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Drinan's Record

Although I often disagree, I always look forward to perusing your provocative and readable journal. Might I be permitted a somewhat different appraisal of the political contribution of Fr. Robert Drinan, S.J., whom Patrick Henry Reardon mentions in his review of Lacouture's Jesuits [July/Aug.]?

Reardon claims that Father Drinan's service in the House of Representatives "was chiefly distinguished by voting invariably against every piece of pro-life legislation ever brought to the floor of the house." Reardon then goes on to imply that perhaps the voters in Drinan's district might have thought twice about returning him to Washington (as they did time after time until his retirement) if they had realized he was being pressured by some of his ecclesiastical superiors to step down.

First, Father Drinan was elected to Congress principally as an articulate and informed critic of the Vietnam War. This was the main plank in the platform he ran on. This is what he was known for, and when he got to Washington he became one of the war's most effective congressional critics. He continued to be elected term after term in a district which contains more Jewish and Protestant than Catholic voters, and displayed an admirable example of how a Roman Catholic, and indeed a Jesuit priest, can represent a religiously heterogeneous constituency. I do not live in that district, but I am glad he was part of our congressional delegation at this trying time in our history. After Robert McNamara's recent belated apology for not opposing the war, which he now concedes was "a dreadful mistake," many of us continue to be thankful that Drinan took the courageous position he did. Several Christian thinkers and writers who are now rightly viewed as conservatives—including Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus—were part of the original group of clergy and laity who publicly opposed the war. It is important to remember what the central issue of the day was when judging Drinan's ...

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