The Passing of 'Fr. Death'

April 2007By Anne Hendershott

Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego and author of the recently published Politics of Abortion (Encounter Books, 2006).

Fr. Robert Drinan, S.J., died at the end of the same month he presided over the inaugural Mass for the new U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. For liberal Catholics, his passing was an occasion of nostalgia for the hopeful days that surrounded the changes brought by Vatican II. He was one of a number of "progressive" Jesuits who helped convince a generation of Catholic politicians -- including the Catholic Kennedy family -- that they could support liberalized abortion laws yet still remain in good standing with the Catholic Church. As an elected member of the House of Representatives, Fr. Drinan provided a much-imitated model for Catholic politicians who wished to support the pro-abortion movement while claiming to be faithful to Catholic moral teaching. Indeed, in a long forgotten meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, on a hot July day in 1964, the Kennedy family and their advisers and allies were coached by Fr. Drinan, then-Dean of Boston College Law School, and a contingent of leading theologians and Catholic college professors, to accept and promote abortion with a "clear conscience."

Yet, for orthodox Catholics, Fr. Drinan's death was a requiem for a sad time in the Church -- and for the country. It was a time when Catholic priests like Fr. Drinan enabled Catholic politicians and voters to rationalize support for pro-abortion legislative initiatives. Prolife Catholics sadly recall that, while serving as the Democratic Representative from Massachusetts from 1970 until 1980, Fr. Drinan could be counted on to provide some of the most extreme pro-choice votes, supporting legalized abortion and its public funding, and opposing prolife initiatives. When he left Congress in 1980, he continued his tireless support for abortion in his position as President of Americans for Democratic Action when, for example, he sent out a fundraising letter urging "the moral necessity of electing candidates to Congress who favored legal abortion and its public funding." In the midst of the partial-birth abortion debate during the Clinton Administration, Fr. Drinan published articles in The New York Times and the National Catholic Reporter supporting Clinton's decision to veto the ban on partial-birth abortion and urging members of Congress to sustain that veto. All the while, Fr. Drinan remained on the faculty of the Georgetown University Law Center, from 1981 until his death this past January.

What perplexes orthodox Catholics most is that Fr. Drinan remained a priest with "full faculties," enabling him to administer the Sacraments and to preside over the Mass at Trinity University in Washington, D.C., for pro-choice politician Nancy Pelosi, a Trinity alumna -- despite the fact that for more than 2,000 years the Catholic Church has affirmed the moral evil of abortion. Church teaching has been unambiguous, mandating that life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception -- and condemning abortion and infanticide as abominable crimes against Natural Law.

Yet, despite the clarity of these teachings, Fr. Drinan remained part of a cohort of Catholic theologians, philosophers, and academic advocates who have committed themselves to debunking catechetical teachings on abortion. Sadly, like Fr. Drinan, many of these pro-choice advocates continue to teach on Catholic college campuses.

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Back to April 2007 Issue

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Right on! Hendershott writes an interesting and informative piece but I disagree that “The real question now is whether America's 224 Catholic colleges and universities have the will to reclaim their Catholic identity in the face of a hostile campus culture . . .” (They don’t.)

I think the real question is whether Pope Benedict will have the guts to excommunicate those who no longer practice the Catholic faith. (He won’t.) Our church would be better off if we had fewer but devout Catholics than the billion Catholics, which include so many “cafeteria” Catholics.

It was a terrible mistake not to have defrocked Drinan long ago. The bishops, cardinals, and Pope John Paul II, did not have the guts to do it. (John Paul did demand Drinan give up his congressional seat.) However, John Paul had no apprehensions when he excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre. Go figure!

Pelosi knows little of the Catholic faith and her daughter even less. Sadly, the church is going down the toilet and our church leaders are not just allowing it, they are encouraging it. The USCCB seems more concerned with politics than the church’s teachings. Christopher Manion, recently wrote in the Wanderer, Catholic Charities which is run by the Catholic bishops, has an annual budget of over 3 billion dollars and over 2 billion comes from the U.S Government. He suggests this may be why some bishops will not deny Communion to politicians who favor abortion. I think we are being bought, or sold out – depending on how you look at it! Time after time, we read stories about bishops who look the other way rather than confront evil. Yes, there are a few good bishops; God bless them!

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Bobby Kennedy’s daughter, in her recently published book, Failing America’s Faithful, reveals that Drinan baptized her fourth daughter. Like her Uncle Teddy, Pelosi, Kerry, and so many more, their views continue to gather momentum. The stats show a majority in favor of birth control and a minority believing in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Where are they learning this? One guess. Meanwhile, the Vatican provides “lip service”. It reminds me of the dog with plenty of bark but no bite. As long as we have the likes of Mahony, Wuerl, Niederauer, we are facing a very tough battle.

