Monday, May 2, 2016

Daniel Berringan S.J. Dies April 30, 2016

Well known peace activist against the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam,
who joined the Jesuit Order in 1939- was an excellent example of how the Jesuit Order's political involvement encompasses BOTH sides

Daniel Joseph Berrigan, S.J. (May 9, 1921 – April 30, 2016), was an American Jesuit priest, anti-war activist and poet.[1][2]

Like many others during the 1960s, Berrigan's active protest against the Vietnam War earned him both scorn and admiration, but it was his participation in the Catonsville Nine that made him famous.[3][4] It also landed him on the FBI's "most wanted list", on the cover of TIME magazine,[5] and in prison.[1] His own particular form of militancy and radical spirituality in the service of social and political justice was significant enough,[6] at that time, to "shape the tactics of resistance to the Vietnam War" in the United States.[1]

For the rest of his life, Berrigan remained one of the US's leading anti-war activists.[7] In 1980, he founded the Plowshares Movement, an anti-nuclear protest group, that put him back into the national spotlight.[8] He was also an award-winning and prolific author of some 50 books, a teacher, and a university educator.[1]

Early life

Berrigan was born in Virginia, Minnesota, the son of Frieda Berrigan (née Fromhart), who was of German descent, and Thomas Berrigan, a second-generation Irish Catholic and active trade union member.[9] He was the fifth of six sons.[1] His brother, fellow peace activist Philip Berrigan, was the youngest.[10]

At age 5, Berrigan's family moved to Syracuse, New York.[11] In 1946, Berrigan earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Andrew-on-Hudson, a Jesuit seminary in Hyde Park, New York.[12] In 1952 he received a master’s degree from Woodstock College in Baltimore, Maryland.[1]

Berrigan was devoted to the Catholic Church throughout his youth. He joined the Jesuits directly out of high school in 1939 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952.[1][13]


Berrigan taught at St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City from 1946 to 1949.[14]

In 1954, Berrigan was assigned to teach theology at the Jesuit Brooklyn Preparatory School. In 1957 he was appointed professor of New Testament studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. The same year, he won the Lamont Prize for his book of poems, Time Without Number. He developed a reputation as a religious radical, working actively against poverty and on changing the relationship between priests and lay people. While at Le Moyne, he founded its International House.[15]

From 1966 to 1970, Berrigan was the assistant director of the Cornell University United Religious Work (CURW), the umbrella organization for all religious groups on campus, including the Cornell Newman Club (later the Cornell Catholic Community), eventually becoming the group's pastor.[16]

According to The New York Times, Berrigan at one time or another held faculty positions or ran programs at Union Seminary, Loyola University in New Orleans, Columbia, Cornell, and Yale.[1] However, his longest tenure was at Fordham (a Jesuit university located in the Bronx), where he even served as their poet-in-residence, for a brief time.[1][17]

Berrigan appears briefly in the 1986 Warner Bros. film The Mission, playing a Jesuit priest. He also served as a consultant on the film.[18][19]

Protests against the Vietnam War

Berrigan, his brother and Josephite priest Philip Berrigan, and Trappist monk Thomas Merton founded an interfaith coalition against the Vietnam War, and wrote letters to major newspapers arguing for an end to the war. In 1967, Berrigan and his brother were arrested for pouring blood on draft records as part of the Baltimore Four.[21] Phillip was sentenced to six years in prison for defacing government property. This, and his belief that his support of prisoners of war during the war was not acknowledged and appreciated, further radicalized Berrigan against the United States government.[7]

Berrigan traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 to "receive" three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the U.S. bombing of that nation had begun.[22][23]

In 1968, he signed the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest pledge, vowing to refuse to make tax payments in protest of the Vietnam War.[24] In the same year, he was interviewed in the anti-Vietnam War documentary film In the Year of the Pig, and later that year became involved in radical non-violent protest.

Catonsville Nine

Main article: Catonsville Nine
Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip, along with seven other Catholic protesters, used homemade napalm to destroy 378 draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board on May 17, 1968.[25][26][27] This group came to be known as the Catonsville Nine, who issued a statement after the incident:
We confront the Roman Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor.[21]
Berrigan was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison,[28] but went into hiding with the help of fellow radicals prior to imprisonment. While on the run, Berrigan was interviewed for Lee Lockwood's documentary The Holy Outlaw. The FBI apprehended him at the home of William Stringfellow and sent him to prison. He was released in 1972.[29]

In retrospect, the trial of the Catonsville Nine was significant because it "altered resistance to the Vietnam War, moving activists from street protests to repeated acts of civil disobedience, including the burning of draft cards."[4] As The New York Times noted in its obituary: Berrigan's actions helped "shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War."[1]

Plowshares Movement

On September 9, 1980, Berrigan, his brother Philip, and six others (the "Plowshares Eight") began the Plowshares Movement. They trespassed onto the General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files. They were arrested and charged with over ten different felony and misdemeanor counts.[30] On April 10, 1990, after ten years of appeals, Berrigan's group was re-sentenced and paroled for up to 23 and 1/2 months in consideration of time already served in prison.[31] Their legal battle was re-created in Emile de Antonio's 1982 film In The King of Prussia, which starred Martin Sheen and featured appearances by the Plowshares Eight as themselves.[2]

Berrigan was still involved with the Plowshares Movement until his death.[citation needed]

Other activism

Berrigan maintained his opposition to American intervention in Central America, through the Gulf War in 1991, the Kosovo War, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was also an anti-abortion activist[32] and opponent of capital punishment, a contributing editor of Sojourners, and a supporter of the Occupy movement.[33][34]



APRIL 30, 2016

The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in New York City. He was 94.

His death was confirmed by the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large at America magazine, a national Catholic magazine published by Jesuits. Father Berrigan died at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University in the Bronx.

The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic “new left,” articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.

It was an essentially religious position, based on a stringent reading of the Scriptures that some called pure and others radical. But it would have explosive political consequences as Father Berrigan; his brother Philip, a Josephite priest; and their allies took their case to the streets with rising disregard for the law or their personal fortunes.

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