The Kings By Plowshares received the first Berrigan-McAlister award for Gospel nonviolence from DePaul University. Dan Berrigan’s 100th birthday on May 9 was also commemorated. There will be a recording posted by DePaul University at some point.
Following are the statements by the KBP7:
Overall schedule: I. Welcome to the Event: Michael Budde (2-3 minutes)II. Remarks from Fr. Guillermo Campuzano: welcome to DePaul University, why this award from a Vincentian university; opening prayer (5 minutes)III. Display of the Award, and a Few Words about the Library’s Berrigan collection: Morgen MacIntosh Hodgetts (3-4 minutes)IV. About the Honorees: Susana Martinez (5 minutes)V. The Berrigans and the Kings Bay Plowshares 7: Jerry Berrigan (5 minutes)VI. Berrigan-McAlister Award Lecture/Presentation: the KBP 7 (30-35 minutes)VII. Questions/Conversation (30 minutes)VIII. Acknowledgements/Thanks: Michael Budde IX. Adjourn (8-8:15 p.m.)
Jerry Berrigan For SOME, Journal of the Kairos Community: Bill Wylie-Kellermann sent me this document in mid-November,2016. I have carried it, in its envelope, in my clipboard since then. Occasionally,when going through paperwork, I will take it out and read it again. It has given me a new and altogether fresh interpretive lens through which to view…just about everything.Love. The beauty, the power, the mystery, of love.Love as responsibility, Love as prayer, Love as hope, Love as gift. Love as confrontation, Love as truth, Love as tactic, Love as goal. Love as answer, Love as question, Love as journey, Love as return.“You are the known way leading always into the unknown, and you are the known place to which the unknown is always leading me back.”(Wendell Berry,The Country of Marriage)“Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing, unlike love in dreams.”(Dostoyevsky,The Brothers Karamazov, a line beloved of Dorothy Day that because of its truth has become something of an idiom among our Catholic Worker tribe.)Life, magical, mysterious. To whom one’s life belongs.For what purpose it is. How one’s life can be freely given, or brutally taken. Its destiny to create, and recreate. God bless the grass, that grows through the cracks. God bless the egg that cracks.The many ways in which oppressed people resist because their lives are still their own. Again and again, this message comes through the hip hop verse: I will survive.Life together. The webs of relationship which bind us one to another. The myriad ways we encourage one another, give good counsel, offer support,are present in joy and in grief. How a good idea becomes a tradition and finally a ritual,among friends. How we celebrate the children in our circle as they grow and thrive, become more perfectly themselves.Violence. Power. We remember the absolute vulnerability of the living when targeted by, or placed in the way of, the state.“All our phrasing…serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways,rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones,breaks teeth. You must never look away from this.You must always remember that the sociology,the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts,the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”(Ta-Nehisi Coates,Between the World and Me)Our foreign policy lands in similar fashion upon the body. US drone strikes have obliterated wedding parties and other communal gatherings in Yemen,Afghanistan, and elsewhere. A family living in a house or apartment building targeted by our missiles has absolutely no chance.In war zones foreign and cities close, parents are unable to protect their children.
