The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title page, copyright, dedication
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The best reason to write a book about Father Robert F. Drinan, S.J., is the importance of his life and career, both in his own time and today. Whether the overall impact of his ten years as the first Roman Catholic priest elected to Congress was positive or negative will be debated for years to come. He decided to answer the question of whether the public roles of the priest...
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A project as challenging as this requires, in the long run, the efforts of not just the writer, but of a community of persons who believe that the story of Robert F. Drinan, S.J., needs to be told. The hardest part was getting started, overcoming obstacles that had to do with sources, resources, a home base, and personal contacts. So first I must thank my two provincials...
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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 the New York Law Journal about an upcoming...
1. A New Beginning
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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...
2. Breaking out from a World Frozen in Time
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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...
3. Moving Up
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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 climactic ad grad oral 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...
4. ‘‘The World Turned Upside Down’’
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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...
5. A ‘‘New Politics’’ Candidate
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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...
6. The ‘‘Miracle’’ Election
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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...
7. The Age of Less-Great Expectations
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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...
8. Close Calls
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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...
9. ‘‘My conscience tells me . . .’’
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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 book The Exorcist. The novel and film were based, allegedly,...
10. The Moral Architect
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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...
11. Around the World
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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...
12. Latin America, Israel, and the Last Campaign
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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...
13. ‘‘Hurt, bitter, and confused’’
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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...
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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...
Notes and Sources
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Bibliography and Interviews
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Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2010