Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Father Robert J. Cornell, O.Praem., 1919-2009.

One of two Roman Catholic priests to serve in the United States Congress in the 20th century, Norbertine Father Robert Cornell died on Sunday at the age of 89. Though he never attracted the kind of national attention that his legislative colleague Father Robert Drinan received, Father Cornell served as U.S. Representative from the 8th District of Wisconsin from 1975 to 1979. A member of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin and a longtime professor of government and history at St. Norbert College, Father Cornell defeated a Republican incumbent in 1974 to become the first Democrat elected to serve his northeastern Wisconsin district since the end of World War II. Defeated after two terms by Republican Toby Roth, Cornell was preparing for a 1980 rematch with Roth when he bowed out in obedience to a papal directive barring priests from seeking elective office. Returning to academia, Father Cornell continued to teach and to advise students at St. Norbert College until ill health forced his retirement in 2001.

To learn more about Father Cornell, take a look at today's obituaries in the New York Times and in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Cornell's hometown newspaper; you may also want to read this 2007 profile in which Father Cornell reflects on his political career. I hope that you'll join me in praying for the repose of the soul of a devoted priest and public servant. Requiescat in Pace. AMDG.


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