Jesuit priest lectures on economic justice

Matt Brady

This week, dissenters vocalized their opposition to a Catholic lecturer’s stance on abortion, claiming his pro-choice views contradict his devotion to the priesthood.

In front of supporters of the American Life League, who held signs condemning the Jesuit’s departure from traditional Catholic doctrine, Rev. Robert F. Drinan, S.J., briefly acknowledged the controversy, but redirected the heated discussion back to its original theme, economic justice.

Drinan’s lecture, which was sponsored by the Center for Peace and Justice Education as part of its Election 2004 series, was attended by a diverse audience of students and professors, both supporters and dissenters. He covered a broad array of topics, touching upon issues of justice expanding beyond economics. These topics ranged from nuclear weapons and terrorism to the death penalty and abortion.

“Economic justice bases itself almost wholly on this principle of Jesus,” Drinan said. “The fight for justice is not a new struggle. It goes back to Hamurabi: ‘The purpose of the law is to protect the powerless from the powerful.'”

He also stressed that “no one issue, abortion or war, should take precedence [in the election],” a concept he said he derived from the U.S. Catholic Bishops annual report on the state of the country.

On the topic of voting, Drinan told the audience that amidst the “abundance of information,” they have to discern what they feel strongly for and how to vote. “You’ll feel better about yourself if you’ve voted,” he said.

After the speech, there was a question-and-answer session. Mark Houck, the college coordinator for Generation Life, who identified himself as a conservative, said, “It’s important for a Catholic institution to always present a Catholic position on all issues.”

According to Houck, this Catholic position was not promoted by Drinan. He said the lecture made his “views in his pro-life position stronger” and it was “disheartening to hear of a man abusing his power,” referring to Drinan’s pro-choice stance while serving as a member of the U.S. Congress from 1971-1982.

Others felt that the lecture was important, regardless of Drinan’s views. Jason Brown, a junior who identified himself as a liberal, asserted that this election series is necessary. “I think it would be irresponsible as a Catholic university that participates in Catholic Social Thought not to have this series to at least raise awareness around these issues,” he said.

Dr. Sue Toton of the Center for Peace and Justice Education, who organized this event, said it was intended “to assist the community in making informed decisions.”

She said, “This series is intended to surface [the domestic and international issues], to raise the moral questions with regard to them, to offer clarification from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching and to clarify where the candidates stand on the issues.”

The specific issue of economic justice was chosen, according to Toton, because of the following statement from the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops: “Every person has the fundamental right to life, the right that makes all other rights possible.”

There will be two more events in the Election 2004 series, which includes topics like terrorism and abortion. A discussion on environmental issues will be held in the Connelly Center Cinema on Oct. 5, from 7-8:15 p.m. A talk on Respect for Life issues will be given by Dr. Mark Surgent, dean of the Villanova Law School, in the Connelly Center Cinema on Oct. 26, from 4:30-5:45 p.m.