Philip Berrigan Dies at 79

7 December 2002


Philip Berrigan, Anti-War Activist, Dies at Home in Baltimore, MD

http://commondreams.org/news2002/1206-01.htm

CONTACT:     Jonah House
Becky Johnson 202-607-9345

BALTIMORE - December 6 - Phil Berrigan died December 6, 2002 at about 9:30 PM, at Jonah House, a community he co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and friends. He died two months after being diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer, and one month after deciding to discontinue chemotherapy. Approximately thirty close friends and fellow peace activists gathered for the ceremony of last rites on November 30, to celebrate his life and anoint him for the next part of his journey. Berrigan's brother and co-felon, Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan officiated.

During his nearly 40 years of resistance to war and violence, Berrigan focused on living and working in community as a way to model the nonviolent, sustainable world he was working to create. Jonah House members live simply, pray together, share duties, and attempt to expose the violence of militarism and consumerism.

The community was born out of resistance to the Vietnam War, including high-profile draft card burning actions; later the focus became ongoing resistance to U.S. nuclear policy, including Plowshares actions that aim to enact Isaiah's biblical prophecy of a disarmed world. Because of these efforts Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison. He wrote, lectured, and taught extensively, publishing six books, including an autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War.

In his last weeks, Berrigan was surrounded by his family, including his wife Elizabeth McAlister, with whom he founded Jonah House; his children Frida, 28, Jerry, 27, and Kate, 21; community members Susan Crane, Gary Ashbeck, and David Arthur; and extended family and community. Community members Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Dominican sisters, were unable to be physically present at Jonah House; they are currently in jail in Colorado awaiting trial for a disarmament action at a missile silo, the 79th international Plowshares action. One of Berrigan's last actions was to bless the upcoming marriage of Frida to Ian Marvy.

Berrigan wrote a final statement in the days before his death. His final comments included this: "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself."

The wake and funeral will be held at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore, (1546 North Fremont Avenue, Baltimore MD 21217); calling hours: 4-8 PM Sunday December 8 with a circle of sharing about Phil's life at 6 PM; funeral: Monday, December 9, 12 PM. All are invited to process with the coffin from the intersection of Bentalou and Laurens streets to St. Peter Claver Church at 10 AM (please drop off marchers and park at the church). A public reception at the St. Peter Claver hall will follow the funeral mass; internment is private. In place of flowers and gifts for the offertory, attendees may bring pictures or other keepsakes.

Mourners may make donations in Berrigan's name to Citizens for Peace in Space, Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons, Nukewatch, Voices in the Wilderness, the Nuclear Resister, or any Catholic Worker house.

 


Philip Berrigan, Peace Advocate in the Vietnam War Era, Dies at 79
By Daniel Lewis

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/08/obituaries/08BERR.html

Philip F. Berrigan, the former Roman Catholic priest who led the draft board raids that
galvanized opposition to the Vietnam War in the late 1960's, died on Friday in Baltimore after a lifetime of battling "the American Empire," as he called it, over the morality of its military and social policies. He was 79.

His family said the cause was cancer.

An Army combat veteran sickened by the killing in World War II, Mr. Berrigan came to be one of the most radical pacifists of the 20th century - and, for a time in the Vietnam period, a larger-than-life figure in the convulsive struggle over the country's direction.

In the late 60's he was a Catholic priest serving a poor black parish in Baltimore and seeing nothing that would change his conviction that war, racism and poverty were inseparable strands of a corrupt economic system. His Josephite superiors had previously hustled him out of Newburgh, N.Y., for aggressive civil rights and antiwar activity there; the "fatal blow," he said, had been a talk to a community affairs council in which he asked, "Is it possible for us to be vicious, brutal, immoral and violent at home and be fair, judicious, beneficent and idealistic abroad?"

He hardly missed a beat after his transfer to Baltimore, founding an antiwar group, Peace Mission, whose operations included picketing the homes of Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk in December 1966. By the fall of 1967 Father Berrigan and three friends were ready to try a new tactic. On Oct. 17, they walked into the Baltimore Customs House, distracted the draft board clerks and methodically spattered Selective Service records with a red liquid made partly from their own blood.

Three decades later, Mr. Berrigan remembered feeling "exalted" as the judge sentenced him to six years in prison. From then on, he would be in and out of jail for repeated efforts to interfere with government operations and deface military hardware.

Even before his sentencing for the Customs House raid, Father Berrigan instigated a second invasion, against the local draft board office in Catonsville, Md. Among those persuaded to join was his older brother, the Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet, who had been one of the first prominent clergymen to preach and organize against the war.

The "Catonsville Nine" struck on May 17, 1968, taking hundreds of files relating to potential draftees from the Knights of Columbus building, where the draft board rented space. They piled the documents in the parking lot and set them burning with a mixture of gasoline and soap chips - homemade napalm.