Dan’s text was in its place in my clipboard the night of Trump’s inauguration, when many hundreds of us vigiled by candlelight in downtown Kalamazoo. In mind the next day, which saw the single largest protest in US history, the Women’s March. Breaking a rock with an egg indeed. We 5.2 million Americans in the streets that weekend had nothing but our grief and dismay, and an indefatigable love animating both.And so we had everything that the witless rock in the White House has never had and will never comprehend.Dan’s text was in its place when #Me Too forced a reckoning.Again and again, the stories came out. Again and again, the egg hurled itself against the rock. Again and again, a powerful man was rendered to dust. The truth will out.How to make sense of Covid-19? Those committed to life, donned a mask, social distanced,prayed that Death would not knock today, would not use one’s body to infect the living. Those committed to the rock ignored science and reason,pointedly and aggressively did not wear a mask, effectively said: Fuck You, You Don’t Even Exist.The contrast between the two camps was stark.The text was in its place when the great, gentle body of George Floyd was destroyed by Derek Chauvin’s knee. There to help me interpret the events of the deadly summer of 2020, the summer of the great confrontation of the egg and the rock. There to help me see the “egg broken…shall issue forth, the living.” There to help me see advances in society, in government and in law (made possible by those who took to the streets) as Resurrection and another chance. There to help me pray like hell that our country will prove worthy of another chance.The egg, Jonah House, 1933 Park Avenue, Baltimore.Teeming with life (teeming with cockroaches too, and rats out back, despite the faithful and intrepid labor of our good cat, KC). Here my mother made granola in huge stainless mixing bowls, using honey from a rectangular5-gallon tin procured from the Rastafarian food co-op in Washington. How the ants would march up and down that tin in rush hour nonstop. Workers in an economy based on something real. When Frida and I were in the third grade, anticipating the arrival to Baltimore of a Scandinavian women’s march in opposition to nuclear weapons, Mom made us do a research project on Scandinavia. We traced, on vellum with mechanical pencils, the map of Scandinavia in the World Book atlas. The tracing was laborious for all the fjords, but we did a good job, and presented our report at school. When the women arrived our house was full to the rafters for a few days, full also with the hard and precise sounds of their varied Nordic languages. Then they left, walking either toward New York or DC, I forget which, in their thousand-mile labor, hoping to break a rock with an egg.Uncle Dan’s metaphor recalls nothing more powerfully for me than the spiritual confrontations my parents would initiate at the Pentagon, that squat evil monolith on the Potomac. Here members of our community would approach in nonviolence,indeed in an altogether authoritative presence of human vulnerability. With us children present, some would mark the pillars of the River Entrance with their own blood.The sacramental roots of this act are deep,
Eucharistic. There is also the naming aspect: the symbol of blood says, more strongly than a thousand pages of text ever could, that the work of this building is the creation of corpses.The sacrifice is very much to the point. To lay Dan’s wedding image over memory, I now see the best of our human beings hurtling toward the Pentagon building, and the war machine there headquartered and thereby symbolized, to break, to bleed, perhaps to die, but not to kill. The preparations for such actions, the court encounters which followed, the jail time which often resulted, were animated for the actors by a mysterious joy based on the hope that “the egg will break, in God’s good time. And there shall issue forth from it, the living.” And so they sat in jail cells, writing, studying scripture, bearing and sharing an unslakable kindness in the house of the dead. I see them there, iridescent, lotus flowers in some dreadful cellar.I don’t know where this puts us. I don’t know the way forward and have no practical advice to give. At all times I know our situation to be dire.I do know that our three children- Amos, 17; Jonah,14; and Leah, 11- make me so proud I could burst.And I remember that preparatory to our wedding, in2002, Molly and I locked ourselves in a room for a weekend and refused to emerge until we had written our vows. It was very hard work.But we prevailed, and came up with a statement that fully articulated our mutual admiration and respect, our most deeply held values, and our fervent hopes for our life together. The document holds up now, remains for me both earth and stars.When we returned to seats after making our promise,I looked over and my father’s face was wet with tears. “Good vows,” he said. And I knew we were going to be alright.Barb Kass and Mike Miles have put the matter thusly:“Everything we do, everything we have done, is so there will be some kind of future for kids.” This is true of their lives, given completely in passionate and beautiful service. May it be true of ours as well.
With gratitude to Jen and Mike DeWaele.
And the one and only Molly Mechtenberg of the Original Peace House
Who staked their lives in affirmation of the living.
Who back it up Day in and day out.
Life is wonderful.
Because of you, dear friends.
