Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest and lawyer who served in the US Congress for ten years died on Sunday at the age of 86. Father Drinan defied directives from Father Pedro Arrupe, then head of the Jesuit order, and ran for Congress in 1970 on an anti-war platform. He succeeded, representing Massachusetts’ third district as the nation’s first Roman Catholic to serve in Congress.
“Father Drinan was a stalwart champion for women and those who faced discrimination,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “He supported women’s rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and even a woman’s right to choose. His support for women came through strongly as he spoke – perhaps for the last time – the mass for Nancy Pelosi’s inauguration as Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
As a Catholic priest, he quickly became politically controversial for his liberal views. He opposed the draft and the Vietnam War, calling it “morally objectionable,” the Associated Press reports. He supported the impeachment of Republican President Richard Nixon, not because of the Watergate scandal, but because of what Father Drinan saw as Nixon’s undeclared war against Cambodia. “Can we be silent about this flagrant violation of the Constitution? Can we impeach a president for concealing a burglary but not for concealing a massive bombing,” Father Drinan asked rhetorically. Later, he opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, saying that an impeachment should be for something done officially, not privately, according to the AP.
After leaving Congress, Father Drinan became the president of the liberal group, Americans for Democratic Action and taught at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC. He died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia.
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