Reporters were given a statement that read, "We destroy these draft records not only because they exploit our young men but also because they represent misplaced power concentrated in the ruling class of America." It continued, "We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes."

When the police arrived, the trespassers were praying in the parking lot. The cameras loved the Berrigans. In the definitive photograph of the event, seven of the Catonsville Nine are nowhere to be seen. The photo includes only the striking image of two priests in clerical dress, one big and craggy, the other slight and puckish, serenely accepting their imminent incarceration.

The Catonsville raid inspired others in New York City, Milwaukee, Boston, Chicago and other cities, the tactic becoming a sort of calling card of the "ultra-resistance." It also elevated the Berrigan brothers to the status of superstars. "Father Phil" and "Father Dan" were on the cover of Time magazine and illuminated in profiles by the smartest writers.

But many Americans saw them as communists and traitors, or at best na´ve dupes of the Vietcong. And among their own allies, grumbling grew about a cult of personality and a certain disdain for anyone unwilling to make the same sacrifices the Berrigans demanded of themselves.

Philip Francis Berrigan was born Oct. 5, 1923, in Two Harbors, Minn., the youngest of six sons of Thomas W. Berrigan and Frida Fromhart Berrigan, a German immigrant. Thomas Berrigan was a frustrated poet and a bullying husband and father. He was also a political radical whose labor organizing activities led to his dismissal as a railroad engineer, after which he moved to Syracuse and bought a poor 10-acre farm.

After high school, Philip was a first baseman in semiprofessional baseball before enrolling in St. Michael's College in Toronto. In January 1943, after one semester, he was drafted into the Army.

The life of black sharecroppers in Georgia, where he had basic training, and the treatment of black soldiers on his troop ship to Europe made an indelible impression on his conscience. So did his own role in infantry and artillery battles that earned him a battlefield commission as second lieutenant. In so many words, he came to consider himself as guilty of murder as the Germans and Japanese. Along with this came the conviction that he had grown up on a diet of nationalistic propaganda in which the good - "white Europeans" - always triumphed over evil - "anyone else."

After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., in 1950, he committed himself to the priesthood and was ordained in St. Joseph's Society of the Sacred Heart in 1955. Later, he earned degrees from Loyola University and Xavier University, both in New Orleans.

The young priest became passionately involved in civil rights and antiwar activities, especially after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. He was frequently in trouble with his superiors, whom he openly criticized for supporting the status quo, and occasionally with the law. He boasted that he was the first American priest jailed for a political crime.

In the trial that resulted in his second prison term - the trial of the Catonsville Nine in 1968 - the defendants were allowed to talk about their lives and political views but not to argue that some higher morality justified their breaking the law. All were found guilty.

In April 1970, after his appeals were denied, he was scheduled to begin serving a
three-and-a-half-year term for the Catonsville incident, to run concurrently with the six-year sentence from the earlier Baltimore raid.

But the Berrigan brothers and two other Catonsville defendants reasoned that if they had been right to break the law in the first place, then it would be wrong to accept the government's punishment for it. So they went underground, and for a time two priests were among the criminals most wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Daniel eluded capture until Aug. 11, but Philip was arrested on April 21 in St. Gregory's Church in Manhattan and began serving his sentence in Lewisburg, Pa.

He spent many prison hours praying and filling journals with his trademark polemical writing, which over the years condemned everything from deceptive breakfast cereal advertising (a form of "violence") to the modern church. "The Gospel the church preaches," he wrote, "is a precise statement of the life it leads - a degenerate stew of behavioral psychology, affluent ethics and cultural mythology, seasoned by nationalist politics."

While at Lewisburg, Father Berrigan unwittingly helped set in motion a new controversy.

He had fallen in love with a nun, Elizabeth McAlister of the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart. In a ceremony without witnesses the two had secretly declared themselves husband and wife in 1969. They smuggled love letters past the prison censors through a trusted young inmate, Boyd Douglas, who was allowed outside to attend college classes.

According to the biographers Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady in "Disarmed and Dangerous," Father Berrigan's fellow inmate James R. Hoffa, the Teamsters president, warned that Mr. Douglas was an F.B.I. informant. But this expert opinion was ignored, and the exchanges ultimately became a source of great embarrassment and the basis for fresh prosecution. The letters talked of kidnapping a government official - Henry A. Kissinger was mentioned - and of shutting down government buildings in Washington by turning off the heat or air-conditioning.

The result was a conspiracy trial in 1972 that ended in acquittal on all major charges.

Philip Berrigan was paroled in December 1972. He and Elizabeth McAlister legalized their marriage in 1973. They issued justifications of their union on personal, scriptural and political grounds - and were excommunicated.

