Sunday, December 20, 2009

"In God's name: Father Carl Kabat has spent a lifetime protesting nuclear weapons and doesn't plan to stop" Dec. 20 Greeley Trib.

Greeley Tribune, Sunday, Dec.20, 2009


In God's name: Father Carl Kabat has spent a lifetime protesting

nuclear weapons and doesn't plan to stop


Five months in Weld County Jail is starting to wear thin on Father

Carl Kabat's normally patient and jovial demeanor.


He misses the outdoors, the freedom to move around, which at 76 is

getting harder to do anyway.


With the potential for another several months under lock and key, the

longtime Catholic priest and member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Order shrugs in his orange jail jumpsuit and smiles. He lives one day

at a time.


Whatever the price, Kabat stays strong in his resolve against an issue

that was more prominent during the Cold War, but which has been pushed

to the backburners of political and social discourse today — he wants

these nuclear weapons, the Minuteman III missiles buried in the ground

throughout the Midwest, gone. Some of those missiles are in northeast

Weld County; he's spent a lifetime protesting those weapons and was

promptly getting thrown in jail for it.


He chuckles at the question: “Why?”


“This is, ‘You put your arse where your mouth is,'” jokes Kabat

through a video screen at the Weld County Jail, where he has been

affectionately nicknamed “The Podfather.” “If someone has a better way

to do it,” then let him know, he muses.


He'll flip from the silly to serious in a heartbeat: “How many people

has N-8 killed even though it's never been used?”


People who know Kabat know his latest protest in Weld probably won't

be his last tangle with the criminal justice system. He's lived now

almost 18 years of his life in jails and prisons for his cause, in

which he enters missile silos throughout the Midwest, puts up his

anti-nuke banners, hangs up his clown doll, does a little damage, and

waits in prayer while authorities, usually from nearby Air Force

bases, collect him for jail. It's almost a routine.


Last August, he took his umpteenth trip to Colorado, driving from St.

Louis with friends on the anniversary of the American bombing of

Hiroshima in World War II, en route to the N-8 missile silo on Colo.

14, about eight miles west of New Raymer in northeastern Weld County.


Just before the action, he sat calmly in the back seat of the car.

Friend and fellow peace activist Chrissy Kirchhoefer, 32, of St.

Louis, said he was as calm as she'd ever seen him before an “action.”


“Carl can get pretty anxious, especially about preparing for actions,”

Kirchhoefer said, adding that anxiety is more about a fear of the

unknown. “I've never seen him more calm. He was so relaxed. It was

beautiful. It was around 6-7 a.m., an amazing morning. The moon was

setting, the sun was rising. It was gorgeous.”


He was promptly arrested, giving up the freedom and independence he values.


He could die in his concrete cell — his three brothers and his father

all died of heart problems. He could live to see another 20 years.


“He's forewarned us the last couple of times he's gone in that he may

die in prison,” Kirchhoefer said. “It was interesting before he went

in. Someone in the community asked him, ‘Why do you like going to

prison?' ”


“He said: ‘I don't like it at all. If I'm not doing it, who else is?'

He feels compelled certainly to (protest), and he feels a

responsibility. He's spending time away from family and friends. I'd

love to say, ‘Carl, I'd love to have you here and it's really hard

when you're away.' But he does feel compelled to do the right thing.”


Who is this guy?


There's no anger in Father Carl, even while he's living in probably

the angriest place in Weld County, playing by the rules of jail with

no outside reading materials allowed and limitations on his freedom.

His grandfatherly laugh seems to boom through the murky telephone line

in the jail, as does his use of words like “crappin' ” to describe the

U.S. nuclear weapons policy or war.


“It's hopefully making a statement, too, but it could be

counterproductive,” Kabat said of his zealousness about nuclear arms.

“It gets people angry. Sorry about that.”


The former teacher, football coach and avid basketball fan now only

has a little sister and her children's families in Illinois and

Missouri. He also has his Catholic Worker house, the Carl Kabat House

in St. Louis, where he dedicates himself to the service of the poor

when he's not in jail.


Coming out of the seminary when it was wise to keep his mouth shut,

Kabat will do nothing of the sort today. He's always been a bit of

scofflaw, his friends say, which is more about getting things done

than waiting for permission to do it.


He roams the earth as a free spirit, his concern for humanity at the

forefront of his mind.


“I kinda live from day to day,” Kabat says. “One day my brother Paul

and I, he was one year ahead of me in seminary. He acted strange. ...

Finally, after supper he walks up to me and says, ‘Happy birthday.'

... What's past is past. I've even forgotten my own birthday. Carpe



An avid reader, he is blind in one eye due to complications of a

contact lens implant after losing vision from a cataract.


