Archive for May 2016

Remembering Dan

May 9, 2016

StreetMourners on the way to the funeral

Advice to Christians:

Stay focused on the Gospel and let the rest take care of itself.

The formula has been deceptively simple; open the Bible together as a discipline of holy literacy, be attentive to the spirit of the words, see where they lead.’


A certain medical doctor who treated him for a small cyst in a New York hospital. It turned out that this doctor wanted to thank Dan because his was one of the draft cards burned in Catonsville, Maryland. ‘That action spared my life,’ he said, ‘and I used it to get a medical degree. Now I’m here to take care of you, Fr. Dan.’

The thing about Dan and Phil, unlike many pompous clerics, they never took themselves too seriously…their cause, yes, themselves, no.

Steve Kelly sj was the homilist at Dan’s funeral. He held nothing back. His opening remarks were classic. He welcomed the FBI undercivers present and advised them that they coukd now close the book on Dan!

IN  1968 at the  Philadelphia Quakers’ largest gathering, the Yearly Meeting, they invited Dan to be the keynote speaker. Lyle Tatum a recognized Quaker lerader  was chosen to introduce him. In his introduction he said that, several centuries ago, Quakers Ann Austin and Mary Fisher had walked from Northwest England to Rome to try, as Lyle said, “to convert the Pope to Christianity.” At that, Dan laughed as heartily as the rest of us. When he stepped to the microphone to speak, his first words were, “I hope you’ll keep trying.”


Banner near the altar at funeral mass.







Dan Berrigan RIP

May 6, 2016

Leave it to Liz McAlister to cap off the funeral  of her brother-in-law Dan Berrigan in New York’s St.Francis Xavier church Dan Berrigan sj  whom she knew so well.


In a congregation like this there was the heartfelt acknowledgment that Liz was the equal partner of her more famous husband Philip who died Dec.6.2002.
She gave an incredible eulogy surrounded by Berrigan children, those of Phil and Liz and Jerry and Carole Berrigan.
She began with what has become a classic of resistance literature, Dan’s rationale for the burning of the draft card records at the height of the Vietnam War. Nine Catholics including Daniel and his brother Phillip entered a draft board in Catonsville, Md. and removed draft files of those who were about to be sent to Viet Nam.  They took these files outside and burned them with home-made napalm, a weapon commonly used on the Vietnamese.


Our apologies  good friends for the fracture of good order  the burning of paper instead of children  the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house.
We could not  so help us God  do otherwise
For we are sick at heart   our hearts
give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children and for thinking of that other Child of whom
the poet Luke speaks 

Luke’s gospel introduces us another child (Jesus) “born to make trouble and to die for it.”


Berrigan like many deeply understood the sickness which still engulfs America, a bloated nation become empire, whose military budget genuflects to the god of war and not human flourishing. The United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad costing between 85 to $100 billion yearly.


The murderous havoc visited upon Vietnam (over 1 million civilians killed ,many more maimed and an ecology in tatters resulted in untold misery at home with more suicides of returning vets than soldiers killed in combat.

Berrigan and the other 8 Catholics were among the first of our tribe to break with an empire run amok.He named government policy as

a massive institutionalized disorder
We say:  Killing is disorder
life and gentleness and community and unselfishness
is the only order we recognize

Dan’s question still rings out:

How many indeed must die
before our voices are heard
how many must be tortured dislocated
starved maddened?
How long must the world’s resources
be raped in the service of legalized murder? When at what point will you say no to this war?
We have chosen to say
with the gift of our liberty
if necessary our lives:
the violence stops here
the death stops here
the suppression of the truth stops here
this war stops here

Daniel the prophet like his favourite biblical prophet turned his judgment on a church become silent in face of such human suffering

They embrace their society with all their heart
and abandon the cross
The times are inexpressibly evil
Christians pay conscious  indeed religious tribute
to Caesar and Mars

As always unto our own age, despite the rule of institutional silence, fear and the substitution of charity for justice

And yet  and yet  the times are inexhaustibly good

Because there is always a strong minority

solaced by the courage and hope of many
The truth rules  Christ is not forsaken
In a time of death some men
the resisters   those who work hardily for social change
those who preach and embrace the truth
such men overcome death
their lives are bathed in the light of the resurrection
the truth has set them free
In the jaws of death
they proclaim their love of the brethren
We think of such men
in the world  in our nation  in the churches
and the stone in our breast is dissolved
we take heart once more. 

