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to mike who commented about fr. drinan, sj

My last post dealt with the Jesuit Georgetown University naming an endowed chair after a priest who has been a supporter of abortion. Mike left me a comment saying that I’ve been biased by anti-Drinan sources. I attempted to e-mail him on the address he left in the comment, but my e-mail was returned as undeliverable. Since I would like to be as accurate as possible, I’m reposting the e-mail here in hopes that Mike will see this and respond.
Hi Mike,
Can you refer me to some more materials from Fr. Drinan, SJ? From what I’ve been able to find, he seems a pretty clear supporter of abortion during both his political career and his time off of the Hill.
What I’ve found so far, from sources other than the Catholic News Agency, is that he supported President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban and pushed for an allowance of abortions anytime the doctor feel that the mother was at-risk.
If I misrepresented The Honorable Father, I’d like to be the first to issue a correction or clarification or whatever would be warranted.
As I am aware, he ran for office despite the Black Pope’s informing him that he could not and without the clear approval from the local bishop and while in office, he supported abortion, which unlike many actions, the Catholic Church has a firm and unchangeable opinion against. He did not seek re-election after a statement by Pope John Paul II that priests should not be elected officials.
Thank you for your comment and your assistance in finding more information about Fr. Drinan, SJ.
Take care,
Brandon Kraft

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

4 replies on “to mike who commented about fr. drinan, sj

The issue of Drinan running for Congress is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. Drinan and his superiors came to different conclusions in their prayer and discernment. Drinan followed his conscience and went against the judgment of his superiors. This, to a certain extent, is acceptable in the Society of Jesus. Once Pope John Paul II weighed in on the issue, Drinan kindly submitted to his judgment.
You should read his speeches and his books (available on Amazon) to get started. The sources you consult do not fully understand the complexity of discernment and obedience in the Society of Jesus. Furthermore, they unduly and illogically conflate legality and morality. One who supports the legality of abortion is not necessarily “pro-abortion.” Furthermore, one who supports the legality of divorce, impure thoughts, impure actions alone and with others is not necessarily “pro” any of those things. He or she simply believes that these actions are not legally foribidden and penalized.
People like Drinan advocate a holisitc approach (helping the poor, education) to reduce abortions. It makes little practical sense to make abortion illegal. The conditions that lead to abortion are here with us no matter its legal status. Drinan did more than his critics ever did (or ever will do) to help reduce the number of abortions.
Furthermore, what does it mean for a university to be ‘Catholic’? How can you, who do not even attend Georgetown, make such bold statements about its Catholic identity? Georgetown is honoring Drinan’s accomplishment as a theologian, lawyer, and scholar. It is not absolutely agreeing with everything he has said and done.

Hi Mike,
Yes, you are completely correct that Fr. Drinan’s decision to run for office is not a matter of doctrine. I never said otherwise, only that is part of my knowledge about him. Whether or not his actions, against the will of his superiors, is acceptable within the Jesuits is one thing, but there were other issues involved with that decision, including the local bishop having not granted him permission to do so either. In either case, my point is not to say that Fr. Drinan’s lack of full compliance with his superiors is a reason why a chair should not be named after him. My original point had nothing to do with his decision to run for political office as I was not aware of the issues surrounding that decision until further research after your initial comments.
First, I agree with you in some aspects. I do not feel that making abortions illegal will solve any problem by itself. Many edu-socioeconomic factors need to be addressed in some real sense before the circumstances that “promote” abortion will be diminished. Personally, I do not vote Republican because I simply do not agree with the majority of their platform and I do not lump myself as part of the Christian Right. That being said, that does not remove the responsibility to work for the end of abortion. A public proclamation of support for a veto of a partial-birth abortion ban, in my opinion, does not fulfill, on any level, the responsibility of a Catholic. It is extremely doubtful that Congress would pass a ban on abortion anytime soon, but Congress has voiced support of small steps toward our goal. Fr. Drinan, through his public platform of support for legality of abortion, complicated the efforts to end abortion.
I also agree that naming a chair after Fr. Drinan is not a full acceptance of every position or stance he has taken; however, the right to life is the most basic human right. Fr. Drinan’s stance on abortion is controversial and so naming a chair of human rights after a person who has a questionable stance on the most basic human right is in poor taste, in my opinion.
Regarding the status of Georgetown as a Catholic university: There are many people doing their best at maintaining the Catholic-Jesuit identity of Georgetown University, as evident through various task force groups and other initiatives. Georgetown’s support for CARA and the work done by that entity greatly assists the Catholic Church of America. That being said, Georgetown University has displayed through the various individuals and programs they support, as moving further and further away from Catholic teachings. Did I use any particular ruler or yardstick in determining the Catholicity of Georgetown? No and I fully admit that. When I hear “Georgetown”, my thoughts do not lead me to the Catholicity of Georgetown. A fine university? Sure. One known for being Catholic? I’m wouldn’t send my children to Georgetown as it is now if they’re seeking a solid Catholic education.
Yes, as you have pointed out, I am not a student at Georgetown University. I am a Catholic student at an institution that is not Catholic and by way of the actions of various professors I’ve had, anti-Catholic. One does not have to be a part of something in order to speak of it. Fr. Drinan spoke of human right situations that he was not directly impacted by or through which he lived. Disagree with me all you want, but I do have the option to speak as I have.