From then on the couple lived and worked in Jonah House, a small religiously oriented commune they founded in Baltimore.

Through his antinuclear Plowshares operation, Mr. Berrigan led a series of raids, among them an attack in 1980 at the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pa. Two decades later he was still at it, though the world had largely stopped paying attention.

Thus citizen Berrigan, then 77, missed the 2001 premiere of a documentary film about Catonsville. He in an Ohio prison on charges of interference with a weapons system.

In addition to his wife and brother Daniel, Mr. Berrigan is survived by three children, Frida, Jerome and Katherine; and three other brothers, John, James and Jerome.

 


Philip Berrigan, Anti-War Activist, Dies at Home in Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, MD - Phil Berrigan died December 6, 2002 at about 9:30 PM, at Jonah House, a community he co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and friends.  He died two months after being diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer, and one month after deciding to discontinue chemotherapy. Approximately thirty close friends and fellow peace activists gathered for the ceremony of last rites on November 30, to celebrate his life and anoint him for the next part of his journey. Berrigan's brother and co-felon, Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan officiated.

During his nearly 40 years of resistance to war and violence, Berrigan focused on living and working in community as a way to model the nonviolent, sustainable world he was working to create.  Jonah House members live simply, pray together, share duties, and attempt to expose the violence of militarism and consumerism. The community was born out of resistance to the Vietnam War, including high-profile draft card burning actions; later the focus became ongoing resistance to U.S. nuclear policy, including Plowshares actions that aim to enact Isaiah's biblical prophecy of a disarmed world. Because of these efforts Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison.  He wrote, lectured, and taught extensively, publishing six books, including an autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War.

In his last weeks, Berrigan was surrounded by his family, including his wife Elizabeth McAlister, with whom he founded Jonah House; his children Frida, 28, Jerry, 27, and Kate, 21; community members Susan Crane, Gary Ashbeck, and David Arthur; and extended family and community. Community members Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Dominican sisters, were unable to be physically present at Jonah House; they are currently in jail in Colorado awaiting trial for a disarmament action at a missile silo, the 79th international Plowshares action.  One of Berrigan's last actions was to bless the upcoming marriage of Frida to Ian Marvy.

The wake and funeral will be held at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore, (1546 North Fremont Avenue, Baltimore MD 21217); calling hours: 4-8 PM Sunday December 8 with a circle of sharing about Phil's life at 6 PM; funeral: Monday, December 9, 12 PM. All are invited to process with the coffin from the intersection of Bentalou and Laurens streets to St. Peter Claver Church at 10 AM (please drop off marchers and park at the church).  A public reception at the St. Peter Claver hall will follow the funeral mass; internment is private. In place of flowers and gifts for the offertory, attendees may bring pictures or other keepsakes. Mourners may make donations in Berrigan's name to Citizens for Peace in Space, Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons, Nukewatch, Voices in the Wilderness, the Nuclear Resister, or any Catholic Worker house.

 


U.S. Peace Activist Philip Berrigan Dead at 79
By Bryan Sears

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=...

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Philip Berrigan, the former Roman Catholic priest who with his Jesuit brother Daniel led a generation of religious opposition to the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race, died of cancer at the age of 79, his family said on Saturday.

Berrigan died late on Friday at Jonah House, his communal living facility for pacifists in West Baltimore, after being diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer in October. He stopped chemotherapy after one treatment and received last rites at a Nov. 30 ceremony officiated by the Rev. Daniel Berrigan.

"These are hair-trigger times, with well-manicured barbarians at the wheel and our nuclear strike force poised and ready," he said in a statement to friends and supporters issued earlier this week.

"The American people will prevail. So will all thoughtful and decent people throughout the world," added the message, sent to well-wishers on a Jonah House card.

Berrigan, who spent at least 11 of the past 35 years behind bars for acts of civil disobedience, was ordained a Josephite priest in 1955 and assigned to teach black children in Louisiana, where the Civil Rights movement inspired him to a lifelong commitment to peace and social justice.

He and Daniel Berrigan became national figures of the anti-war movement during the Catonsville Nine protest on May 17, 1968, when they and fellow activists poured homemade napalm onto hundreds of Selective Service cards outside a draft board at a Knights of Columbus hall in Catonsville, Maryland.

"I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself," Berrigan said in a statement given to his wife, the former nun Elizabeth McAlister, during the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and a longtime Berrigan friend, credited the two brothers with forging a path of religious civil disobedience among American Catholics during the Vietnam War.

"They helped inspire a generation of peace activists that later turned their attention to American military intervention in Central America, and finally, to war itself," Zinn said.

