Berrigan, Daniel (1921) and Philip (1923)

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Berrigan, Daniel (1921) and Philip (1923). The Berrigan brothers—Daniel, a Jesuit priest, and Philip, of the Josephite order—led the antiwar and antidraft movements during the Vietnam War. Philip served in the U.S. Army in World War II, becoming a priest in 1955. Daniel, the intellectual and theologian, ordained in 1952, complements his brother's activism, acquired in assignments to black parishes in New Orleans and Baltimore.

In May 1968, the two brothers, along with seven other Catholic protesters, burned the records of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board with homemade napalm. Their arrest, trial, and sentence to 3 years in prison propelled the Berrigans to national prominence. They helped found the Catholic resistance movement: estimates for draft board raids range from 53 to 250. Having lost their appeals, Philip reported to jail, in April 1970, but Daniel became a fugitive. Captured by FBI agents in August, he joined his brother in Danbury Prison. In January 1971, the Nixon administration indicted the Berrigans and others for conspiracy, including bizarre charges of planning to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up heating tunnels in federal buildings in Washington, D.C. After sixty hours of deliberation, the jury could not reach a verdict, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial.

After Vietnam, the brothers continued the Catholic resistance with a new focus on nuclear disarmament. In September 1980, they led a group into a GE plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, that damaged the nose cones for Mark 12A nuclear warheads and poured blood on company records. They were sentenced to 3 to 10 years, but their appeal stretched across the 1980s; eventually the case was brought before a lenient judge who sentenced them to twenty‐three months' probation.

The Berrigan brothers' radical antiwar activism reflected increased alienation from government and American society.
[See also Peace and Antiwar Movements.]


Francine du Plessix Gray , Divine Disobedience: Profiles in Catholic Radicalism, 1970.
Patricia McNeal , Harder Than War: Catholic Peacemaking in Twentieth‐century America, 1992.

Patricia McNeal

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