethics and served as chair of PeacePAC and director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. In 1996, he butted heads with the Church again when he came out in support of President Bill Clinton's veto of a proposed ban on partial-birth abortions. Drinan's books reflect his ongoing concerns with ethics, morality, and American society and politics. Among them are Vietnam and Armageddon: Peace, War and the Christian Conscience (1970), Honor the Promise: America's Commitment to Israel (1977), Beyond the Nuclear Freeze (1983), Stories from the American Soul: A Reader in Ethics and American Policy for the 1990s (1990), and The Mobilization of Shame: A World View of Human Rights (2001).



Chicago Tribune, January 29, 2007, Section 1, p. 12.

New York Times, January 30, 2007, p. C13; February 1, 2007, p. A2.

Times (London, England), February 7, 2007, p. 59.