"The deep, deep sense I have of him is really beyond praise, beyond words," Daniel Berrigan said of Philip in an interview last year.

PLOWSHARES FOUNDER

Philip Berrigan, a World War II veteran, helped found the Plowshares peace movement against the modern arms race in 1980, on the Biblical ethic of beating swords into plowshares. The group's first act was to break into a General Electric defense plant near Philadelphia, smash the nose cones of Mark 12A warheads and douse blueprints with blood.

In his final clash in December 1999, he and three other Plowshare activists broke into an Air National Guard base near Baltimore and attacked two A-10 warplanes with blood and hammers to protest the military's use of depleted uranium in armor-piercing shells.

He was imprisoned for the act and remained behind bars until Dec. 14, 2001.

"There are times when I'd like to just sit back in my rocking chair, but I'm going to fight all the way and hopefully die with my boots on," Berrigan told Reuters in a May 2001 interview at a federal prison in Ohio.

His public appearances against violence and militarism continued into this autumn, though he needed a walker to get around.

"Right to the end, in the midst of his dying, he was unflinching and unswerving in his call for a world without war," said Richard Deats of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace group that helped Catholics including the Berrigans, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton unify the peace voices of the church.

In his 1996 autobiography, "Fighting the Lamb's War," Berrigan described Jesus as a revolutionary committed to social justice and Washington as a plantation where minorities live in shoddy housing and work at lousy jobs or wait to be herded into prison as members of a neglected surplus populace.

"I see no point in working within an evil system. Christ was never a reformer. He didn't advocate voting for one corrupt politician over another," Berrigan wrote. "He preached that we should dismantle, not attempt to patch, the state."

Born Oct. 5, 1923, in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Philip Francis Berrigan is survived by his wife, two daughters, a son and four brothers.

 


Anti - War Activist Philip Berrigan Dies
By The Associated Press

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Obit-Philip-Berrigan.html
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,72447,00.html

BALTIMORE (AP) -- National pacifist groups remembered Philip Berrigan on Saturday as a lifelong, stalwart opponent of war who was not afraid to proclaim the ``gospel of nonviolence,'' even during several stints behind bars.

Berrigan, 79, died of cancer Friday night at Jonah House, a communal residence for pacifists he founded in 1973.

The former Roman Catholic priest staged one of the most dramatic anti-war protests of the 1960s and was arrested at least 100 times, serving a total of 11 years in prison for his anti-war and anti-nuclear activities.

``We have to risk as much as people who go to war risk,'' said Bill Sulzman, a fellow former priest who helped found Citizens for Peace in Space. ``That was a challenge he laid down for us. That means going to jail, facing physical consequences for our actions.''

Berrigan served as an artillery officer in Western Europe during World War II, but became nationally known as a leader of the Roman Catholic anti-Vietnam war movement in the 1960s.

He may be most famous for leading the ``Catonsville 9,'' a group that doused a small bonfire of draft records in homemade napalm at a parking lot on May 17, 1968. Berrigan's brother, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, was a member of the group who wrote The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, a Broadway play in 1971 that was later made into a movie.

Berrigan helped ignite a generation of anti-war dissent, but he was unique in the risks he took, Sulzman said. He started the international Plowshares movement in 1980 when he and seven others poured blood and hammered on warheads at a GE nuclear missile plant in Pennsylvania.

``He said we have to up the ante in how we resist, starting with the draft card burning. That was the onset of something he stayed consistent with for 35 years,'' said Sulzman, a longtime friend of Berrigan's.

Berrigan was released from an Ohio federal prison in December 2001 after he and others struck A-10 Warthog warplanes in a protest at the Middle River Air National Guard base. He had served 14 months.

Berrigan lived out his pacifist message, ``whether he was in the Jonah House in the poor part of Baltimore, whether he was in prison, or whether being a priest or a husband and father'' said Gabe Huck, a volunteer with Voices in the Wilderness who first met Berrigan in Baltimore in 1965.

``Although he had compassion for all people, whether it was jailers or arms makers, he was totally unafraid to proclaim the gospel of nonviolence to them,'' Huck said.

Peace wasn't his only cause. A statement released by his family said he was the first priest to ride in a civil rights movement, the Freedom Ride, in the early 1960s.

In a statement given to his wife, Elizabeth McAlister, a week ago, Berrigan said:

``I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself.''

 


Anti-War Activist Berrigan Dies at 79

http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=1867608

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Philip Berrigan, a former priest who was at the forefront of the American anti-war movement for the past four decades, died late Friday, the Baltimore Sun reported. He was 79.

Berrigan, died of liver and kidney cancer at Jonah House, a communal living facility for war resisters in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville, the newspaper reported on its Web site on Saturday.

