Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Jesuit And The Crime Boss

Father Robert Drinan, S.J. and 
James "Whitey" Bulger

Organized Crime Boss James "Whitey" Bulger
It’s a name that jumps off the page of Whitey’s federal prison records. But it’s only the first one that jumps off the page; an even bigger name would follow. Father Robert F. Drinan, a Jesuit priest who was dean of the Boston College Law School, knew Whitey's brother, William, who was one of his favorite law school students. (AP) When Bulger put Drinan on his list of correspondents as a “close” friend, the Bureau of Prisons asked Boston Police to do a background check. And the Boston Police replied that Drinan indicated he had known the family for a long time and would be happy to correspond with Bulger. How in the world would Drinan be connected to the “habitual criminal?” Most likely through a certain Boston College undergraduate, who may have been one of Drinan’s favorite students. The student was William Bulger, Whitey’s younger brother, and he would soon attend BC’s Law School, where Drinan was dean. “The inference is that it’s through Bill Bulger there’s established a beachhead with Robert Drinan,” Lehr said. From early on in Whitey’s prison term, Father Drinan was listed as the person who would be Bulger’s parole adviser upon his release. The only correspondence Lehr has seen is the one letter the prison held onto. Father Drinan died in 2007. His papers and a recent Drinan biography contain no reference to either of the Bulger brothers. And when I talked to Drinan’s former congressional aides, his former chief of staff and his closest political advisers, they were stunned at the link to Whitey. A typical response came from Jerome Grossman, who became one of Drinan’s best friends after recruiting him to run for Congress as a progressive, anti-war candidate in 1970. “It’s a complete surprise,” Grossman said. Then again, those who knew Drinan say the priest kept his priestly duties and corporal acts of mercy — like visiting or writing to prisoners — a private matter and apart from public duties. The letter to Drinan closes with the tone of an order being directed to a future subordinate: Well, Father Drinan, that’s about it and it’s the true story seen through my eyes… Write me as soon as possible. James J. Bulger 77607 Seeing the same letter, former Boston Police Detective Eddie Walsh smiled. The 90-year-old figures he’s seen just about everything. He first saw Bulger in 1955. “Bulger’s very devious and would try anything he could do to get out of there, you know,” and reach as high as he could to do it, Walsh said. I ask him about Whitey checking into the psychiatric ward. “What’s this tell you?” I asked Walsh about Bulger’s nervous breakdown letter. “It tells you he’s full of baloney,” Walsh replied.
Link (here) to read the full piece at WBUR

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