This poem should be studied in every Catholic school where crucifixes continue to hang.

Racist murder in Israel

May 5, 2016


On March 24 a 19 year old Israeli medic-soldier and French citizen Elor Azarya was filmed summarily executing Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sharif an incapacitated Palestinian who lay wounded in the occupied city of Hebron where the IDF defends 600 illegal settlers in a Palestinian city of 220,000.This cowardly act flying in the face of all Hippocratic oaths that medics especially should attend the wounded, went viral. The murder was filmed by a “Jew of conscience” who worked for B’Tselem the Israeli human rights group.

Shockingly, a petition defending this sick man proliferated within a few minutes and a poll revealed that 82% of Israelis supported the execution. Rallies were held all over Israel. At a rally in Rabin Square Azarya’s mother, Oshra Azarya, who previously had written on Facebook to kill Palestinian mothers and children , broke down when she spoke of her son’s “angel eyes”.

The  mother wrote to the paper Ya’alon “I am the mother of the soldier that you sent on a mission to protect the country’s citizens and you have abandoned him. A mother who sent her son to protect the country and its citizens, and the establishment reciprocates by firing back and silencing his voice. I am the mother of the 19-year-old boy who is standing alone in front of the political and military leadership and can’t take it on.”

To bring a more sobering view on this shockingly brutal act Gideon Levy wrote on March 27:

It was murder. It was murder of the most abominable kind, the murder of a helpless human being. It was murder committed by a cowardly soldier, who shot a wounded man. The murderer’s accomplices were those colleagues of his who said “it’s no big deal” and the officers who spoke on their cellphones or occupied themselves in a thousand different ways while the wounded man lay helpless. The soldier shot him in the head and his body was left bleeding on the road.

Levy increasingly is the voice of sanity in racist Israel.  The brave Haaretz reporter spoke the truth about Israel, the great democracy’s penchant for extra judicial killings.
The momentary storm that erupted in Israel is a self-righteous one. This is exactly what the extrajudicial killings over the past months have looked like – the only difference was the B’Tselem camera. There were plenty of testimonies and evidence about these killings, but Israelis chose to close their eyes. As in previous incidents, the wounded man lying on the road was no threat to anyone – and no shrewd lawyer will be able to convince a decent judge that the soldier fired because he felt that his life was threatened.

The question raised by Levy is What has happened to us. What kind of people cheer on a murderer? A murder that required no courage, a cowardly act of the highest order, has become heroic in the eyes of the masses, simply because it ended with a dead Palestinian bleeding on the road to the sound of their rejoicing.


HEROFor this longtime observer of the country he loves as an israeli patriot,”Israeli racism has reached a new peak….Israel is probably the most racist country in the world… These are deep currents that are difficult to stop. They have settled deep in people’s hearts, the result of decades of incitement and brainwashing.”

Berrigan gave Scahill his cue

May 4, 2016

“I may not be here if it wasn’t for Dan Berrigan,” said journalist Jeremy Scahill , the outstanding journalist who peeled back the layers on the US mercenaries in Blackwater and has used his skills to uncover the lies and deceit at the heart of the American empire .His other books are The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield

Scahill’s story is instructive. his parents grew up on the south side of Chicago both were nurses. His father, an only son of irish immigrants was on his way to be a priest studying theology when the Vietnam war became front and centre in the USA. It was at this time that three moral giants arose within Catholicism, prophets who made the gospel tangible and the prophetic dynamite it was meant to be. They were Dorothy Day, the legendary founder of the Catholic Worker who made the radical link between war and poverty; Thomas Merton the activist Trappist monk who preached a radical pacifism in his voluminous correspondence with Catholic movers and shakers meeting during Vatican ll, one of whom was Canada’s cardinal George Flahiff. The third turned out to be Fr.Dan Berrigan,sj . The latter got his cue to come on stage from both Day and Merton.