The former Roman Catholic priest who was ordained in 1955, gained national prominence when he led a group of Vietnam War protesters who become known as the Catonsville Nine, in staging one of the most dramatic protests of the 1960s.

The group, which included his brother Daniel, a Jesuit priest, doused homemade napalm on a small bonfire of draft records in a Catonsville, Maryland, parking lot and ignited a generation of anti-war dissent. More recently he helped found the Plowshares movement, whose members have attacked federal military property in anti-war and anti-nuclear protests and were then often imprisoned.

In a final statement released by his family, he said, "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself."

Berrigan persistently and publicly criticized the Vietnam War and U.S.
foreign and domestic policy and his defiant protests led him to serve
some 11 years in jail and prison.

Howard Zinn, professor emeritus at Boston University who maintained a friendship with Berrigan through the years because they had similar views, called him "one of the great Americans of our time," the Baltimore Sun said. "He went to prison again and again and again for his beliefs," said Zinn.

Berrigan saw his protests as "prophetic acts" based on the Biblical injunction to beat swords into plowshares.

In his most recent clash in December 1999, Berrigan and others banged on A-10 Warthog warplanes in an anti-war protest at an Air National Guard base. He was convicted of malicious destruction of property and sentenced to 30 months. He was released on Dec. 14 last year.

His first arrest came in the early 1960's during a civil rights protest in Selma, Alabama.

Philip Francis Berrigan was born Oct. 5, 1923, in Two Harbors, Minnesota.


Philip Berrigan, apostle of peace, dies at age 79
Josephite father called protests 'prophetic acts'
By Jacques Kelly and Carl Schoettler
Baltimore Sun

http://www.sunspot.net/bal-te.ob.berrigan07dec07,0,4107917.story?coll=bal%2Dhome%2Dheadlines

Philip Berrigan, the patriarch of the Roman Catholic anti-war movement whose conscience collided with national policy for more than three decades, died last night of liver and kidney cancer. He was 79 and had lived at Jonah House on the grounds of a West Baltimore cemetery for much of the past decade.

He led the Catonsville Nine, who staged one of the most dramatic protests of the 1960s. They doused homemade napalm on a small bonfire of draft records in a Catonsville parking lot and ignited a generation of anti-war dissent. More recently he helped found the Plowshares movement, whose members have attacked federal military property in anti-war and anti-nuclear protests and were then often imprisoned.

Mr. Berrigan died at 9:30 p.m. at the Jonah House, a communal living facility of war resisters.

In a final statement released by his family, he said, "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself."

Though Mr. Berrigan was an Army veteran - he was a second lieutenant in the infantry - who fought across Western Europe in World War II, he persistently and publicly criticized the Vietnam War and U.S. foreign and domestic policy. He first gained national attention during part of the 14-year period during which he wore the Roman collar and clerical garb of a Josephite priest.

He eventually served some 11 years in jail and prison for his actions challenging public authority and repeated bashing of the military budget.

Howard Zinn, professor emeritus at Boston University who maintained a friendship with Mr. Berrigan through the years because they had similar views, called him "one of the great Americans of our time."

"He believed war didn't solve anything," Mr. Zinn said. "He went to prison again and again and again for his beliefs. I admired him for the sacrifices he made. He was an inspiration to a large number of people."

Mr. Berrigan saw his protests as "prophetic acts" based on the Biblical injunction to beat swords into plowshares, and that included the "symbolic" destruction of Selective Service records in raids on draft board offices in the Baltimore Customs House in 1967 and in Catonsville in 1968. He was also convicted of smuggling letters in and out of the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa., while an inmate there in 1970, though the conviction was later thrown out. The end of the Vietnam War failed to silence him; he continued his missions of dissent until the end of his life.

In his most recent clash in December 1999, Mr. Berrigan and others banged on A-10 Warthog warplanes in an anti-war protest at the Middle River Air National Guard base. He was convicted of malicious destruction of property and sentenced to 30 months. He was released Dec. 14 last year.

Mr. Berrigan's brother Daniel, a Jesuit priest and poet who participated in the 1968 Catonsville protest, later wrote the play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, which ran on Broadway for 29 performances in 1971 and was made into a movie a year later. It recounted verbatim episodes from the trial and the moral dilemmas of the Vietnam War era.

"We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes," said a statement Philip Berrigan and his eight fellow protestors issued that day in Catonsville. "We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war and is hostile to the poor."

He expanded those views to include opposition to almost any form of established government that would wage war, deploy nuclear weapons or even use nuclear power. Neither he nor any member of the Jonah House community had voted for years because of their dismissal of government.

"We don't know whether we're qualified to vote because we're all felons," he said recently. "But we intend to pursue it for the elections in 2004 because it's pretty important to get Bush out of there."