On the issue of his decision to run. You didn’t cite it as a reason not to honor him with the endowed chair. But you, and many other Catholics, irresponsibly cite that event in order to tarnish his reputation.
Fr. Drinan knows the give-and-take world of politics better than you and I ever will. I agree with you that his position on partial birth abortion is wrong. But his point of view has been upheld by the Supreme Court. It is a legal position and policy, not a moral prescription. From a legal standpoint neither their position NOR yours is infallible. In any case, both he and President Clinton did more to help decrease abortions than President Bush has done.
You are wrong to state that Drinan complicated efforts to end it. The Supreme Court has more authority on that issue than a single lawyer-priest from New England.
Drinan abhors abortion and has worked for concrete ways of reducing abortions. Hence his human rights record is impeccable. His reasonable approach to the legality of abortion is irrelevant.
Yes, Catholic identity is a difficult issue that each university has to face on its own. They have to struggle to be universities in dialogue with the rest of the world and also a place of Catholic formation. There is no perfect model of carrying that out. Georgetown isn’t completely secular like Harvard and Yale (and UT for that matter). I suspect that since its academic rigor and reputation are secure, the folks at Georgetown will look for ways to secure its Catholic identitiy. Georgetown doesn’t compare to Notre Dame as far as Catholic identity is concerned. At Georgetown, Catholic identity depends on what the student him/herself makes of it. A student at the best Catholic university out there, Notre Dame, could completely dodge Catholicism. This is true for Ave Maria and Franciscan University.
You are entitled to your pontifications, but before making too many of them I suggest you earn a law degree or attend/work at a Catholic university. Your kids will be safe at Georgetown. It isn’t any worse than a secular place like UT.

Irresponsibly cite that event? Whether or not you agree with Fr. Drinan, the event says something about him. In light of other positions he holds or has held, they all add together to speak of his character. I never said he was a horrible priest for not listening to his superiors, I simply stated that is what I knew of him. When you make headlines for something, you have to be prepared to have that follow you, for better or worse.
I repeat that my original point had nothing to do with his running for office.
My perspective of speaking is not from the American legal system but from a Catholic moral perspective of my own understanding. The Supreme Court’s acceptance of his position does nothing as far as influence the Catholicity of his position.
He speaks of a legal position on a moral subject. It does bleed into the moral arena and we cannot act as if it does not.
I am not attempting to make this a Bush vs Clinton debate. I’m not a fan of Bush or the “pro-life” republicans. I think both sides of the debate are broken and that there are additions way of handling this issue that neither side has explored. By being critical of a Democrat does not mean I am defending a Republican. The Democratic platform is a solid platform that is close from being right there with Catholic thought. The Republican platform is lacking quite a bit in many areas.
In short, I never said President Bush or the Republican majority was a good thing for the abortion issue.
I maintain that he complicated this issue. Instead of the two of us discussing ways that we can help influence society toward being the dignity of the human person, from conception forward, we’re going back and forth on whether accepting a legal definition has moral implications. People in secular society could see Fr. Drinan’s stance on partial-birth abortions and say “the Catholic Church can’t be that against it- one of their priests seems fine with it”.
Is that fair on Fr. Drinan? No, but that is part of the ballgame. A statement made by a public representative of the Church impacts the Church’s mission- either in positive or negative ways. Fr. Dave Dwyer’s appearance on the Daily Show a couple of weeks ago had no moral statement attached to it, but it gave visible witness that the Church is part of the world and can interact with it on levels that can engage our young “hyper-secular” culture.
True, someone living next to the Vatican gates could still avoid Catholicism, albeit the stronger the Catholic identity of a place, the more difficult it is to avoid it.
I was not implying that my kids would not be safe at Georgetown. If my kids wanted a solid Catholic education, I wouldn’t give them an application to Georgetown. I do believe in my future child’s ability to choose their own college so I wouldn’t stop them from going to Georgetown- of course not.
I am not sure if there is an university in this country that it would be “bad” for my kids to attend. If my kids came to me and said “Hey Dad, I want to go to a Catholic university!”, I would not suggest Georgetown as a first choice.
I am curious though, once I have a law degree and after I either attend a Catholic university or work at one, what would be different? Would my opinions have full credibility? Do I have to focus on any particular aspect of law? Would working in the development office of a Catholic university count? How about as a janitor?
I do understand your point about the law degree or experience with a Catholic university; keep in mind that someone can have informed opinions without fitting into such molds.
Personally, I do intend to continue my education through law and involvement with a Catholic university, but if nothing else, I should use this website as long as I’m paying for it. 🙂
Thanks Mike for this debate thus far. It is nice to know that people do read the website and such discussions help to advance thought, even if it is only on this small of a stage.

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