Jesuit congressman talks politics and God
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2006
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Former Democratic congressman and dean of Boston College Law School (1956-1970) Rev. Robert Drinan, S.J., discussed the direction of the Democratic Party and its platform in the context of Catholic social teachings Monday, as part of an effort to promote public debate among students.
According to Drinan, what Catholic Democrats are asking for is often difficult because they require individual sacrifice for the benefit of the whole community. "Almost everything that the Democrats are pushing is difficult. We are increasingly asking people to sacrifice - raise taxes, help the poor more and help the third world, get rid of the violence in our culture; those are hard things," he said.
Drinan, who was the first congressman to call for the impeachment of Nixon, began with an overview of Democratic presidents in recent history. He noted that many of them transformed the nation and the world. "When I look back at what the Democrats did over the last century, I'm very proud," he said.
He then addressed what he understands as the flaws of the Bush administration in regards to civil liberties, Iraq, the environment, a failure to reform social security, and his cutbacks on federal loans to college students.
Drinan explained the Democratic platform as a clear set of goals, many with which the Catholic bishops agree. These goals included the domestic issues of increasing the minimum wage, improving healthcare, and strengthening civil liberties and civil rights.
He said that since Republicans have not been active in civil rights issues, it makes sense that only 9 percent of the black community votes Republican. "They understand that the Republicans have never been there when the country was enacting civil rights," he said.
"We need more, not less, engagement in political life. We urge Catholics to become more involved, running for office, working within a political party, contributing money or time to campaigning."
It is especially important for young people to pay attention to politics, he said. "If you're not involved politically in some way or other, you're missing reality; you're not really engaged. The bishops urge you, they plead with you, they are asking you to become politically involved."
Drinan discussed the Catholic viewpoints on multiple issues, illustrating how their stances are often in agreement with those of the Democratic Party.
On the problem of poverty, the Catholic belief in the preferential option for the poor claims that everyone is responsible for helping the poor, he said. Still, many Catholics, like people of all religions, forget about this duty when they become wealthy, he said. "They don't care about the preferential option for the poor. They don't want their taxes to go up anymore. They should know better than that."
Another duty of the Catholics, he said, is to abolish war and violence, which is almost never justifiable. He discussed the hypocritical nature of the United States for claiming to promote peace while supplying the world with two-fifths to two-thirds of all its weapons.
On the issue of gay marriage, he described a Catholic woman whose son announced that he was gay at age 24. "This woman said, 'God made Joey that way, and I won't love him less.'"
On religion and God in the public sphere, Catholic Democrats do not have a firm position, he said. The Catholic bishops propose a compromise between an absence of religion and the level of religion that evangelicals vie for in the public sphere, said Drinan. "Of course we want God, religious values in public life somehow, in a way consistent with our tradition and our constitution." Democrats are not a party of atheists, but a party trying to be fair to every citizen, including the 100 million Americans without any religious affiliation, he said.
Drinan closed with St. Ignatius' three questions: "What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?" These are the questions that individuals must think about when making decisions on political issues, he said.
Responding to the lecture, Andrew Kaplun, A&S '09 said, "It was great to have Fr. Drinan return to BC, and his reflections on politics and Catholicism were very enlightening. He is certainly both a model citizen and a model Catholic."
Justin Rowinsky, A&S '09, also recognized Drinan's ability to convey his points and motivate students. "He had a lot of interesting ways for young people to get involved and a lot of clear points. I hope that he can really motivate people because I know he motivated me," he said.