Philip Francis Berrigan was born Oct. 5, 1923, in Two Harbors, Minn., then a thriving mining town on the Mesabi Iron Range.

According to a 1976 Current Biography profile, Mr. Berrigan stressed the influence of his father, Thomas, a trade unionist turned Socialist who lost his job as a railroad engineer. Mr. Berrigan later characterized his father as a "tyrannical" man. He said he father's treatment left him apt to "bristle against authority."

"Our mother (Frida) was a mild woman, dedicated to her six sons and to her religion," said his brother, Jim Berrigan, a retired electrical engineer who lives in Salisbury.

After graduating from high school in Syracuse, N.Y., Mr. Berrigan cleaned New York Central Railroad locomotives. A good athlete, he was a first baseman who played with a local semi-professional team. He also enjoyed golf and basketball in college.

He spent one semester at St. Michael's College in Toronto before being drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1943 for service in World War II. He was an artillery man in some of the fiercest action from Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, where he was chosen to go to infantry school near Paris. He served out the rest of the war as an infantry officer, a second lieutenant.

He earned an English degree at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. In 1950, he followed his brother Jerome into the Society of St. Joseph. The order, known as the Josephite Fathers, serves African-American communities. Ordained in 1955, he was assigned to New Orleans, where he earned a degree in secondary education at Loyola University of the South in 1957 and a master's at Xavier University three years later.

While at Xavier, he began teaching English and religion and counseling students at his order's St. Augustine High School.

"From the beginning, he stood with the urban poor," Daniel Berrigan wrote of his brother's years in the priesthood. "He rejected the traditional, isolated stance of the Church in black communities. He was also incurably secular; he saw the Church as one resource, bringing to bear on the squalid facts of racism the light of the Gospel, the presence of inventive courage and hope. He worked with CORE [Congress of Racial Equality], SNCC [Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee], the Urban League, the forms of Catholic action then in vogue. He took Freedom Rides, did manual work of all kinds, begged money and gave it away, struggled for scholarships for black students."

Philip Berrigan, in a recent Sun interview, said his first arrest of many came in 1962 or 1963 during a civil rights protest in Selma, Ala., at which point his name began appearing in newspapers. He would become quite adept at surviving in prison. He got along with the other prisoners, even murderers sometimes, and they accepted him. He led Bible study classes and helped prisoners with educational and legal matters. If he had extra money, he would buy items from the prison commissaries for down-and-out inmates.

As an activist priest, Father Berrigan soon got in trouble with his church superiors. He was transferred to the faculty of Epiphany Apostolic College, a Josephite seminary in Newburgh, N.Y., where he again led protests on behalf of the poor.

Rosalie Bertell, 73, of Buffalo, N.Y., an activist and member of the order of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, said she admired Mr. Berrigan for his "blunt honesty" and for the "choices he made in life."

A longtime friend of the Berrigan family, Ms. Bertell is an internationally recognized expert on radiation and testified as an expert witness in trials where he was arrested for anti-nuclear demonstrations. "He knew the U.S. was becoming a killing machine, and he was willing to go to jail trying to stop it."

As the United States expanded its presence in Vietnam, Father Berrigan became more outspoken and visible. In 1964, he organized the Emergency Citizens Group Concerned About Vietnam in Newburgh and co-founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship in New York City.

Frustrated by the church's failure to speak out against the war, he compared its stance on Vietnam to "the German Church under Hitler." In another speech, he asked, "Is it possible for us to be vicious, brutal, immoral, and violent at home and be fair, judicious, beneficent and idealistic abroad?"

Not long afterward, Father Berrigan's Josephite superiors transferred him again, this time to St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore.

"He was an excellent curate, much respected in the community back in the 1960s," said the Rev. Michael Roach, a former Southwest Baltimore pastor who is now at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manchester.

While at St. Peter Claver, Father Berrigan started the Baltimore Interfaith Peace Mission. He made frequent trips to Washington to lobby Congress and federal officials and lead vigils and other peace demonstrations.

On Oct. 27, 1967, Father Berrigan and three others dumped blood on Selective Service records in the Baltimore Customs House, "anointing" them, he said. They waited to be arrested, as they would in subsequent protests. His arrest shocked the Catholic Church.

In a statement to reporters, the Baltimore Four said that "this sacrificial and constructive act" was meant to protest "the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood" in Indochina. It was a new kind of protest. The Baltimore chancery said the action was likely to "alienate a great number of sincere men in the cause of a just peace."

Philip Berrigan and the three others were charged and convicted of defacing government property and impeding the Selective Service. While awaiting sentencing, Mr. Berrigan began recruiting brother Daniel and seven others for a second "prophetic act."

