Daniel Berrigan, Presente!

plowshares 8

Fr. Daniel Berrigan (in black beret at center) and his co-conspirators of the Plowshares Eight, who disrupted a GE nuclear weapons plant in 1980. The man on the left in white jacket is Fr. Carl Kabat, the activist priest I’ve written about here. Picture from Nuclear Resister. Rest in peace, Father Daniel.

Father Daniel Berrigan, the Jesuit priest/activist/poet/playwright/convict, passed away yesterday at age 94. I had met him several times (and had his support of my own projects) over his lifetime. I felt a real loss here, though I haven’t seen him in ages. Thanks to my friend Schuyler Rhodes, I had the pleasure of having dinner with him once, and he was a sweet, smart and funny man. But anyone who thought of him as a mere gadfly was sadly mistaken. He had steely determination in his bones, and his hardscrabble early life had given him a common touch lacking in many other activists. 

Many others have given over space to talk of his passion and his work. I can’t begin to replicate it or top it, so I’ll provide some links. 

This is a lovely video of the events of Dan’s life.

The Nuclear Resister has re-linked an interview from last year about the Plowshares Eight action, written by Berrigan.

A post from Democracy Now, which had Dan on fairly often.

Father Dan’s own Ten Commandments for the Long Haul.

(I will add to this as I find more relevant passages)

There is also this quote, given after the Catonsville Nine protest in 1968. On that day, Dan, his brother Phil and seven co-conspirators dragged draft records out of the Catonsville, MD draft office, poured home-made napalm on them, and set them ablaze. Many had found the actions of the demonstrators objectionable for crimes against property.

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise…..We say: killing is disorder, life and gentleness and community and unselfishness is the only order we recognize. For the sake of that order, we risk our liberty, our good name.”

That said, the best memorial we could have for Dan Berrigan, his brother Phil Berrigan, Sister Anne Montgomery (who was part of the Plowshares Eight) Molly Rush, and the hundeds of others who’ve been imprisoned for peace actions is to pick up where they left off. As an activist friend once pointed out, it’s easy to imprison eight people for crimes against empire. It’s far harder to arrest eighty thousand. Ask Sister Megan Rice and her co-conspirators Michael Walli and Greg Boertje -Obed what would best honor their time in prison for the Transform Now Plowshares action three years ago.

I leave you with this picture. Dan went on the run after the Catonsville action, and the Feds eventually caught up to him on Block Island. The whole story is told on Beth Cioffoletti‘s Blogsite here. But here’s the picture of the arrest, and as others have noticed, the happiest person in the picture is Dan Berrigan himself. I hopes it brings a smile to those grieving over his passing.

berrigan arrested

The picture was featured in the book DISARMED AND DANGEROUS. It depicts Dan’s arrest on Block Island after the Catonsville Nine action. “who is the prisoner and who is free?”



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