Friday, December 25, 2009

Bill Johnson's column in the Denver Post on Fr Carl Kabat

Dec 25, 2009 The Denver Post


Bill Johnson Column: Priest guilty of fortitude


By Bill Johnson Denver Post Columnist


As the seven-person jury filed from the courtroom, having just

returned two guilty verdicts against him, Father Carl Kabat rose from

his chair and applauded them.


The St. Louis priest was convicted in Greeley on Tuesday of criminal

mischief and trespassing, both misdemeanors, for cutting a hole in a

fence that guards a Minuteman III nuclear missile silo in Weld County

last August, draping antiwar banners around the silo, saying a prayer

and trying unsuccessfully to pry open its lid.


It is what Carl Kabat does. He has spent the better part of the past

three decades in prison for staging similar protests here and across

the United States against the missiles, whose very existence he calls

"simply insane."


Weld County Court Judge Dana Nichols sentenced the 76-year-old priest

to the 137 days he spent in county jail following his arrest and gave

prosecutors time to seek restitution to F.E. Warren Air Force Base for damages.


I don't have many heroes, but Carl Kabat is one of them. I deeply

admire men of conviction, particularly those who buck the system and

gnaw relentlessly at it in the pursuit of peace.


I was introduced to him years ago, not long after he was released from

the federal penitentiary in Florence, having done 10 hard years for

staging a similar missile silo protest.


He sat down with me for dinner, shrugged and acted as if he had just

served an hour in third-grade detention.


"Do you know how many men I ministered to in Florence?" I remember him

saying over and over as I marveled that any man would so freely give

up his liberty in the pursuit of a cause so many people over the years

have abandoned.


I caught up with him this week as he rushed to get home to St. Louis

to spend Christmas with his younger sister, his only surviving

sibling, and the rest of his family.


I asked him of his applauding the jurors, some of whom wept as they filed out.


"They were good people, intelligent, serious and thoughtful. They were

good eggs," he said.


He had fired his court- appointed lawyers during the two-day trial, a

preplanned move he had insisted on so he could address the jury personally.


"I don't know you," he told them during closing arguments, "but you

are my sisters and brothers. We're all God's children, and we have to

look after one another. We have to be significant actors."


"Significant actors" is one of Carl Kabat's favorite expressions. It

means going outside of yourself, he always says, to take positive

action against that which you know to be wrong.


He had wanted, he explained, for one or more on the panel to see the

righteousness of his cause and hang the jury.


"What are you going to do?" he said. "I applauded them to thank them.

They had given it thought."


We talked for a long time, about the law and morality, him recalling a

time long ago that he stepped off a bus and saw a sign.


"It said 'black water' and 'white water.' I kick myself to this day

that I didn't take a drink of black water, even one swallow. What

could they have done to me?"


I asked him, as I always do, if he planned yet another protest anytime

soon. And for the first time ever, Carl Kabat hedged.


"I'm 76 years old, older than my old man when he died, so I might be

living on borrowed time," he said.


"I might have died in prison, I might die on the way to St. Louis.

Either way is OK with me. I am just going to take my life and the

message day by day."


Bill Johnson writes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at

303-954-2763 or




No comments: