Washington, DC, January. 29 ( – Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest and lawyer who defied directives from Rome to serve for a decade in the US Congress, died on Sunday, January 28, at the age of 86.

  The combative Jesuit had been a lightning-rod for controversy throughout his political career. He came to Washington as an outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam; later he became one of the most reliable votes in Congress in favor of unrestricted legal abortion.

  His advocacy of legal abortion continued long after his tenure in Congress. In 1996 the priest-politician shocked many Catholics by praising President Bill Clinton for his veto of legislation banning partial-birth abortion.

  A partisan Democratic legislator, Father Drinan filed the bill to impeach President Richard Nixon in 1973. Years later he would argue strenuously against the impeachment of President Clinton. After leaving Congress he became the president of the liberal political bloc, Americans for Democratic Action.

  Father Drinan, who served as a Congressman from Massachusetts from 1971 to 1980, died of congestive heart failure at Sibley Hospital in Washington. He had lived in Washington, teaching at Georgetown and continuing his active involvement in liberal political causes, after relinquishing his seat in Congress.

  In 1970 Father Drinan made his first run for Congress despite the explicit disapproval of Father Pedro Arrupe, then the head of the Jesuit order. With the help of local Jesuit leadership in Massachusetts he was able to forestall public reprimands from his superiors in Rome, or from the bishops in the Massachusetts dioceses covered by his Congressional district, until finally bowing to a papal directive in 1978 that barred priests from serving in elected public posts.

  One of Father Drinan’s last acts was as celebrant for pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s showcase Catholic Mass at Washington’s Catholic Trinity University on January 3rd. 

  In response to that incident Fr. Richard Neuhaus wrote in First Things on Jan. 19 “The celebrant of the Mass was Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit who, more than any other single figure, has been influential in tutoring Catholic politicians on the acceptability of rejecting the Church’s teaching on the defense of innocent human life. Asked by a reporter, Archbishop Wuerl responded that Fr. Drinan has ‘faculties’ in Washington, meaning he is authorized to celebrate the sacraments. That was it.”