On April 30, famed Jesuit priest, poet, anti-war activist Daniel Joseph Berrigan died days short of his 95th birthday.
He taught theology at the Jesuit Brooklyn Preparatory School. Later was Professor of New Testament studies at Le Moyne College, taught theology at Cornell and Fordham universities.
Best known for his anti-war activism, he co-founded an interfaith coalition against the Vietnam War with his brother Philip and Thomas Merton.
They campaigned passionately for its end. In 1967, he and Philip were arrested for pouring blood on draft records. Philip was sentenced to six years in prison for defacing government property.
In 1968, Daniel and Howard Zinn traveled to Hanoi during the January Tet Offensive to bring home three released US POWs.
In 1968, he, Philip and seven other priests (known as the Catonville Nine) burned hundreds of draft files with homemade napalm in the Catonville, MD draft board parking lot.
At the time, he said “our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children.”
“How many must die before our voices are heard? How many must be tortured, dislocated, starved, maddened? When, at what point, will you say no to this war?”
The same year, he signed the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest pledge, refusing to pay taxes to finance US Southeast Asia aggression.
He was sentenced to three years in prison, remained a fugitive for four months before FBI agents arrested him at writer William Stringfellow’s home.In September 1980, over five years after the Vietnam War ended, he, Philip and six other protesters (the Plowshares Eight) entered the GE King of Prussia, PA nuclear missile facility - damaged warhead nose cones and poured blood on documents and files.
Charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors, they appealed for years, were re-sentenced and paroled in April 1990 in consideration for nearly two years of time imprisoned.
Berrigan remained passionately anti-war until his death. He opposed US intervention in Central America in the 1980s, the 1991 Gulf War, the rape of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and post-9/11 US naked aggression.
At age 92, he participated in the Occupy Wall Street campaign in New York’s Zuccotti Park. Philip died in 2002. Both brothers were two of America’s most courageous voices for peace and justice for all.
Asked what inscription he preferred for his gravestone, Daniel responded: “It was never dull. Alleluia.”
Separately he once said “you have to do what you know is right.” He died like he lived, passionate for his beliefs to the end.
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|Allen L. Jasson|