An Interview with Martha Hennessy

February 4, 2019

Jubilee USA

An Interview with Martha Hennessy

By Dr. Eugene Fisher

Dr Fisher: Your article Jubilee Kings Bay Plowshares 7 was very inspirational. Is there anything you would like to add to it?

Martha: Thank you. Five of the seven of the Kings Bay Plowshares defendants live in Catholic Worker communities around the country. We also come out of the Atlantic Life Community retreats, founded by Phil Berrigan and we have come to know each other very well over the years. Four of the seven KBP7 traveled to Cuba in August 2005, during the embargo and Guantanamo Bay prisoner’s hunger strike. Then President George Bush invited those who had questions about the prison camp to visit and this group did. When they arrived they were not allowed onto the base. They marched from Santiago de Cuba to Guantanamo, the Cuban government allowed this after the groups’ interactions and visits with state officials. At the time very little coverage was given in the US about this trip. A participant, Steve Kelly said Mass, perhaps being the only priest since John Paul II to give open-air Mass in Cuba. The government allowed Steve to say Mass every day while they camped for a week across the bay from Gitmo. They prayed for the prisoners being tortured and detained without legal recourse. Forty-one prisoners remain there today despite clearance given to release many of them.

All 7 Kings Bay Plowshares defendants are very familiar with Dorothy Day and her promulgation of Catholic Social Teachings. She helps us to bring faith into seeing the issues of the day and to read the signs of the times within the context of the daily Catholic readings.

We are also reminded of the USCCB recent statements regarding the importance of acting in ways to bring Christ’s full penetration into our history. Dorothy refused to support the Spanish Catholic fascists in the 1930s; she recognized the appearance of fascism in her time. Her previous political and social exposure and engagements in the 1920s helped to give her the needed background to understand current events. She took a pacifist stand in World War II, against the Church’s stance and was marginalized for it. For her, Jesus’ pacifism became very clear in the political climate of communism, socialism, and fascist movements while in the midst of the great conflict of war. The times produced hysteria with the coming of materialistic politics, the push to consolidate capital for a few. The atomic bombing of two Japanese cities provoked this writing from Dorothy in September 1945:

“Mr., Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news; “jubilant” the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese…

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