“I figure I can see with my left eye, better than 20/20,” Kabat says.

“Now, doctors say my right eye has been ruined. I do well with my



As you may think, he's a man of big principles. This Catholic priest

has issues with church policies, with U.S. politics, with racism and

sexism. He stands against capital punishment, he'll protest war and

nuclear arms. He has let his convictions take him straight to jail and

prison since his first protest in 1976, when he flew a banner with

friends at an event prior to President Jimmy Carter's inauguration.


But of all the time he's spent behind bars on behalf of his protests

of the crimes against humanity, the blood he's spilled on the White

House or the Pentagon, he has one big regret. In the early 1960s, he

wished he would have marched with Martin Luther King.


He wished he would have drunk from the “black” water fountain when he

got off a train in New Orleans in 1952.


“Like 57 years ago, when I got off the train ... and I saw a black

water fountain and a white water fountain, I didn't do anything,” he



These are the thoughts that keep a 76-year-old Catholic priest, mostly

on the outs with the mainstream Catholic church, thinking, pondering,

yet not worrying about what lies ahead.


The Trial


Father Carl Kabat's trial is scheduled Monday and Tuesday in Weld

County Court. If convicted of the two misdemeanors crimes of criminal

mischief and trespassing, he could be sentenced up to a year in jail

as punishment (though he would get credit for the time already



Carpe Diem


Father Carl, born on the family farm in Scheller, Ill., one of five

children, has been described as an idealistic young priest when he was

ordained in 1959 in Illinois. He prefers not to look back, so readers

will learn little about his formative years.


As he is today, Kabat was revered in his circles in his early years,

said his sister, 24 years his junior.


“I grew up knowing him only as a priest,” said his youngest and only

living sibling, MaryAnn Radake of Tamaroa, Ill., who was 4 when her

brother was ordained. “He was a very caring and considerate person,

along with being a jokester. ... When I was 7, he took me to Minnesota

to the parishes he was ministering in at the time. I had a wonderful

time traveling with him. It was a highlight of my young life.”


But his missionary experiences in the Philippines and Brazil in the

mid- and late 1960s, where he witnessed children dying of starvation

and governments loath to care, changed him. He came back to the United

States just as haunted as many Vietnam soldiers had been at the time.


“When he came back from Brazil and those people were starving, and my

dad, who was a farmer, was being paid not to produce food, (Carl)

didn't know why we were allowing people to starve, but at the same

time willing to put guns and other things in their hands,” said

Radake, who agrees with her brother's anti-nuclear message. “He didn't

understand the whole political thing, so the more he looked in, the

more he tried to go mainstream, write letters, contact congressmen,

the way everyone's told to do it.”


In 1976, he had gone to Baltimore to attend a Catholic World Peace

Day, where more than 1,100 Catholic bishops were convening. He met up

with the Berrigan brothers, who are considered by many to be the

original nuclear protesters in this country. A group of them went to

protest nuclear arms — which have always been condemned as a crime

against humanity by the Catholic church — at an event prior to

Carter's swearing-in.


The banner said something like “ ‘No more Hiroshimas' or something

like that,” he recalls with what becomes a characteristic squeeze of

the forehead, jogging his memory.


“We were all found guilty by a kangaroo court,” Kabat said. “I was

sentenced to $100 dollars and 30 days. A second judge said, ‘Get them

out of jail,' because we were found guilty of obstructing traffic, and

we were standing on the grass. That was my first arrest.”


That first arrest in Plains, Ga., changed him, some say.


“In my imagining of it, that's where Carl finds peace and purpose,

peace for himself in his troubled heart,” said Kelley Ryan, a Clayton,

Mo., drama teacher who wrote the play, “And Carl Laughed” in 2007.

“And it gives him a purpose on how to justify living in this country.”


His parents died while he was in jail; his three brothers also have

passed in recent years.


Through it all, Carl has tried to laugh, part of that

living-for-the-moment thing.


“I was in California when I was 73, and we were to determine what we

wanted on our tombstone,” Kabat recalls. “ I (chose), ‘He really

lived.' No fancy bits, no this or that. I say do what you can do, sing

and dance. Joyfulness is very, very important. Do what a person can

do, then sing and dance.”


The message


When he's not protesting nuclear arms or the death penalty, Kabat

spends his time helping raise up those in poverty by rehabilitating

houses through the Catholic worker movement and giving talks to

different groups.


He knows the masses may have forgotten about the threat that lies

beneath them, buried underground encased in metal that could be set

off by the slightest human error — one that could end it all.


“When people hear the story and what it's about, they don't see it as

crazy, they see it as, ‘Wow, someone is doing something,'” said Bill

Sulzman, a longtime friend of Kabat's from Colorado Springs. “This is

an important question to be raised. In some cases, there is a

disbelief the problem even exists.”