Scahill’s ffather heard Dan Berrigan give a talk, a voice of New Testament sanity mid the war making clamor of the time. The Scahills moved to New York and became part of the Catholic Worker family. Young Jeremy born in 1974 grew up, grounded in resistance to war making and, like thousands was transfixed by two priests, Dan and Phil Berrigan hauled off to jail after burning draft card records in a Baltimore suburb on May 17,1968.


The gospel joy of the resister.

In the mid 90s Scahill ended up at Jonah House with Phil Berrigan and his extraordinary wife, war resister, Liz McAlister. Talk about “an alternative education.”

Again, here’s the message, crafted so well by Norman Alcock yesterday. We all need cues, invitations to come into history and play our part. Rabbi Heschel says “By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption.We either reduce or enhance the power of evil.”

Nobody arrives without an invitation. Parents of course are the prime motivators but there are always others. Sometimes the calls are subtle, often below our threshold of understanding. The most powerful are those best expressed by the great philosopher Martin Buber, “All real living is meeting.” Significant people show up in our lives– a teacher, a friend, a significant other. Sometimes the invitation is more direct like, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” Most times however the cues are less direct.Too often the most powerful invitations are from the capitalist culture of excess—to have rather than to be, to own, accumulate, have power, perennial seductions we need to resist. Merton’s advice resonates here: ”You’re not going to survive America unless you are faithful to your discipline and tradition.

All of us can say about somebody, “I would not be here if it were not for…” For Jeremy Scahill it was Dan Berrigan

Gratitude for those who showed up in our lives, who showed us the way.

Dan Berrigan:”Nothing is ever lost”

May 3, 2016

Chris Wallace, is the Fox News Sunday host and son of the legendary 60 Minutes journalist .In 1981 Wallace interviewed Dan Berrigan. the following clip says it all aboutAmerican celebrity culture and its almost total inability to fathom the life of the spirit, in this case the depth of a man such as Dan Berrigan. The interview was at the time of the Ploughshares action when Dan and Phil and six others broke into a nuclear plant a General Electric factory in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. They invoked the prophet Isaiah’s words as they hammered on an inert Mark 12 A nuclear warhead.

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 2: 4


CHRIS WALLACE: Back in the Vietnam days, the Berrigan brothers were big. You attracted tens of thousands of people. Now you’re not as big. You do not attract the same attention.


CHRIS WALLACE: Is that hard for you?

FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN: No, I don’t think we ever felt our conscience was tied to the other end of a TV cord. I think we’ve tried for a number of years to do what was right, because it was right.

This was a cardinal Berrigan insight, one which points to the belief that nothing is ever lost. In Dan’s words,”If the good is done in the right spirit, the good will go somewhere. I don’t think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome.I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”

Wallace and too many others were sadly tethered to an observable, immediate outcome.Life is not like that.

Mother Teresa put it well: we are called not to be successful but faithful.

A great atheist friend of mine the late Norman Alcock had a similar response when he quit playing nuclear games at Chalk River the Canadian nuclear facility. Norm gave it all up. His conscience led him in `1961`to open a small peace institute in Dundas Ontario. Like Berrigan, Norm was called a fool and a dreamer.


Why would he give up such a prestigious job as one of Canada’s pre-eminent physicists to work for peace?

Like Berrigan Norman understood that the atomic bomb made war obsolete. “We were just not smart enough to realize it.” Like Berrigan he spent his life challenging nuclear proliferation.

Norms’ line was  similar to Dan’s.

Alcock simply said “I do it because it might give somebody else permission to come on the stage.”

