When a notable person dies long after their notoriety has faded, the death itself isn't necessarily newsworthy. But it is an excellent excuse to revisit the person's life and remember their notable deeds. I always learn something interesting from the obituaries in the New York Times, or any other major paper I happen to pick up. Even if I would have passed on following the deceased's activities in life, I am always game to read the obit-writer's take on their life story, and their significance, after their death.Today's contemporary-history lesson came in the form of an obituary for Robert J. Cornell: Norbertine priest, professor, and two-term Democratic Congressman.
In 1980, Father Drinan withdrew from a race for a sixth term after Pope John Paul II insisted that priests not serve in elective office. For the same reason, Father Cornell, who had lost his seat in the 1978 election, withdrew from his own 1980 campaign to win back the seat.It is my personal belief that serving in Congress is no more inconsistent with the priesthood than teaching government and history, as I have done for 35 years, Father Cornell said in announcing his withdrawal....
Before running for Congress, Father Cornell was the Democratic Party chairman in his district and was known for promoting rock concerts to benefit charities.
No doubt many of you remember Fr. Cornell's time on the national stage. But -- forgive my youth -- he's new to me, and his obit is an intriguing window on an era I'm generally not sorry to have missed. What do you think? Has the NYT left out any career highlights?

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

Also by this author
© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.