MARK COLVILLE, It is a wonderful thing that DePaul University is doing tonight: instituting this award in the names of our beloved friends, truth-tellers and prophets, Philip, Elizabeth and Daniel. I say it is wonderful, not because their lives or witness need clarification, or glorification, or hype, but simply because when we choose to honor them we locate ourselves in the holy struggle to which they have so joyfully given their lives, and in which they have showered so much blessing on the world: the struggle toward personal, communal, and global disarmament. It gives me great pleasure to be counted among the community receiving this inaugural Berrigan-McAllister Peace Award, The Kings Bay Plowshares Seven. Especially in light of the brilliant film we saw last night, the only appropriate way to accept this award is in the spirit that these great elders would have us do so: not as an achievement, an arrival, or, god forbid, a resumé-builder, but as recognition of the work not yet accomplished, the hope yet to be called fully into reality, and an invitation to deepen and broaden our part in that struggle. It was some forty years ago that another of our elders, the Jesuit Father Richard McSorley, identified the intent to use nuclear weapons as the taproot of violence in U.S. society. Until we address our standing consent to murder our own children, Father McSorley said, “any hope of large-scale improvement of public morality is doomed to failure”. In emulation of nearly a hundred such communities before us, the Kings Bay Plowshares took that instruction to heart, we took it to conscience, and we took it to a place where our own federal courts have long-since forbidden the law to be applied. What we did was not only moral, it was legal.
We also carried a banner into Kings Bay- “that hellhole”, as Phil Berrigan would call it- with Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and likeness, a banner that read “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” This had become a kind of call to action for us, as we, like so many other small communities nationwide, continued and still continue to witness the horror of police murdering people of color with impunity, beyond the reach of the law. In our discernment over what we were seeing, what we were trying to do, and what the times were demanding of us, we came to understand nuclear weapons as the idols of white supremacy. Make no mistake: nuclearism is a religion. It binds us to the national security state as the ultimate arbitrator of life and death; it commands that we place our ultimate security in that which is absolutely antithetical to the God of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, thereby criminalizing the practice of biblical faith. The development, construction and possession of nuclear weapons epitomizes idolatry as a social practice. And the idols we worship as a nation are not sleeping. They demand sacrifice. The god of the national security state feasts upon the blood of the poor.And so, indeed, the holy work of resistance continues, and never has it been more urgent. Let us embrace it together with the same beauty and deep joy that Liz, Phil and Dan have sown among us these many years. Thank you!
ELIZABETH MCALISTER Good evening. It is an odd experience to accept an award that bears my own name, and that of my husband Philip and brother in law Daniel. It is also strange to accept this award in the unfamiliar medium/ non-space of zoom. But I am honored and happy to stand alongside my friends, co-conspirators and co-defendants tonight. My brother in law Daniel wrote “for every ten thousand words, there is a deed.” And that is what our action— our conspiracy of faith, our experiments of truth— was and continues to be.A deedAn effortA collaborative work that continues the transformation of swords into Plowshares, violence into cooperation, bloodshed into reverence for life.For every ten thousand words there is a deed.
I hope our action, our community, our friendship invites, inspires and provokes each of you from word to deed. Thank you.
CLARE GRADY, READ BY TERESA GRADY, “We are here neatly as Crystals” I can still see these words, the first words of a longer poem written by Dan (Berrigan), printed by him on a long piece of paper with an arch of colors painted with his hands, fingertips stretching from the top of the page to the bottom- alongside the poem.Made while he was in Danbury Prison, Dan gave it to our family, and like so many gifts from Dan throughout the years, each one became part of the family. Like relatives, they accompanied us, fed us, beckoned us.These words come to me now as I am serving my prison sentence in FPC Alderson. They come to me now, because I am living and feeling the truth they carry.Thanks to Liz, Phil and Dan and so many elders including my parents, Teresa and John, for showing by example that there is a geography to our faith when we come together to undertake sacramental acts of symbolic disarmament we re-align our relationships with God, neighbor, and creation.As our geography shifts and we move towards trusting God more than idolatrous weapons, to loving God, and Neighbor, and Creation enough to DISARM, we might find ourselves in federal prison a little more disarmed and humbled, calling on God for help. And we might see that we are exactly where we need to be, as women here say, “so that God can get closer to us” then, God willing, we might feel how we are here, neatly as crystals, and give thanks.with love, gratitude, and encouragement.
PATRICK O’NEILL: READ BY MARY RIDER In 1977, I met Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister at an Atlantic Life Communities retreat in Washington D.C. From that day on, the devout and pacifist couple introduced me to a brand of Catholicism that I had only read about in the New York Times’ accounts of their work against the Vietnam War. I felt like I was meeting two people who were making history, and transforming
The Church by introducing nonviolence and resistance as the Way of Jesus. My children also grew up around Frida, Kate and Jerry, and learned what being in community as a family was all about.Today, I am proud to say Elizabeth McAlister, a champion of Gospel Nonviolence, is my codefendant as part of the Kings Bay Plowshares Action; what an honor this is for me. I also had Phil as co-conspirator many times over. In fact, Liz and Phil are responsible for “where I am today!” Here at Federal Correctional Institution Elkton, Ohio, I have spent 36 days in solitary confinement (the so-called “Special Housing Unit”). The Elkton SHU was where Phil Berrigan was held in September 2001, in the days following 9-11. So, I am here in solidarity and in memory of my mentor and friend.Once I asked Phil why he kept going back to the Pentagon year after year, Good Friday after Good Friday, to get handcuffed and carted off to jail when the media didn’t even show up to report his faithful resistance.”We’re their only access to the truth,” Phil said. It was then I realized Phil was not going back to the Pentagon over and over in search of publicity, or out of pride. He and Liz simply were duty-bound to speak the truth to the people who are planning the end of the world. Liz tells a great story of meeting a general who would always pass us when we were picketing at the Pentagon. He took a leaflet from Liz, and told her he had a file in his office of every handout he had ever received from her and others. Both Daniel Ellsberg and Robert McNamara also noted being challenged by those Pentagon witnesses. May we all offer our gratitude to Liz, Phil and Daniel Berrigan S.J. for helping us to comprehend the Nonviolent Truth of Jesus.
CARMEN TROTTA READ BY BETH BROCKMAN, My name is Beth Brockman, and I will be reading excerpts from Carmen Trotta’s Affidavit filed before the trial of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, as well as from his closing statement at the trial….Carmen has been in quarantine at Otisville Prison for the last week and thus unable to contribute a statement for this lecture.Here Carmen writes about choosing Kings Bay Naval Base for the plowshares action on April 4, 2018, and specifically about his choice to enter into the lethal force zone of the nuclear weapons storage bunkers on the base:“…[W]e cut through the concertina wire and fence line and entered the lethal force zone [on Kings Bay Naval Base] for the fear of God, and to bestow upon these 50 states of amnesia a tangible sign of an invisible reality, a…Sacrament, presaging the horror, which is by no means inevitable, and thus reclaiming that desecrated earth, restoring there the immanence of the Divine, raising alarm at the base to hearten our brethren in arms with parabolic asymmetrical welfare, that they might have something so simple as eyes to see and ears to hear, and of course to uphold the law, before it is too late, to prevent another-couple of hundred – war crimes.“[Again], …a sacrament is a visible symbol of an invisible reality. And, every sacrament is a blessing….we hope this is the invisible reality we have made visible: The outrage of God at these weapons that may destroy [God’s] creation, and his beloved –ourselves…..The blessing we bestowed at Kings Bay is the mitigation of the anger, the outrage of God. “The weapons are illegal …The use of the nukes is imminent and thus remedial actions ‘necessary’, but the courts have never been able to reason this out within the proper context, while the Bulletin Of Atomic Scientists begs, and differs: [we are at 100 seconds to midnight].“As we know, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved.” (John 3:17) And we have been told too, that all of creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the children of God…. in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the Children of God.” (Rom. 8:19-21)“This is ours to do. Not merely the Kings Bay [Plowshares] 7, but all who pray sincerely, ‘OUR Father…thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth!’”
