The Corner


A Priest writes in:

Dear Mr. Goldberg, Re your comment on the reason for Fr. Drinan’s being barred from running again for the House–you are correct. In fact, the ban on clerics holding secular office was explicitly written into the 1983 Code of Canon Law. I don’t have my copy right here with me, but I do recall it being impressed upon us in the seminary that any political asperations we had were incompatible with priestly ordination, and that if we wanted to run for office, we needed to leave the seminary. Cordially,

[Name withheld]

Update: And then there’s this:



I’m an ex-Jesuit; I was in the order for eight years. I was missioned to Georgetown for a short period, and I met Fr. Drinan several times. He was always a perfect gentleman to me. His passing is worth an appreciation.


There were two trends involved in Drinan leaving office. The first is, as you mentioned, a general command for priests to remove themselves from politics. However, the focus of this wasn’t as much on Drinan as it was on the Jesuit from Nicaragua, Fernando Cardenal, who was serving the Sandinistas as a minister for literacy. The Jesuits were much more prominent in Central America than was Drinan in the U.S. The Vatican was certainly concerned about Drinan, but they were far more concerned with what was going on in Nicaragua.


The second trend was a targeted crackdown on the Jesuits. In 1981, the general superior of the Jesuits (Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ) suffered a stroke. Instead of following the traditional practice, and allowing the Jesuits to nominate and select their own leader, John Paul II installed his personal choice to take over the Society. This produced an enormous blowback, but JPII was adamant. Drinan’s resignation came in the middle of these two trends. In both cases, he wasn’t the focus of the trend. No one should think that Drinan (or his so-called liberalism) was the target of the Vatican.


Catholics should look at Drinan as a model. Drinan respected the authority of his superiors without ever surrendering his conscience. Drinan continued to speak out on matters (such as Clinton’s impeachment, abortion policy, etc.) without fear. Catholics should also remember that once Drinan publicly accepted the authority of the church, the Vatican never interfered with his right to speak.


The man was worthy of praise.


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