Robert F. Drinan, SJ, the first Catholic priest elected to Congress, had spent the previous years as the dean of BC Law. He put the Law School on the national map by building a geographically, racially, and socio-economically diverse community of students and faculty.
He ran for Congress in 1970 after a trip to Vietnam, where he became concerned about a rapidly growing number of political prisoners in a war he viewed as unjust. Former Senator John Kerry ’76 recalled after Drinan’s passing that one of his campaign slogans was “Father Knows Best.”
Once elected, Drinan became the first Congressman to call for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment for carrying out an undeclared war in Cambodia.
The congressman, who thought that the law should be consistent with a moral imperative to alleviate suffering and protect the vulnerable, left office in 1980 when the Vatican ruled that no Catholic priest should hold legislative office.
But Drinan remained very active in the law in Washington, DC, teaching at Georgetown University while frequently writing and lecturing on human rights, constitutional law, civil liberties, and ethics. He also served as president of the Americans for Democratic Action and was a board member for the International League of Human Rights, the Lawyer’s Committee for International Human Rights, the International Labor Rights Fund, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
By the end of his career, Drinan had penned eleven books, including the notable Religious Freedom and World War: Can God and Caesar Coexist? He passed away in 2007, at the age of eighty-six, less than three years after receiving the ABA Medal for his humanitarian efforts and support of justice.
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