R.I.P., Rep. Robert F. Drinan, S.J. (D-Mass.)

You can learn a lot reading the news obituaries in the paper. This morning, I found out about Robert F. Drinan, a Jesuit who became the first Catholic priest elected to Congress. The prospect of a priest in office is an interesting one, but apparently the Vatican didn’t think it was such a good idea and asked him (and other priests) to step down by 1980. It sounds like he was a strong voice against war, but the paper notes cryptically that he was a “moderate” on abortion. Of course, a great number of Protestant ministers hold elected office in the U.S., but as a priest is supposed to take orders from the Vatican, that could create personal or church/state conflicts. Do any of you in Massachusetts know more about Father Drinan?

3 thoughts on “R.I.P., Rep. Robert F. Drinan, S.J. (D-Mass.)”

  1. The whole history of priests holding public offices (not just in the U.S., but worldwide) is a complicated and morally ambiguous one–we are much more inclined to accept the idea of priest in our relatively comfortable, post-Vatican II, North American sense, but there are many places where Catholicism is overtly politicized and, well, tribal. One of the worst cases of priests in politics who fit the latter mould was Fr. Joseph Tiso, who was originally elected as a Czechoslovak legislator and politician, then later became the head of the Nazi-aligned Slovak state during the second world war. While we’d like to think these are exceptions, there are in fact a lot of them, especially in Europe and Middle East–either because of the close correlation between tribal identity and religion, or less often, because of the way the Church becomes the front man of an authoritarian regime.

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