The Catonsville Nine chose Selective Service Board 33, housed in a Knights of Columbus hall on Frederick Road in Catonsville.

According to a Sun account, the nine walked into the draft board office on May 17, 1968, moved and swept aside stunned clerks and emptied filing cabinets of 600 draft records.

They set the records afire with homemade napalm in the parking lot, said a prayer and waited for arrest. They spent the night in the Baltimore County Jail in Towson.

Charged with conspiracy and destruction of government property, Mr. Berrigan and his companions were found guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Nov. 8, 1968. They were free on bail for 16 months until the U.S. Supreme Court declined to reconsider the verdict.

But on the day they were supposed to begin serving their sentences, the Berrigan brothers and two others went into hiding. Twelve days later, FBI found Philip Berrigan at the Church of St. Gregory the Great in Manhattan, and he was taken to the federal prison in Lewisburg.

Mr. Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister, a former nun, a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, had secretly married a year earlier, in, as they put it, "trust and gratitude." The marriage was not disclosed until 1973, when there was a ceremony at which a former monk officiated.

A fellow inmate at Lewisburg, who was allowed to take courses at a local college, carried messages between Mr. Berrigan and his wife. Ms. McAlister kept Mr. Berrigan informed of what was being done and said in the peace movement. They were unaware that the inmate carrying their messages was a paid informer and that copies of everything they wrote were going to the FBI.

The FBI's scrutiny led to the capture of Daniel Berrigan, to the arrest of draft resisters in Rochester, N.Y., and to the indictment of Philip Berrigan, Ms. McAlister and five others.

The government indicted the Harrisburg Seven on 23 counts of conspiracy, including plots to kidnap presidential adviser Henry A. Kissinger and to blow up heating tunnels in Washington. Defense lawyers, including Paul O'Dwyer, Ramsey Clark and Leonard Boudin, saw the conspiracy indictments as a "gross caricature," and the charges were later modified.

In April 1972, a jury in Harrisburg, Pa., found Mr. Berrigan and his wife guilty on the letter-smuggling charges but deadlocked on all the other counts. A mistrial was declared. Everything was later thrown out by a federal appeals court.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills, who lived in Baltimore from 1961 to 1980, said he participated in the anti-war demonstrations with the Berrigans.

"I've known them for decades and I've written about them, and Phil has always been an inspiration to me," Mr. Wills said. "Phil was a real pacifist. He always turned the other cheek." Mr. Berrigan and Ms. McAlister helped start the anti-war and anti-nuclear Plowshares movement in the three-story Reservoir Hill rowhouse on Park Avenue they called Jonah House, in which they lived in community with other activists for years before moving into the old St. Peter the Apostle Cemetery in West Baltimore.

Mr. Berrigan was the author of several books, including No More Strangers, Punishment for Peace, Prison Journals of a Priest Revolutionary and Widen the Prison Gates. In 1996, he wrote his autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War, and with his wife wrote The Times' Discipline, a work on their life together at Jonah House.

The funeral will be held at noon Monday at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore, 1546 N. Fremont Ave. A wake will be held at the church from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow, with a circle of sharing at 6 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made to Citizens for Peace in Space, Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons, Nukewatch, Voices in the Wilderness, the Nuclear Resister, or any Catholic Worker house.

Survivors include Ms. McAlister; two daughters, Frida, a prolific writer who is a research associate at the World Policy Institute and a member of the War Resister's League executive committee, of New York, and Kate Berrigan, a senior at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio; a son, Jerry Berrigan, a member of the Catholic Worker who is also involved in anti-war, anti-nuclear and anti-death penalty movements, of Luck, Mich.; four brothers, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest in New York, John Berrigan of Prescott, Ariz., Jim Berrigan of Salisbury and Jerome Berrigan of Syracuse, N.Y.


Phil Berrigan's statement before death
12/05/02 (via Liz McAlister)

Philip began dictating this statement the weekend before Thanksgiving. It was all clear - he had it written in his head.

Word for word I wrote...

WHEN I LAY DYING...of cancer
Philip Berrigan

I die in a community including my family, my beloved wife Elizabeth, three great Dominican nuns - Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert, and Jackie Hudson (emeritus) jailed in Western Colorado - Susan Crane, friends local, national and even international. They have always been a life-line to me. I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself. We have already exploded such weapons in Japan in 1945 and the equivalent of them in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in Afghanistan in 2001. We left a legacy for other people of deadly radioactive isotopes - a prime counterinsurgency measure. For example, the people of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be battling cancer, mostly from depleted uranium, for decades. In addition, our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has saturated the planet with nuclear garbage from testing, from explosions in high altitudes (four of these), from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear weapons factories that can't be cleaned up - and so on. Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities...

