Bob Drinan, a U.S. Congressman from 1971-1981 passed away on Sunday at the age of 86. The career of the Massachusetts Democrat wasn’t merely notable for his having been the first Roman Catholic priest to serve in Congress, but rather for his bold stance on many of the era’s most contentious issues, often in stark contrast to his church’s position.

Drinan was one of the Vietnam War’s harshest critics, and the former Boston College law school dean was a prominent thorn in the side of Richard Nixon throughout the Trickster’s 2nd term. Both before and after his tenure in the House, Drinan was a staunch abortion rights advocate, which might’ve had something to do with Pope John Paul II’s 1980 decree that priests must abstain from electoral politics.

From Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift :

In a measure of how much the intersection of politics and religion has changed, Drinan had noted that Nancy Pelosi is the first œmom to become Speaker of the House. The fact that she is also Catholic was a footnote. And nobody was checking with the Vatican to see if it was OK, least of all Drinan. If Rome thought this progressive priest would be silenced once he left Congress, they were mistaken. If anything, he expanded his repertoire of causes, writing extensively and lecturing about everything from his moderate views on abortion and birth control to protecting the rights of political prisoners, even serving for a time as president of the Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal interest group.

Drinan was the first member of Congress to call for President Nixon™s impeachment. It was not the crimes associated with Watergate that drove Drinan to advocate what initially seemed like drastic action, it was Nixon™s widening of the war into Cambodia without congressional authorization. œCan we be silent about this flagrant violation of the Constitution? he asked. “Can we impeach a president for concealing a burglary but not for concealing a massive bombing?