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Daniel Berrigan

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Title: Daniel Berrigan  
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Subject: Dorothy Day, John Dear, Ciaron O'Reilly, Helen Caldicott, Anti-nuclear movement in the United States
Collection: 1921 Births, American Anti–death Penalty Activists, American Anti–nuclear Weapons Activists, American Anti–vietnam War Activists, American Anti-War Activists, American Christian Pacifists, American Jesuits, American People of German Descent, American People of Irish Descent, American Tax Resisters, Catholic Workers, Christian Anarchists, Christian Radicals, Counterculture of the 1960S, Fordham University Faculty, Living People, Nonviolence Advocates, People from Virginia, Minnesota, Roman Catholic Activists
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Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan at the Third Annual Staten Island Freedom & Peace Festival, 2006-10-28

Daniel J. Berrigan, S.J. (born May 9, 1921), is an American Catholic priest, counterculture peace activist, and poet.


  • Life and work 1
    • Protests against the Vietnam War 1.1
    • Plowshares Movement 1.2
    • Other activism 1.3
  • In media 2
  • Awards and recognition 3
  • Publications 4
  • Further reading 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Life and work

Berrigan was born in Virginia, Minnesota, on May 9, 1921. His mother, Frieda (née Fromhart), was of German descent.[1] and his father, Thomas Berrigan, was a second-generation Irish Catholic and active union member. Berrigan remained devoted to the Church throughout his youth, even after his father left. Although a lifelong devotee of Notre Dame, he joined the Jesuits directly out of high school in 1939 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. In 1954, he was assigned to teach theology at the Jesuit Brooklyn Preparatory School. In 1957 he was appointed professor of New Testament studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. That same year, he won the Lamont Prize for his book of poems, Time Without Number. Berrigan developed a reputation as a religious radical, working actively against poverty, and on changing the relationship between priests and laypersons. While at Le Moyne, he founded its International House.

From 1966 to 1970, he was the assistant director of the Cornell Catholic Community, eventually becoming the group's pastor.[2] He now resides in New York City and teaches at Fordham University in addition to serving as its poet-in-residence.[3]

Berrigan appears briefly in the 1986 Warner Bros. film, The Mission, playing a Jesuit priest, and also served as a consultant on the film.[4]

Protests against the Vietnam War

Berrigan, his brother Josephite priest Philip Berrigan, and Trappist monk Thomas Merton founded an interfaith coalition against the Vietnam War, and wrote letters to major newspapers arguing for an end to the war. In 1967, Daniel and Phillip were arrested for pouring blood on draft records as part of the Baltimore Four. Phillip was sentenced to six years in prison for defacing government property. This, and his belief that his support of POWs during the war was not acknowledged and appreciated, further radicalized Berrigan against the United States government.

Berrigan traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 to "receive" three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombing of that nation had begun.[5]

In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse to make tax payments in protest of the Vietnam War.[6] In the same year, he was interviewed in the anti-Vietnam War documentary film In the Year of the Pig, and later that year became involved in radical non-violent protest. He manufactured homemade napalm and, with eight other Catholic protesters, used it to destroy 378 draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board on May 17, 1968.[2][7] This group came to be known as the Catonsville Nine. Berrigan was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison,[8] but went into hiding with the help of fellow radicals prior to imprisonment. While on the run, Berrigan was interviewed for Lee Lockwood's documentary The Holy Outlaw. The FBI apprehended him at the home of William Stringfellow and sent him to prison. He was released in 1972.[9]

Berrigan later spent time in France meeting with Thich Nhat Hanh, the exiled Buddhist monk and peace activist from Vietnam.

Plowshares Movement

On September 9, 1980, Berrigan, his brother Philip, and six others (the "Plowshares Eight") began the Plowshares Movement. They trespassed onto the General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files. They were arrested and charged with over ten different felony and misdemeanor counts.[10] On April 10, 1990, after ten years of appeals, Berrigan's group was re-sentenced and paroled for up to 23 and 1/2 months in consideration of time already served in prison. Their legal battle was re-created in Emile de Antonio's 1982 film In The King of Prussia, which starred Martin Sheen and featured appearances by the Plowshares Eight as themselves.

Berrigan is still involved with the Plowshares Movement.