We all need cues to enter history seriously. The Disney culture will give you an abundance of death-dealing cues, tickets to irrelevance, a perennial spectator in the fashioning of a better future for humanity. One needs a deeper grounding to say no to the idols. Dan Berrigan listened to a profound cue-giver the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton who told him, ”You’re not going to survive America unless you are faithful to your discipline and tradition.” Dan was steeped deeply in the best of the Catholic tradition. Norm drank from the wells of a grounded humanism. They resisted the American Kool-aid.

The lives of Dan Berrigan and Norm Alcock went way beyond “the end of a TV cord.” Many of us came onto the stage because of people like them.

Dan Berrigan Catholic prophet

May 2, 2016



Dan Berrigan, Jesuit priest, and Catholic prophet died Saturday just short of his 95th birthday.

For many of us, Dan put necessary flesh on the Jesus story, moved it into conemporary history as a force to be reckoned with. Not everyone followed of course. The culture had its way of bending us, in Augustine’s words making us “curvatus in se”, bent in ourselves.’ But after the Council (1962-65) the Bererigans,Dan and Phil, appalled at the Vietnam War, showed us the way of saying No especially to warmaking as a way of life, peacemaking as the way of Jesus.

Dan had a pixie-like way about him, great sense of humour. In 1981, this prize-winning poet wroie 10 Commandments for the Long haul

1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).

2) Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?

3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.

4) About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.

5) On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.

6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.

7) About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”

8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.

9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.

10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.

The Selfie Banality of Evil

May 1, 2016


Once a week the brave Christian Peacemaker Team sends out photos of the Occupation.

This one particularly grabbed and infuriated me.
I immediately sent it on to some friends with the following commentary:

Look at these dumb brainwashed Israeli soldiers taking selfies in the Palestinian city of Hebron where about 600 settlers are “protected” from 215,000 Palestinians. Observe the two Palestinian men looking on, humiliated by these immature conscripts. CPT wrote that “The men were detained for over an hour, while one was released after 40 minutes. One of the men was taken behind the container to be body searched. Meanwhile, these soldiers ensured that they captured their role in this humiliating, infuriating and violating occupation for social media.

These soldiers probably about age 19 doing their 2 years of service in the IDF (males do 3) have no idea that pictures like this are accelerating the demise of Zionism. They are totally unaware that their immature frivolity is purchased at the expense of another people. A decade from now at least two of them will be deeply embarrassed at their gross insensitivity. This selfie taken by bored kids in an army of Occupation has wings and a voice, the same one that came from Sinai, ”Let my people go.”

A day later on the website Mondoweiss ( the same picture was produced with the excellent caption The Banality of Evil.

Following the brief description several comments were posted:

• April 29, 2016, 1:25 pm
this photo should be on the front page of the nyt in all its banal, evil and lascivious glory

John O April 29, 2016, 1:53 pm
You’re right, DaBakr. High time more people saw what an ill-disciplined rabble the IDF are.
oldgeezer April 29, 2016, 7:56 pm
In the nyt version the Palestinians would be airbrushed out and the selfie used to demonstrate how western and girlish they are. How wholesome. What kind of depraved values were these young people raised with. Disgusting. The decent people in Israel need bodyguards. Only the rotting core is left besides those few courageous souls.

Refaat April 29, 2016, 3:29 pm

As a Palestinian kid growing up in occupied Gaza during the first Intifada, I have seen people arrested, killed, injured, and beaten. It was horrible. But what still sticks with my 20 years later are the regular sessions of humiliation at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces. Sometimes they would beat us for the fun it. Sometimes they would line us up and, smiling, a soldier would try to slap two or three of us with one hit. The others stood their giggling. That was one major reason why I threw stones at the passing Military jeeps later on.

• Kate April 30, 2016, 6:55 am

Thank you Refaat. Don’t know how you endured that – humiliation is often worse than injury and is inexcusable at any time. I have not forgotten or forgiven instances of humiliation that happened to me decades ago, and most were not as bad as what happened to you since there was usually less of an audience
I wonder if the Israelis have any idea how much hatred they engender with this behavior? Apparently not, since they continue to blame ‘incitement’ for any Palestinian resistance.