At this point in dictation, Phil's lungs filled; he began to cough uncontrollably; he was tired. We had to stop - with promises to finish later.

But later never came - another moment in an illness that depleted Phil so rapidly it was all we could do to keep pace with it... And then he couldn't talk at all. And then - gradually - he left us.

What did Phil intend to say?

What is the message of his life?

What message was he leaving us in his dying?

Is it different for each of us, now that we are left to imagine how he would frame it?

During one of our prayers in Phil's room, Brendan Walsh remembered a banner Phil had asked Willa Bickham to make years ago for St. Peter Claver. It read: "The sting of death is all around us. O Christ, where is your victory?"

The sting of death is all around us. The death Phil was asking us to attend to is not his death (though the sting of that is on us and will not be denied). The sting Phil would have us know is the sting of institutionalized death and killing. He never wearied of articulating it. He never ceased being astonished by the length and breadth and depth
of it. And he never accepted it.

O Christ, where is your victory? It was back in the mid 1960's that Phil was asking that question of God and her Christ. He kept asking it. And, over the years, he learned "that it is right and good to question our God, to plead for justice for all that inhabit the earth" that it is urgent to feel this; injustice done to any is injustice done to all "that we must never weary of exposing and resisting such injustice" that what victories we see are smaller than the mustard seeds Jesus praised, and they need such tender nurture" that it is vital to celebrate each victory - especially the victory of sisterhood and brotherhood embodied in loving, nonviolent community.

Over the months of Phil's illness we have been blessed a hundred-fold by small and large victories over an anti-human, anti-life, anti-love culture, by friendships - in and out of prison - and by the love that has permeated Phil's life. Living these years and months with Phil free us to revert to the original liturgical question: "O death, where is your sting?"

 


Biographical Information
Philip Berrigan, 1923-2002

October 5, 1923 Born: Minnesota Iron Range, near Bemidji to Frieda Fromhart and Thomas Berrigan
1943-1945 Served in WWII, artillery officer, Europe.
1949 Graduated from Holy Cross College.
1955 Ordained a Catholic Priest in the Josephite Order, specializing in inner city ministry.
1956-1963 Taught at St. Augustine's high school, New Orleans, a segregated all black school.
1962 (or 3?) First priest to ride in a Civil Rights movement Freedom Ride.
1963-1965 Taught at a Josephite seminary, Newburgh, NY.
1966 Published first book, No More Strangers.
1966 Served at St. Peter Claver parish, Baltimore, MD.
October 27, 1967 Poured blood on draft files in Baltimore with 3 others. Known as the "Baltimore Four."
May 17, 1968 Burned draft files in Catonsville, MD with 8 others, including his brother, Fr. Daniel Berrigan. Action known as the "Catonsville Nine." Convicted of destruction of US property, destruction of Selective Service records, and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967. Sentenced to prison.
1970 Married Elizabeth McAlister, an activist nun, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.
1970

Became a fugitive when appeals failed. Captured and returned to prison.

1971

Named co-conspirator by J. Edgar Hoover and Harrisburg grand jury while in prison. Charged with plotting to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up the utility tunnels of US Capitol buildings. Convicted only of violating prison rules for smuggling out letters.

1973

Co-founded Jonah House community of war resisters in Baltimore, MD.

April 1, 1974

Birth of Frida Berrigan at Jonah House.

April 17, 1975

Birth of Jerry Berrigan at Jonah House.

1975

End of Vietnam War and beginning of focus on weapons of mass destruction and changing U.S. nuclear policy. Actions included pouring of blood and digging of graves at the White House and Pentagon resulted in several jail terms ranging up to six months.

1975

Atlantic Life Community conceptualized as East Coast counterpart to Pacific Life Community.

1976

First of summer community building sessions; led to triannual Faith & Resistance Retreats in DC.

September 9, 1980

Poured blood and hammered with 7 others on Mark 12A warheads at a GE nuclear missile plant, King of Prussia, PA. Charged with conspiracy, burglary, and criminal mischief; convicted and imprisoned. Action known as the "Plowshares Eight;" began the international Plowshares movement.

1980-1999

Participated in 5 more Plowshares actions, resulting in ~7 years of imprisonment.

November 5, 1981

Birth of Kate Berrigan at Jonah House.

1989

Published The Times' Discipline, on the Jonah House experience, with Liz McAlister.

1996

Published autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War.

December 14, 2001

Released from Elkton, OH prison after nearly a year of imprisonment for his final Plowshares action.

July 12, 2002:

Underwent hip replacement surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital, Baltimore, MD.

October 8, 2002

Diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, cancer in the liver and
kidney.

December 6, 2002

Died at home in Baltimore, surrounded by family and community.

 



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