Daniel Berrigan, Poet, Peacemaker, and Priest, Dies at 94

May 1st, 2016 - by admin

Raw Story & Associated Press – 2016-05-01 01:06:27


Activist Priest and Vietnam War Protester Daniel Berrigan Dies at 94
Bethania Palma Markus / Raw Story

(April 30, 2016) — Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and peace activist, passed away on Saturday, reports James Martin, SJ, editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine, America.

“Dan was one of the great Catholics of our time, a champion of social justice and a tireless promoter of peace,” Martin wrote on his Facebook page. “His influence on the peace movement, particularly during the Vietnam War, cannot be overstated, but his aim was not simply peace in Indochina, but peace everywhere.”

Berrigan was one of seven Catholic priests who used napalm to burn draft cards in 1968 in protest against the Vietnam War, according to the National Catholic Reporter. As a result, he was sentenced to three years in prison.

“Dan was also willing to be jailed for his beliefs, which were often unpopular in church circles, and sometimes even within the Society of Jesus,” Martin wrote. “I greatly admired that particular brand of courage.”

Berrigan was often joined in his protest activities by his brother, Jerry, who passed away last year at 95 and Philip, who died in 2002 at the age of 79.

Jesuit Priest, Peace Activist Daniel Berrigan Dies at 94
The Associated Press

(April 30, 2016) — The Rev. Daniel Berrigan, a Roman Catholic priest and peace activist who was imprisoned for burning draft files in a protest against the Vietnam War, died Saturday. He was 94.

Berrigan died at Murray-Weigel Hall, a Jesuit health care community in New York City after a “long illness,” according to Michael Benigno, a spokesman for the Jesuits USA Northeast Province.

“He died peacefully,” Benigno said.

Berrigan and his younger brother, the Rev. Philip Berrigan, emerged as leaders of the radical anti-war movement in the 1960s.

The Berrigan brothers entered a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, on May 17, 1968, with eight other activists and removed records of young men about to be shipped off to Vietnam. The group took the files outside and burned them in garbage cans.

The Catonsville Nine, as they came to be known, were convicted on federal charges accusing them of destroying US property and interfering with the Selective Service Act of 1967. All were sentenced on Nov. 9, 1968 to prison terms ranging from two to 3½ years.

When asked in 2009 by “America,” a national Catholic magazine, whether he had any regrets, Berrigan replied: “I could have done sooner the things I did, like Catonsville.”

Berrigan, a writer and poet, wrote about the courtroom experience in 1970 in a one-act play, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” which was later made into a movie.

Berrigan grew up in Syracuse, New York, with his parents and five brothers. He joined the Jesuit order after high school and taught preparatory school in New Jersey before being ordained a priest in 1952.

As a seminarian, Berrigan wrote poetry. His work captured the attention of an editor at Macmillan who referred the material to poet Marianne Moore. Her endorsement led to the publication of Berrigan’s first book of poetry, Time Without Number, which won the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1957.

Berrigan credited Dorothy Day, founder of The Catholic Worker newspaper, with introducing him to the pacifist movement and influencing his thinking about war.

Much later, while visiting Paris in 1963 on a teaching sabbatical from LeMoyne College, Berrigan met French Jesuits who spoke of the dire situation in Indochina. Soon after that, he and his brother founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship, which helped organize protests against US involvement in Vietnam.

Berrigan traveled to North Vietnam in 1968 and returned with three American prisoners of war who were being released as a goodwill gesture. He said that while there, he witnessed some of the destruction and suffering caused by the war.

Berrigan was teaching at Cornell University when his brother asked him to join a group of activists for the Catonsville demonstration. Philip Berrigan was at the time awaiting sentencing for a 1967 protest in Baltimore during which demonstrators poured blood on draft records.

“I was blown away by the courage and effrontery, really, of my brother,” Berrigan recalled in a 2006 interview on the Democracy Now radio program.

After the Catonsville case had been unsuccessfully appealed, the Berrigan brothers and three of their co-defendants went underground. Philip Berrigan turned himself in to authorities in April 1969 at a Manhattan church. The FBI arrested Daniel Berrigan four months later at the Rhode Island home of theologian William Stringfellow.

Berrigan said in an interview that he became a fugitive to draw more attention to the anti-war movement.

The Berrigan brothers were sent to the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Daniel Berrigan was released in 1972 after serving about two years. His brother served about 2½ years.

The Berrigan brothers continued to be active in the peace movement long after Catonsville. Together, they began the Plowshares Movement, an anti-nuclear weapons campaign in 1980. Both were arrested that year after entering a General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and damaging nuclear warhead nose cones.

Philip Berrigan died of cancer on Dec. 6, 2002 at the age of 79.

Daniel Berrigan moved into a Jesuit residence in Manhattan in 1975.

In an interview with The Nation magazine on the 40th anniversary of the Catonsville demonstration, Berrigan lamented that the activism of the 1960s and early 1970s evaporated with the passage of time.

“The short fuse of the American left is typical of the highs and lows of American emotional life,” he said. “It is very rare to sustain a movement in recognizable form without a spiritual base.”

Berrigan’s writings include Prison Poems, published in 1973; We Die Before We Live: Talking with the Very Ill, a 1980 book based on his experiences working in a cancer ward; and his autobiography, To Dwell in Peace, published in 1987.

Daniel Berrigan Quotes
One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible.

A revolution is interesting insofar as it avoids like the plague the plague it promised to heal.

The arms race is worse than it ever was, the dumping of creation down a military rat hole is worse than it ever was, the wars across the earth are worse than they ever were.

There is no peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war — at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake.

I don’t have to prove my life. I just have to live.

The Jesuits I know who have died and all their lives were great teachers, they’re the least remembered people.

We have one of our priests in prison right now, Steve Kelly, for his antiwar actions, and three of us in the community are forbidden to visit him because we’re all convicted felons.

It’s not going to be easy to change things.

You have to struggle to stay alive and be of use as long as you can.

I don’t know what more to say. I mean, we’re all going to die in a world that is worse than when we entered it.

(April 3, 2010) — On the occasion of his 85th birthday, priest/poet/peace activist Daniel Berrigan recites one of his best loved poems “Some”. Following the poem is a brief video tribute to Dan’s brother Philip, which features the song “I Had No Right” by Dar Williams.