It's a fear that keeps Kabat going to prison or jail — where he

traditionally refuses to post the minimal bonds for release. After

four months in jail in Weld County this fall, Weld County Court Judge

Dana Nichols reduced his $5,000 bond to $2,500. Kabat declined to pay

the bond and decided to stay until his trial, which is scheduled to

begin this week.


Behind bars, Kabat can relax. He'll say, “I'm freer here than on the outside.”


There is nothing he can do behind bars. It's on the outside that he

pushes himself to constant vigilance.


“For many of us, Father Carl Kabat walks in the light of Jesus,” said

Frank Cordaro, a Catholic worker from Des Moines, Iowa. “If he were

alive today, this is one way in which Jesus would be trying to reach

the people of the United States. ... He's willing to put his own life

on the line for what he believes, and this makes him a hero.”


Kabat's weapons protests have long been logged into the history books,

being a part of the original Plowshares 8, a group that broke into the

General Electric plant in 1980 in King of Prussia, Penn., where they

damaged two missile silo nose cones and poured their own blood on

weapons plans, essentially spearheading the anti-nuclear movement. The

word plowshares comes from the Bible verse, Isaiah 2:4 to “beat swords

into plowshares.”


His exploits have landed him in many a newspaper article. He's been

featured in the 1983 movie called “In the King of Prussia,” which

details that first Plowshares action and stars Martin Sheen as the

judge. He's been featured in the book “Prophets Without Honor,” by

William Strabala of Denver.


His decades of dissent were even dramatized by Kelley Ryan, the

theater teacher at Clayton High School, who was inspired by newspaper

accounts of his travails. Her student troupe in 2007 performed the

play in Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland as a part of the

American High School Theatre Festival.


“Carl's message is very clear. Very specific,” said Ryan, who remains

at Clayton High, and uses Kabat's story as her own inspirational tool

every day. “Having a nuclear arsenal is immoral and inhumane, and

he'll tell you that message over and over and over again. The message

of the play is that we have to know what our message is, and that it's

about taking action in whatever way you can to better the world.

Sometimes, the only way you can deal with a bad world is by taking

action. That is what I think Carl does.”


Kabat saw that play after another stint in prison. He didn't applaud.

He stormed the stage in tears to hug all the kids involved.


Making a Difference


Friends and family say Kabat inspires by his actions their own

concerns of the calamity of nuclear weapons, war, weapons

manufacturers or government takeover, whatever they feel strongly

about. They act out in their own ways, but they say they cannot match

Kabat's vigilance.


Kirchhoefer protests the Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems, or

“smart bomb” plant in St. Charles, Mo., and organizes an annual

resistance gathering. Sulzman has focused his protests on the

expansion of Fort Carson in Las Animas County but has protested nukes

in his day, as well. Cordaro has done his own plowshare actions, even

on B-52 bombers. Priests and nuns across the country do their own

plowshare protests, which quietly make the many anti-nuclear movement

Internet blogs but not the mainstream media.


For the teens who acted out the life and struggles that define Father

Carl, nuclear weapons evolved to an issue of modern day reality, their

teacher said.


“When we started this process, the kids were like nuclear weapons? Who

cares? They're insurance,” Ryan said, adding that nuclear testing in

China in recent years challenged that nonchalance.


Everyone involved in Kabat's life expects his trial to go as usual

this week: A quick conviction, and an ignorance of international law,

whereby the World Court in 1996 deemed nuclear weapons “generally

contrary to international humanitarian law,” and the Vatican Council's

declaration in 1965 that nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity.

Judges have chastised Kabat in the past for sending the wrong message

of committing crimes to protest a crime.


He's a tenacious protester.


“He's pacing himself,” Kirchhoefer said of her elderly mentor and

friend, whose vitality she says rivals her own parents. “I see him

going back. I can't see him staying out, but at the same time, he

really enjoys life and lives it fully when he is outside.”


Kabat has managed through the years to stay healthy, even as a smoker.

But there is no escaping that ticking clock.


“At some point, he'll be too physically and probably intellectually

unable,” said Sulzman, who met Kabat through visits with him at a

federal prison in Florence. “We all run out of gas. I don't think he

will voluntarily (stop) for personal reasons. I think he'll continue

seeing this as his quest as long as it's physically possible. ... He's

still doing this when most people have retired.”


And while Kabat feels the effects of age, which prohibit him from

doing as much damage as he'd like to the silos he enters, he doesn't

yet feel a call to stop.


“Get rid of these damn things,” Kabat said. “They're insane. It's our

responsibility. ... If we make the decision to have the state murder

people, that's not God's will, that's our will.”