Daniel Berrigan is arrested for civil disobedience outside the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in 2006

Other activism

Berrigan maintained his opposition to American intervention in Central America, through the Gulf War in 1991, the Kosovo War, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He is also an anti-abortion activist[11] and opponent of capital punishment, a contributing editor of Sojourners Magazine, and a supporter of the Occupy movement.[12]

In media

  • Dar Williams's song "I Had No Right" from her album The Green World is about Berrigan and his trial.
  • Paul Simon's song "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" refers to Berrigan as "the radical priest".
  • Charlie King's song, "The Hammer Has to Fall," from his album, "Vaguely Reminiscent" examines the motivations of the Plowshares 8 (which included Berrigan and his brother Philip) in damaging nuclear weapons with sledgehammers.
  • Lynne Sachs's documentary film Investigation of a Flame is about the Berrigan brothers and the Catonsville Nine.
  • Daniel Berrigan was interviewed about his life and activism for Kisseloff, Jeff (2006). Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s, an Oral History. University Press of Kentucky. .  
  • Daniel Berrigan appeared briefly in the 1986 Roland Joffé film The Mission, which starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons.
  • In 1994, Berrigan was one of several political activists featured on an advertisement for Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Proceeds from sales of a poster of the advertisement were donated to the Children's Defense Fund.
  • The character of Father Corrigan in the novel Let The Great World Spin (2009, by Colum McCann), was inspired by the life of Daniel Berrigan.
  • Danny Berrigan is recommended for the list of great minds to survive an impending nuclear attack in the 1988 film Miracle Mile.

Awards and recognition


Berrigan 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 in 1972.

Berrigan's other works include

  • Daniel Barrigan (1960). Encounters. Ohio: World. 
  • Love, Love at the End: Parables, Prayers and Meditations, 1968 (reprinted 1971, Macmillan Company)
  • Daniel Berrigan (1972). America Is Hard To Find. New York: Doubleday (also a recording 1970). 
  • Daniel Berrigan (1978). Words Our Savior Gave Us. Springfield: Templegate.  
  • Daniel Berrigan (1973). Prison Poems. Greensboro: Unicorn Press.  
  • Daniel Berrigan (1987). Hole in the Ground: A Parable for Peacemakers. Minneapolis:  
  • Daniel Berrigan; Margaret Parker (1989). Stations: The Way of the Cross. Harper Collins.  
  • Daniel Berrigan (1998). And the Risen Bread: Poems 1954-1997. New York: Fordham University Press.  
  • Daniel Berrigan (1998). Daniel: Under the Siege of the Divine. Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House.  
  • Daniel Berrigan (1998). Uncommon Prayer: A Book of Psalms.  
  • Daniel Berrigan (2000). The Bride: Images of the Church. Icons by  
  • Daniel Berrigan (2007). To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography. Wipf & Stock Publishers.  
  • "Statement on Poetry." The Worcester Review IV, (1976)
  • Absurd Convictions, Modest Hopes
  • Geography of Faith
  • Time Without Number (1957) - winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize
  • The Dark Night of Resistance
  • Night Flight to Hanoi
  • Trial Writings (with Tom Lewis).
  • Daniel Berrigan; Thich  
  • Arthur J. Laffin, ed. (2003). Swords into Plowshares: A chronology of plowshares disarmament actions 1980-2003.  
  • Daniel Berrigan; Howard Zinn, introduction; Adrianna Amari, photographs (2007). Prayer for the Morning Headlines: On the Sanctity of Life and Death. Apprentice House.  
  • Daniel Berrigan (2007). The Trouble With Our State (Audio recording- CD). Yellow Bike Press. 
  • Jeremiah: The World, The Wound Of God=Fortress Press, 1999 ISBN 0-8006-3138-2

Further reading

  • Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady, Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Lives of Daniel and Philip Berrigan (Basic Books,1997)

See also


  1. ^ [3]
  2. ^ a b Aloi, Daniel (2006-04-04). "From Vietnam to Redbud Woods: Daniel Berrigan launches events commemorating five decades of activism at Cornell".  
  3. ^ [4]
  4. ^ "The Mission": cast and crew;; Accesses 2013.01.14.
  5. ^ Nancy Zaroulis; Gerald Sullivan (1989). Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam 1963-1975. Horizon Book Promotions.  
  6. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  7. ^ United States v. Moylan, 417 F.2d 1002 (4th Cir. 1969)
  8. ^ Berrigan v. Norton, 451 F.2d 790 (2d Cir. 1971)
  9. ^ Berrigan v. Sigler, 499 F.2d 514 (D.C. Cir. 1974)
  10. ^ Commonwealth v. Berrigan, 501 A.2d 226, 509 Pa. 118 (1985)
  11. ^ "Christians Can't Kill, Berrigan Tells 700" The Milwaukee Sentinel, Jan 7, 1984
  12. ^ Chris Hedges (11 June 2012). "Daniel Berrigan, America's Street Priest, Stands With Occupy". 

Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady, "Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Lives and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Brothers in Religious Faith & Civil Disobedience" (Basic Books, 1997 and Westview Press, 1998)

External links

  • Plowshares Movement Chronology
  • Works by or about Daniel Berrigan in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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