Thursday, January 26, 2023



The comments keep coming.  I believe it is important to remember Phil Berrigan’s many acts of resistance. Kagiso, Max

Hello Max,

 I vividly remember being nine years old, sitting at the dining room table doing my homework. My mother was in the kitchen making dinner, and my father was watching the evening news. My  father shouted, "Betty, it's priests doing this now" in such an anguished voice that we all came running to him. He was watching the news broadcast of the Catonsville Nine protest in Baltimore. I remember how my very Catholic parents who were also the parents of three sons who were the age to be drafted struggled with the message of Catholic priests burning draft files.

 Looking back on my parent's reaction, I believe that had the Catholic Church been a vocal leader for nonviolence rather than just following the military's plan, the course of history would have moved away from endless war.

 Phil Berrigan Presente! Maureen Kehoe-Ostensen  She and her husband George are involved in taking on the weapons contracts at the Bath [Maine] Iron Works.


BY MARY PEMBERTON The Associated Press

Aug 31, 1993 Updated Jan 24, 2015

Philip Berrigan believes ``war is a social curse.' It keeps him fighting the U.S. government, and it keeps getting him arrested for his actions.

He is spread-eagled against a police car, arms handcuffed behind his back, and a smile spreads across Philip Berrigan's face.

``It's a good day to be arrested,' he says, a devilish glint in his blue eyes. ``Any day is a good day to be arrested. I feel renewed.' At age 69, Berrigan is the peace movement's old warrior. Other activists fell from the front lines long ago, moved to suburbia and settled down, but not Philip Berrigan.

``War is a social curse,' Berrigan said during an interview before his most-recent arrest. ``The role of the military is absolutely deranged.'

The former Catholic priest and his brother, Daniel, a Jesuit priest in New York, grabbed the nation's attention May 17, 1968, when as part of the Catonsville Nine they entered a Selective Service office near Baltimore, snatched some draft records and burned them with homemade napalm.

Berrigan was sentenced to 3 1/2 years at the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa. While in prison, he was charged with plotting to kidnap former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and blow up tunnels under federal buildings in Washington. Those charges were later dropped.

He's been arrested about 100 times and has spent a total of about six years in jail. For some, he's the vanguard of the peace movement. For others, he's a nuisance.

Berrigan recently showed up in the office of Howard County Court Commissioner Nancy Pope after failing to appear for trial for trespassing at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, a favorite target because it does research work for the military.

Pope, who has dealt with Berrigan numerous times, became visibly angry when he asked whether he'd be arrested for failing to appear in court. ``You do whatever you want to do. Why don't you do it with this too?' she said.

He walked out and moments later was arrested outside the courthouse and taken to the Howard County Jail. Within a couple of hours, he was back on the street.

``They act as if they have no options to what they're doing, and we show them some, and they jail us,' Berrigan says.

Berrigan says he lucked out when as a condition of parole from federal prison he was ordered back to Baltimore in 1972 to continue his work with the church. Baltimore is only an hour away from his favorite protest spots, The White House and the Pentagon.

He rented a house and set up a ``resistance community' with his wife, former nun Elizabeth McAlister, whom he married in 1967. He was excommunicated in 1973 when the church found out about the marriage.

``Our work has not changed since the time we married or before,' Berrigan says. ``We never considered doing anything different.'

The Rev. Richard McSorley, director of the Center for Peace Studies at Georgetown University, remembers first linking arms with the Berrigan brothers during the civil-rights marches of the 1950s and 1960s.

``When I saw those three - Martin Luther King, Phil and Dan - I thought they are the Christ figures of today, and that is how I picture both of them,' McSorley says.

Peacetime or not, Berrigan is not deterred. For him, the threat of war still looms large.

``We're on a war footing,' Berrigan says. ``The seeds of the next conflict are being sown right now.'

Berrigan knows about war firsthand. In World War II, he fought with the Army field artillery and infantry in France and participated in some of the war's worst battles. The experience changed his life.

``Violence is destroying us,' he says. ``When you bury tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in a trench . . . just bury people alive, and do that to thousands of Iraqi soldiers, you know something is radically wrong.'

Daniel Berrigan, 72, says his brother led the way into the peace movement and showed him how to live religiously. ``I think he is a towering figure for so many people.'

Berrigan is one in a long tradition of ``religious radicals' who use protest to speak out against society's ills, says Burton Wechler, law professor at American University.

``There are so many of the 1960s radicals that are now stockbrokers, investment brokers, shoe store owners,' Wechler says. That doesn't mean their politics have changed but their heads have changed. This is a man who continued to live it.'

``The cross of Christ means holding to accountability a state that is sometimes criminal,' Berrigan says. ``That's what it meant for Christ, and that's what it means for us.'


© Copyright 2023 Greensboro News & Record

 Donations can be sent to Max Obuszewski, Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 431 Notre Dame Lane, Apt. 206, Baltimore, MD 21212.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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