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The Life and Death of Daniel Berrigan


The Life and Death of Daniel Berrigan

Rev. John Dear

Rev. Daniel Berrigan, the renown anti-war activist, award-winning poet, author and Jesuit priest, who inspired religious opposition to the Vietnam war and later the U.S. nuclear weapons industry, died at age 94, just a week shy of his 95th birthday.

He died of natural causes at the Jesuit infirmary at Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx. I had visited him just last week. He has long been in declining health.


We who were young back in the sixties were more than just inspired by Fr. Berrigan. We were challenged to get off our duffs and do more than just debate politics in our dorm rooms. He made us feel the need to end the war because people were dying and only we could stop that from happening. He challenged us with his courage and steadfastness to speak truth to power. We knew the price he was paying.

It wasn't just that he was morally right and a spiritual leader. He showed us how to have the courage to resist, to think for ourselves, to wage peace not war using nonviolence. He reminded many, like myself, that Jesus came bringing good news of social justice for the poor. Blessed are the peacemakers because they have courage.

Jesus the revolutionary was killed by empire. Fr. Dan will be remembered for restoring faith to many when it had been replaced by a rejection of blind obedience. Have faith in the truth not in obedience to power, he might have said. It was what we heard anyway. We needed to hear something like that from a priest, because other priests like Cardinal Spellman told us otherwise and supported the war. The Berrigans allowed us a path to faith outside of accepting the war, the war makers and the lust for money and power. We looked again at Jesus the revolutionary which we had never been taught to do before.

Fr. Berrigan the radical priest. His congregation was the sixties. Fr. Dan was the priest of the sixties.

A very beautiful and inspiring article Fr. Dear. The spirit of the sixties was in it.


I have continued my faith because of the works of Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Phillip and Daniel Berrigan. "Have faith in truth not obedience to power", indeed. Thank you, Fr. Dear.


Thank you, John Dear for the profound, moving tribute. You learned well from your mentor.

"Dan and Phil inspired millions of people around the world to speak out against war and work for peace, and helped turn the Catholic church back to its Gospel roots of peace and nonviolence."

What a contrast with the Dulles brothers and the Koch Brothers... duos who instead spread actual war and war by economic means.


Daniel Berrigan was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but never won, while Kissinger and Obama, who are war criminals and have lied and murdered countless innocent men, women and children and are the antithesis to Daniel Berrigan's non-violent and peaceful protests, were honored with that prize.

What's wrong with this picture? Those Ignoble Peace Prizes should be stripped from Kissinger and Obama and given posthumously to a true man of peace...Father Daniel Berrigan!


Yeah, but what are the old hippies doing today except wagging their fingers at the post-Seattle antiglobocapitalist and latter generations for being "too radical".

I'll never forget the way one of them, some rich old hippie from some fashionable place out west (forgot his name) really let loose with angry denunciations of the principle of diversity of tactics we used at the G20 in my town a few years ago. This is in spite of the fact that some of those tactics were the same ones used by the Berrigans did at Catonsville and King-of-Prussia - but for some reason have now become regarded as "violence" (ok, they don't say the rosary before doing the vandalism) The old hippies then proceeded to forcefully (violent in its own way) purge the city's once growing and dynamic peace and justice center of all "anarchists" (many were anarchists - so what?).

Apathy and resignation now reigns in Paris of the rust belt...


The late Phil too...


Those of us who claim God is dead need to think long and hard about Father Berrigan. He showed during his 94 years a remarkable ability to walk in the steps of the Christ. Totally honest. Totally loving. A life-well lived. We were lucky to have him walking with us, even though he was typically about one mile ahead. Saint are with us, if you have eyes to see.


"...and was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel peace prize."

Funny how THAT prize means so little today since you-know-who received it. What a joke.


I'll second that!


What a life exceptionally well lived. I hadn't known that he had studied and lived with Thich Nhat Hanh. Not surprised.

" We are back where we started. Thou shalt not kill; we are not allowed to kill. Everything today comes down to that--everything."