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Drinan as Thinker, Pragmatist

by jimmy carter

Jimmy CarterFather Drinan's credentials, as a humanitarian, religious leader and thinker are unassailable. He is a direct descendant and torch-bearer of the most prominent Jesuit leaders in the history of the Catholic Church.


In the polarized politics of the 1980s some religious leaders have come under increasing fire for invoking their religious values to justify various public policies in the political arena. Yet no such criticism can be accurately leveled against Robert Drinan. While he is truly a man of God, a man of deep principle, and a man of profound conscience, his astute grasp of practical solutions to world problems enables him to debate policy as a scholar and practitioner, as well as a religious leader.


Rather, he has made the broad ethical precepts of his Jesuit upbringing—peace among people, justice and charity, human rights, dignity for the poor and disadvantaged—an integral part of his public actions.


It is his commitment to apply his religious views of human dignity to life’s bitter realities that makes Father Drinan a recognized leader against any denial of individual freedoms—at home or abroad, by governments or individuals.


But conscience alone does not dictate Father Drinan’s appeals. Pragmatism—a sense of what can actually be accomplished in a real-life framework—plays a large role as well. With a deep-rooted commitment to the preservation of humankind, for example, he has repeatedly appealed to Americans to join the nuclear freeze movement and to reverse the threatening nuclear spiral. Yet, acknowledging the illusory approach to demanding total abolition of nuclear weapons, he urges a realistic solution to one of the great moral and ethical issues of our age, preventing nuclear holocaust. This is typical of Father Drinan’s unique ability to find practical solutions, premised on ethical values, to complex issues.


In a similar vein, Father Drinan has brought the full thrust of his religious heritage to bear against political persecution around the globe. Exploring human rights abuses in Latin America, he asks all of us to search for what is just, not only for Americans, but for all mankind. Criticizing the imbalanced human rights policies of the Reagan Administration, he speaks for all the world’s oppressed in asking for even-handed application of human rights by the Administration.


Father Drinan assails other infringements of peace and social justice. He advances the cause of women’s rights; he speaks for the poor and homeless; he challenges capital punishment.


Father Drinan’s writings, like his life, are a mixture of religion and politics. He has successfully struck the difficult balance of a deeply religious person, who applies his religious principles in the sphere of political life without imposing his religious creed on others.


To Father Drinan, social and economic justice are inseparable from the basic tenets of his religion and the mission of the Society of Jesus.


I am proud to know Father Drinan as a religious scholar and thinker blending time-honored principles with modern realities; as a man of action in the United States Congress, fighting for peace and social justice; and as a friend and human being of profound integrity, honesty, and sensitivity to his fellow men and women.


Reprinted with permission of the Society of Jesus New England.