Abortion is wrong. Practicing homosexuality is wrong. It is not an alternative lifestyle. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Euthanasia is wrong. Women cannot be priests. We do not pour wine into glass pitchers, that’s for Kool-Aid drinkers. The Mass is Calvary, offering Christ, the Resurrection, and the sharing His Body and Blood. Yes, Christ is present in the Eucharist! We dress appropriately. We don’t dance in church. We don’t talk with friends in church - before Mass, during Mass, or after Mass. We are quiet, reverent and praying. We are worshiping and adoring God. If we want to enjoy a meal, laugh and talk with friends, we go to dinner. If we want a “happy meal”, we go to McDonalds.

There’s a message in the story where two schoolboys were late for school. “Let’s stop and pray,” said the one. “No, let’s run and pray!” replied the other. Pray? Yes, of course. However, as St. Ignatius put it, “We must pray as everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on us.” If the traditionalists will not stand up now and fight, then we will lose our church, as we know it. Some will say that Jesus said, “I will be with you until the ends of the earth” and that is true. However, He did not say the church will always be with you in the U.S. until the ends of the earth. Consider Northern Africa.

This is not about judging. It’s about “admonishing the sinner”, about loving your neighbor. It is our calling. Come judgment day, God Almighty will look me in the eye and I’ll look right back at Him! No sins of omission here; plenty of faith and plenty of good works!

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “I didn’t leave the Catholic church, the Catholic church left me.” I hope that never happens. I am 57 years old and God willing, I’ll live another 20 to 25 years. However, I have this thought that when I die; the liberal church will not allow me a Catholic funeral. They’ll say, “He didn’t believe in abortion, euthanasia, and women priests. He didn’t believe in the symbolic breadcrumbs or our loving, warm, lesbian priests. How can we give him a Catholic funeral when he didn’t practice the faith?”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Posted by: jackclough
April 04, 2007 10:50 AM EDT
Re Jackclough's comments. I completely agree. Just last night on O'reilly, Kathleen Townsend was on pushing her book and adding to the anti-catholic propaganda. It is not just our religion that is imperiled, it is also this country. What has this Drinin heresy done for the Kennedy, Leahy,Kerry, Durbin, Pelosi crowd? political power - what has it done for the party? a democrat party rampant with secular progressives pushing the moral compass of the country down the drain - what is is doing for the country? We now have more violence, political correctness, politicians that try to change votes via the court, and undermine the country's military endeavors by encouraging the enemy - what has it done to the church? terribly undermined it's ability to function and eventually will drive us underground. Isn't that wonderful? With the secular progressives moving out in this country, the catholics and their church are not there to stem the tide. At the current rate, it won't be long before the free/brave U.S.A. of the judea-Christian philosophy will be history. Where are the bishops, where are the catholic groups giving the mainstream media and the government a challenge to their propaganda? Pray and join an activist "Catholic" group. Posted by: wunsch
April 06, 2007 10:01 PM EDT
I understand why Mrs. Pelosi's daughter didn't know abortion and homosexuality were wrong -- no one told her; no one told many (most?) of the rest of us, either. The people who never told us were from an era in which common sense was common enough that knowledge of the sinful nature of the evils in question was taken for granted. Nowadays common sense is a brontosaurus, so we need to be told. I assume, by the fact that she was cornered and questioned on these specific topics, that Mrs. Pelosi's daughter put two and two together. So, my question is this : now that this young lady DOES KNOW the truth, does she NOW follow the Church teaching? Or does she insist that past ignorance justifies future defiance? I wish the article would have told us. Posted by: Mike Ezzo
May 10, 2007 11:04 PM EDT
Excellent, informative articel. But think about it, what would a Pius Xth have done with a priest like Drian? I should think he'd been summoned back to the Vatican and executed. The Church, and God's Kingdom, are not democracies. Does anyone think we'd have legalized abortion in the US without Vatican II and agents of destruction such as this Drian working from WITHIN the Church? But yet we have a world in which so called Catholics vote for pro-abortion canidates at a higher percentage rate than the population a large (evidence Clinton's campaigns)and priests give Communion to pro-abortion politicians. According to Paul IV's (1475?) Solemn Bull Exapostolatus Officio, a manifest heretic, even the Pope himself, loses his office, automatically, by his heresy alone, without need of any formal finding or declaration. Vatican II contradicted irreformable dogmas of the Church over 200 times. This stuff only goes on because there hasn't been a "Peter" on the Chair since 1958. Posted by: mulligan
October 17, 2008 09:19 AM EDT
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