There's no ego involved, however. While his friends say he walks in

the light of Jesus and has a God-like presence, his convictions are

personal. He's marching to his own orders.


“I'm making a difference for Carl, it makes Carl feel good,” he says.

“I didn't do what I did on Aug. 6 for you or anyone else. I did it for

Carl, to follow my own conscience. If it's helped, fine. Unless you

know another way, do it. I did this, I've done that. If you know of

some other way, then do it.”



A lifetime of civil disobedience


Father Carl Kabat was born in 1933 in Scheller, Ill. He was ordained a

priest in 1959. He has been protesting nuclear weapons much of his

adult life, and has spent almost 18 years behind bars for his cause.

He has been in Weld County Jail since he was arrested Aug. 6 entering

a missile silo facility in northeast Weld County.


» 1961-65, he worked in parishes in Minnesota.

» 1965-68, missionary work in the Philippines.

» 1968-69, returned to Minnesota.

» 1969-73, he served in Recife, Brazil, again doing missionary work

with the poor. In 1973, he fled an arrest warrant in Brazil for

inciting a revolution by conducting a church social. “He was preaching

the kingdom of God starts here on Earth with human dignity,” said his

friend Chrissy Kirchhoefer.

» 1973-77, he worked in Bemidji, Minn., on an Indian reservation with

his brother, Paul Kabat.

» 1976, was when he was arrested in Plains, Ga., for parading without

a permit. He was addressing nuclear arms at Jimmy Carter's home.

» 1977-80, lived in Baltimore, Md., at the Catholic Worker's Jonah

House. He was arrested twice in 1978 for spilling blood at the

Pentagon; sentenced to six-month terms in jail.

» In 1979, he was arrested and jailed in Chicago for protesting the

sale of weapons to Brazilian generals.

» In 1979-80, he was arrested for pouring blood on the White House.

» In 1980, he was arrested at the GE nuclear missile plant in King of

Prussia, Penn., as a part of the original Plowshares 8. He served 14

months in prison while case was appealed.

» 1983, he was arrested in west Germany, where he had been invited to

be a part of a Plowshares movement there. He was released.

» In 1984 at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Carl and his brother

Paul Kabat, and two others took a jackhammer powered by generator to a

nuclear missile silo. For that, he and another got 18 years in prison.

He was released on parole in 1991.

» 1992-93, he was arrested for unlawful entry at a missile silo in

Kansas City, Mo.

» April 1, 1994, he went to a silo in North Dakota and was arrested

for destruction of government property, conspiracy and intent to

damage the national defense. Sentenced to five years in federal prison

and served half of that.

» 1996, he was arrested in Oklahoma City for violation of parole, and

served balance of his sentence. Released in 1998.

» August 2000, he enters the N-7 missile silo in northeastern Weld

County wearing a clown suit. He and a friend are charged with entering

a fenced military facility without permission, a federal misdemeanor.

He was sentenced to time served, 83 days. He also violated probation

in that case.

» April 9, 2004, he again broke into a Weld County missile silo,

charged with second-degree criminal trespassing and second-degree

criminal tampering

» June 20, 2006, he joined two others in entering the Minot Air Force

Base in Garrison, N.C., where they hammered on and poured blood on the

lid of an underground silo. In September, a jury found them guilty of

destruction of government property. Sentenced to 15 months, and

ordered to repay $17,000 in restitution to the U.S. Air Force.

» Aug. 6, 2009, he enters the N-8 missile silo in northeast Weld

County. He has been charged with trespassing and criminal mischief.

His trial is set this week.


Source: “Prophets Without Honor,” by William Strabala and Tribune archives.



Update on Fr Carl Kabat's case


Report on visit to Fr Carl Kabat by Bill Sulzman


"Bond reduced for priest ( Fr Carl Kabat) who protests nukes" Oct

27-The Greeley Tribune


Fr Carl Kabat's trial date changed to Dec 21-22, 2009


Oblate Father Carl Kabat: ‘A fool for Christ’ - Oct 12 Catholic News

Service story by Dennis Sadowski


Fr Carl Kabat's B-Day 10/10 - turns 76 in jail!


Update on Fr Carl Kabat - imprisoned Plowshares Activist in Greeley CO

county jail.....


Fr Carl Kabat imprisoned Plowshares activist featured in the Sept 6 - NY Times


Mail to Fr Carl Kabat must have return address on outside...... How to

send Jail Support $ ....




Carl Kabat slideshow; was arrested at N-8 Saturday



"The priest, the clown and the life of protest" Bill Johnson, Denver Post



Missile-protesting priest arrested in Colorado - the Denver Post



5 Photos from Fr Carl's "Nuclear Weapon Here Pruning Hooks" Plowshares Witness




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