Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the number of former U.S. House members honored with the Congressional Distinguished Service Award. The story below has been corrected.
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Rev. Robert Drinan; Congressman, GU Law School Teacher

When he sought elective office, he was considered a symbol of a New Politics that melded thoughtful advocacy with organizational efficiency. He used computers, endorsements and television ads.

But he also confronted doubts over the propriety of a priest seeking a seat in Congress.

Winning his seat required him to dislodge 28-year-incumbent Philip J. Philbin in the Democratic primary and then to overcome a Republican opponent and a write-in campaign by Philbin.

"When I arrived in Congress . . . Father Drinan was already serving as the conscience of the House of Representatives," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass).

"It was an honor to serve with him and to seek his guidance and advice on issues such as halting the spread of nuclear weapons, mitigating the plight of Soviet Jews, and protecting the rights of political prisoners," Markey said.

When Father Drinan took office, he said he would continue to wear clerical garb. "It's the only clothes I have," he said.

He "loved his time in Congress," Aleinikoff, the Georgetown Law dean, said. He "was absolutely delighted" with the award he received last year.

Expressing "regret and pain," Father Drinan left the House in 1981 after the Vatican ruled that no priest could hold a legislative position.

Only the sudden onset of illness prevented him from continuing his teaching duties this semester, Aleinikoff said.

He was "a man without rancor" whose deeply held beliefs never prevented him from viewing every person as "deserving respect and possessing dignity."


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