MARTHA HENNESSY: READ BY KATHY KELLY I would like to thank Phil, Dan, Liz and all the numerous Plowshares actors since 1980 who have willingly taken on the United States nuclear beast.Writing from Danbury Federal Prison, it is clear that this means civil disobedience, of taking such a stand is imperative and ongoing.The Holy Spirit blows where it will, carrying those who are prepared to enter into the deadly serious and the absurd.In our infantile handling of technology designed to usurp God’s will, we have betrayed our beloved Christ.
“There are no innocent civilians,” said the infamous nuclear bully U.S. General Curtis LeMay. “It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So, it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the innocent bystanders.”We say not one of the sheep of the flock will be fed to the wolves.We understand the weapons industry has been fighting the people all along.We attempted to honor the insight of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he connected domestic and foreign policy with the permanent warfare state. We attempted to respond to Pope Francis’s declaration that any intention to manufacture, never mind use, nuclear weapons was a sin against God and humanity. We challenge the U.S. bishops to follow our spiritual leader’s example.Howard Thurman wrote, “…American Christianity has betrayed the religion of Jesus almost beyond redemption.” This horror drove the Kings Bay Plowshares to step onto a naval base that is prepared to launch enough firepower to destroy the world’s population four times over.Who gave the United States the right to do this? No one.The federal courts continue to obstruct the body of evidence, including the pictures of Hiroshima as well as the corporate accountability for the theft from the people.But the veil of secrecy and lies is fraying and the next plowshares action will contribute to the process of truth-telling; breaking the bonds of fear.The Pentagon’s stranglehold on democracy will end.God help us in our unbelieving!The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, backed by the will of the people, is putting legal pressure on the nuclear states. The indictment of the United States of America for breach of treaties and crimes against humanity has been posted on the doors of the white supremacist strategic weapons facilities.The blood of innocents continues to pour out around the world.But we have the promises of Resurrection, the revolution of love, and the nonviolence of Jesus to guide us. The cloud of witnesses will always be with us.Praise be to God.Thank you.
FATHER STEVE KELLY, Read by Jack Cohen-Joppa Good evening, I’m Jack Cohen-Joppa with the Nuclear Resister. My wife Felice and I have been Fr. Steve Kelly’s jail support people for the past three years,until his recent release on April 13.
When, as a matter of conscience, Fr. Kelly did not report as ordered to probation authorities in Georgia 72 hours later,a warrant was issued for his arrest.Steve reports that he is doing well as he stays underground,one step ahead of authorities.He asked that I share this prayer and exhortation with you tonight.- – -They tried to bury us… they didn’t know we were seeds.To you O God of life, we make thanksgiving and supplication,for from the seeming ordinary, you bring forth fruit.We offer our assent in response to your sustaining, your loving side of the Covenant.We say Amen to recognizing your invitations, persuasions you made through the abolitionists of the 19th Century.We uphold in Amen the women and mothers who resisted war in their approval and participation in the first Mothers’ Day.We ask in thanksgiving your continued grace of the Civil Rights’ campaigns. And M. L. King’s analysis that kept Materialism, Racism, and Militarism from remaining abstracts, untethered appearances,remote from systemic and structural sin. We ask to embody our Amens as we respond in such a spirit of the awakened faith-based education missioned to lead the searching truth-bearing analysis that prevents the forgetting of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.We ask for an Amen that overcomes our hesitancy to your promptings, gentle persuasions to a faith that does Justice.A Justice that often cries out in history for redress through unconventional or pain-racked instances of lynchings, holocausts, repression.
We bear on our lips Amens full of dread as you bring forth from the ordinary – the ordinary mired in distraction, sleep-walking, numbness to deeds of extraordinary loft.We assert Amens to the justice due people of history, millions either brought here under the lash and chain or the masses huddled on the teeming shores and divides. We pray Amen for fruit to continue to be borne of the vanguard of Elizabeth, Philip and Daniel,allow us their prodigy to not obsess over efficiency but more so, faith in you.