Celebrating the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Daniel Berrigan died April 30, 2016, just days before his 95th birthday, from natural causes. We celebrate the long life of this effective consistent-life advocate. Most famous for his long-lasting anti-war activism and many books and poetry on peace and social justice, we always knew him as a dear friend.
Dan and Consistent-Life Activism
Dan was involved in two direct actions in upstate New York that involved both abortion clinics and military weapons facilities. The group was Faith and Resistance, an organization that had an annual pilgrimage to killing centers near Rochester. Berrigan was the keynote for two of these pilgrimages, May 1989 and October 1991.
Carol Crossed reports: “I knew Dan through our mutual nuclear disarmament civil disobedience on the 40th and 50th anniversaries of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. In the fall of 1988, I visited him unannounced at his apartment in New York. He wasn’t home, and so I sat outside his door for several hours, waiting for him to show up. Upon his return, he said he had been visiting AIDS patients at the hospital and asked me to come in for a cup of tea. With trepidation, I asked him if he would lead a Faith and Resistance pilgrimage, protesting a military center and an abortion center on the same day. He said he wondered why he hadn’t been asked before, and quietly said as he sipped his last drop, ‘It’s just my cup of tea.’”
Carol continues: “Within the next two years, Dan sat in at Highland Hospital, Rochester NY, the Seneca Army Depot in Romulus NY, at Planned Parenthood and at the Federal Building in Rochester NY. At the sites, Dan spoke about the spirituality of geography: being present where killing was occurring was necessary to absorb the evil.”
Berrigan Remembrances Include his Consistent Stand
A lengthy obituary in the National Catholic Reporter says: “Berrigan received criticism from the political left for his pro-life views. He was a longtime endorser of the ‘consistent life ethic,’ and he served on the advisory board of Consistent Life, an organization that describes itself as ‘committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today’s world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia.’ “I have always made it clear,” Berrigan said in the America interview, “that I am against everything from war to abortion to euthanasia.”
In their obituary on May 1, 2016, Crux magazine noted: “Despite his image as a radical leftist, Berrigan was also an outspoken opponent of abortion. During a 1984 talk at a Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Berrigan denounced what he called a ‘theory of allowable murder’ in contemporary society. Christians should have no part in ‘abortion, war, paying taxes for war, or disposing of people on death row or warehousing the aged,’ Berrigan said on that occasion.”
Crux followed up the next day in a May 2 Crux article on how he embodied the “cultural revolution” of Pope Francis: “nowhere does Berrigan write his theology more clearly than in the area of the consistent ethic of life. Through his activism and writing, Berrigan was abundantly clear that this consistency meant opposing the ‘culture of death’ universally on a range of issues as diverse as war, the death penalty, euthanasia, poverty, and abortion. Why? Precisely because he didn’t consider those to be diverse issues at all. They all dealt with killing God’s creatures. That, Berrigan said in the bluntest way possible, is a sin.”
Quotations from Daniel Berrigan
Reflections (Amherst, Mass.), vol. 2, no. 4 (Fall 1979), 1-2.
I come to the abortion question by way of a long, long experience with the military and the mainline violence of the culture, expressed in war . . . So I go from the Pentagon and being arrested there, to the cancer hospital, and then I think of abortion clinics, and I see an “interlocking directorate” of death that binds the whole culture. That is, an unspoken agreement that we will solve our problems by killing people in various ways; a declaration that certain people are expendable, outside the pale. . . A decent society should no more have an abortion clinic than the Pentagon.”
Signing a 2007 online petition in opposition to Amnesty International’s move to endorse abortion as a “right”:
My moral conviction on abortion and the rights of the unborn are more serious than “a point of view” . . . It’s as close to my conscience as war and the death penalty.
See the poem Daniel wrote entitled “The Seamless Garment“