FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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

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.

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail