The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a writer, teacher and longtime opponent of U.S. military involvement abroad, whose repeated acts of civil disobedience put him at odds with his government and the Roman Catholic Church but made him a major figure among advocates for peace and social justice, died April 30 at a Jesuit residence at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. He was 94.
The cause was a cardiovascular ailment, said the Rev. James Yannarell, a priest affiliated wtih the Fordham Jesuit community.
In May 1968, Father Berrigan, along with his brother and fellow priest Philip Berrigan and seven other pacifists, entered a Selective Service office in Catonsville, Md.
They gathered hundreds of draft files, lugged them outside and, with a recipe of kerosene and soap chips taken from a Green Berets handbook, burned them to ashes. The Catonsville Nine, as they became known, were arrested and in a five-day trial in October 1968 were found guilty of destruction of government property.
Father Berrigan wrote a play about the event, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.”
“Our apologies, good friends,” he wrote, “for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.”
The judge sentenced Father Berrigan, then 47, to three years in federal prison. Philip Berrigan, who had been charged in earlier nonviolent protests, received six years.
In 1970, after the appeals ran out, Father Berrigan refused orders to report to federal prison in Danbury, Conn. He went underground, on the lam from safe house to safe house, and spent four months dodging an FBI manhunt. After many false leads, he was finally caught on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. Days before he was captured, he spoke at a church in Germantown, Pa., saying, “We have chosen to be branded peace criminals by war criminals.”
Father Berrigan was a willing recidivist who was first arrested in 1967. His rap sheet would eventually be filled with arrests and convictions from protests at weapons laboratories and at the Pentagon.
Daniel Joseph Berrigan was born May 9, 1921, in Virginia, Minn., the fifth of six sons of a pro-union father and a mother who opened her home to the poor.
In 1939, Daniel Berrigan entered the former St. Andrew-on-the-Hudson Jesuit novitiate near Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP; Vatican
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