FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot

by

Father Daniel Berrigan was legendary in the peace movement of the 1960s and early 1970s and beyond. He was a giant in terms of bringing the issues of war and peace into action and through his influential writings. He motivated untold numbers of men and women to act in accordance with their consciences in movements including the Vietnam anti-war movement and the nuclear freeze movement. And he needs to be mourned by those influenced by his acts of faith and goodwill and who were convinced to act to repair a broken world. But, Father Berrigan had a blind spot that was as big as the sky in the far West of the US.

“Despite his image as a radical leftist, Berrigan was also an outspoken opponent of abortion” (“Daniel Berrigan, leading Catholic pacifist, dead at 94,” Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse, May 1, 2016). At a Catholic parish in Milwaukee in 1984, he described his “theory of allowable murder” in society. He explained that Christians need to have no part in “abortion, war, paying taxes for war [or] disposing of people on death row or warehousing the aged.” He continued that “One cannot be pro-life and against a nuclear freeze… or be a peace activist and defend abortion.”

As Shakespeare’s Hamlet speaks so eloquently: “ay, there’s the rub,” in his famous monologue about life and death, issues not so far removed from the heroic life of Daniel Berrigan. But the “rub,” or the blind spot, was indeed as big and ironic as the open sky.

Perfection is not possible for either the ordinary or the extraordinary. The blind spot of what some label as perfection is an important concept to the history of the left and the basic human right of women to have control over their own lives. And part of that control means being able to make informed decisions about whether or not to have children and how many children constitute a life worth living that is meaningful. But the hierarchy of  the Catholic Church, and many other fundamentalist and other orthodox religious persuasions don’t get it when it comes to women’s rights in general.  Their belief system is anchored in the ancient past of myth when the earth mother was the unreal and holy personification of what it meant and means to be a woman. The mythical earth mother must be firmly placed on some pedestal in the lofty climes of some heavenly abode and is certainly not of this imperfect Earth. And it can be a dangerous myth as is evidenced in the lethal outcomes of how some radical extremists interpret those myths.

But those myths are far removed from what it means to live a life with work requirements, bills, demands of a relationship, and a host of other life’s issues to which the idealized existence of the mythical earth mother has little, or absolutely no, resemblance.

Indeed, a person can be the most committed of peace activists and protesters and be firmly on the side of a woman’s right to abortion. One can be firmly opposed to state-sponsored executions and stand in solidarity with women seeking to exercise their human rights and control their own destinies. A leftist can work assiduously for the elimination of nuclear weapons and stand for the right to access medical care without the fear of being harmed by those zealots who wish to maintain that lofty and nonsensical concept of the idealized woman, and not as equals living lives that are meaningful and fulfilling.

The tributes were many to the memory and life of Daniel Berrigan over the past several days.  And indeed he needs to be remembered for his extraordinary contributions to peace and writing.

But other tributes missed a full discussion of the issues of Father Berrigan’s life. Democracy Now ran a segment titled “Jeremy Scahill Remembers His Longtime Friend, Father Daniel Berrigan: ‘The Man was a Moral Giant’” (May 3, 2016). On the same program, Bernie Sanders anti-war record is justifiably critiqued, but scant attention was paid to other aspects of his political record, including his strong support for women’s rights.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail