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Daniel Berrigan in 2008. Photo by Thomas Good / Next Left Notes. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Daniel J. Berrigan, SJ, (born May 9, 1921) is an American poet, Catholic priest, and peace activist. He and his brother, Philip, were for a time on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for their involvement in antiwar protests during the Vietnam war.



Berrigan was born in Virginia, Minnesota, a working-class town. His mother, Frieda (née Fromhart), was of German descent.[1] His father, Thomas Berrigan, was a 2nd-generation Irish Catholic and active labor union member. Though Thomas left the Catholic Church, Daniel remained attracted to the Church throughout his youth. Although a lifelong devotee of Notre Dame, he joined the Jesuits directly out of high school in 1939


Berrigan was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. In 1954, he was assigned to teach theology at the Jesuit Brooklyn Preparatory School. In 1957 he was appointed professor of New Testament studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. That same year, he won the Lamont Prize for his book of poems, Time Without Number. Berrigan developed a reputation as a religious radical, working actively against poverty, and on changing the relationship between priests and laypersons. While at Le Moyne, he founded its International House.

From 1966 to 1970, he was the assistant director of the Cornell University United Religious Work (CURW), the umbrella organization for all religious groups on campus, including the Cornell Newman Club, later the Cornell Catholic Community. He became the pastor for the CCC, during which time he played an instrumental role in the national peace movement.[2] He now resides in New York City and teaches at Fordham University in addition to serving as its poet in residence.

Berrigan appears briefly in the 1986 Warner Bros. film, The Mission, directed by Roland Joffé and starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. He played a Jesuit priest and also served as a consultant on the film.

Protests against the Vietnam War[]

Berrigan, his brother (Josephite priest Philip Berrigan), and Trappist monk Thomas Merton founded an interfaith coalition against the Vietnam War, and wrote letters to major newspapers arguing for an end to the war.

In 1967 Phillip was arrested for non-violent protest and sentenced to six years in prison. This, and his belief that his support of POWs during the war was not acknowledged and appreciated, further radicalized Berrigan against the U.S. government.

Berrigan traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 to "receive" three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the U.S. bombing of that nation had begun. The event was widely reported in the news media and has been discussed in a number of books.[3]

In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[4] In the same year, he was interviewed in the anti-Vietnam War documentary film In the Year of the Pig, and later that year became involved in radical nonviolent protest. He manufactured home-made napalm and, with eight other Catholic protesters, used it to destroy 378 draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board on May 17, 1968.[2] This group came to be known as the Catonsville Nine.

Berrigan was promptly arrested and sentenced to three years in prison, but went into hiding with the help of fellow radicals prior to imprisonment. While on the run, Berrigan was interviewed for Lee Lockwood's documentary The Holy Outlaw. Soon thereafter the FBI apprehended him at the home of William Stringfellow and sent him to prison. He was released in 1972.

Berrigan later spent time in France meeting with Thich Nhat Hanh, the exiled Buddhist monk and peace activist from Vietnam.

Plowshares Movement[]

On September 9, 1980, Berrigan, his brother Philip, and 6 others (the "Plowshares Eight") began the Plowshares Movement. They illegally trespassed onto the General Electric Nuclear Missile facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files. They were arrested and charged with over ten different felony and misdemeanor counts.

On April 10, 1990, after ten years of appeals, Berrigan's group was re-sentenced and paroled for up to 23 and 1/2 months in consideration of time already served in prison.

Berrigan is still involved with the Plowshares Movement.

File:NLN Dan Berrigan.jpg

Father Daniel Berrigan is arrested for civil disobedience outside the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in 2006

Other activism[]

Berrigan continues to maintain a level of activism and protests, including protests against American intervention in Central America, the 1991 Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He is also a prominent pro-life activist and speaks out against capital punishment. He is a contributing editor of Sojourners Magazine. Berrigan also supports LGBT rights and the Occupy movement.[5]


Berrigan's play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, which ran on Broadway for 29 performances in 1971 and was made into a movie in 1972.


  • 1956 Lamont Poetry Selection, Time Without Number
  • 1974 War Resisters League Peace Award
  • 1988 Thomas Merton Award
  • 1989 Pax Christi USA Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award
  • 1992 The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award
  • 1993 Pacem in Terris Award
  • 2008 Honorary Degree from The College of Wooster

In popular culture[]

  • Dar Williams's song "I Had No Right" from her album The Green World is about Berrigan and his trial.
  • Paul Simon's song "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" refers to Berrigan as "the radical priest".
  • Lynne Sachs's documentary film Investigation of a Flame is about the Berrigan brothers and the Catonsville Nine.
  • Daniel Berrigan was interviewed about his life and activism for Kisseloff, Jeff (2006). Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s, an Oral History. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2416-6. .
  • The Plowshares Movement's legal battle was re-created in Emile de Antonio's 1982 film In The King of Prussia, which starred Martin Sheen and featured appearances by the Plowshares Eight as themselves.
  • Daniel Berrigan appeared briefly in the 1986 Roland Joffé film The Mission, which starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons.
  • In 1994, Berrigan was one of several political activists featured on an advertisement for Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Proceeds from sales of a poster of the advertisement were donated to the Children's Defense Fund.
  • The character of Father Corrigan in the novel Let The Great World Spin (2009, by Colum McCann), was inspired by the life of Daniel Berrigan.



  • Time Without Number. New York: Macmillan, 1957.
  • No One Walks Waters. New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  • False Gods, Real Men: New poems. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
  • Trial Poems. Boston: Beacon Press, 1970.
  • Prison Poems. Greensboro, NC: Unicorn, 1973.
  • Selected and New Poems. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973.
  • Uncommon Prayer: A book of psalms. New York: Seabury Press, 1978.
  • Beside the Sea of Glass: The song of the Lamb (photos by Frank A. Kostyu). New York: Seabury Press, 1978.
  • Block Island. Greensboro, NC: Unicorn Press, 1985.
  • Tulips in the Prison Yard: Selected poems of Daniel Berrigan. Dublin: Dedalus Press, 1992.
  • And the Risen Bread: Selected poems, 1957-1997. Boston: Fordham University Press, 1998.
  • Uncommon Prayer: A Book of Psalms. Orbis Books, 1998. ISBN 1-57075-193-5
  • Prayer for the Morning Headlines: On the Sanctity of Life and Death. Baltimore, MD: Apprentice House, 2007.


  • The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. Boston: Beacon Press, 1970; New York: Samuel French, 1971.


  • They Call Us Dead Men: Reflections on life and conscience (introduction by William Stringfellow). New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  • Love, Love at the End: Parables, prayers, and meditations. New York: Macmillan, 1968.
  • Delivered into Resistance. New Haven, CT: Advocate Press, 1969.
  • Night Flight to Hanoi: War diary with 11 Poems. New York: Macmillan, 1968.
  • No Bars to Manhood. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970.
  • The Dark Night of Resistance. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971.
  • The Geography of Faith: Conversations between Daniel Berrigan when underground, and Robert Coles. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.
  • America is Hard to Find: Notes from the underground and letters from Danbury Prison. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972. ISBN 0-385-00327-7
  • Absurd Convictions, Modest Hopes: Conversations after prison with Lee Lockwood. New York: Random House, 1972.
  • Jesus Christ (with Gregory & Deborah Harris). Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973.
  • Lights on in the House of the Dead: A prison diary. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974. 0-385-03953-0
  • The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations toward a Buddhist / Christian awareness (with Thich Nhất Hạnh). Boston: Beacon Press, 1975.
  • "Statement on Poetry." The Worcester Review IV (1976).[6]
  • A Book of Parables. New York: Seabury Press, 1977.
  • The Words Our Savior Gave Us. Springfield, IL: Templegate, 1978.
  • The Discipline of the Mountain: Dante's 'Purgatorio' in a nuclear world. New York: Seabury Press, 1979.
  • We Die Before We Live: Talking with the very ill. New York: Seabury Press, 1980.
  • Ten Commandments for the Long Haul. Nashville, TN; Abingdon, 1981.
  • Portraits of Those I Love. New York: Crossroad, 1982.
  • Steadfastness of the Saints: A journal of peace and war in Central and North America. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis / Melbourne: Dove Communications, 1985.
  • The Mission: A film journal. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986.
  • Hole in the Ground: A parable for peacemakers. Minneapolis, MN: Honeywell Project, 1987.[6]
  • To Dwell In Peace: An autobiography. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.
  • Stations: The way of the cross (with Margaret Parker). New York: Harper & Row, 1989.
  • Sorrow Built a Bridge: Friendship and AIDS. Baltimore, MD: Fortkamp, 1989.
  • Isiah: Spirit of courage, gift of tears. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1996.
  • Ezekiel: Bision in the dust. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997.
  • Daniel: Under the siege of the divine. Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-87486-952-8
  • Jeremiah: The world, the wound of God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999.
  • The Bride: Images of the Church (iconography by William Hart McNichols). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000. ISBN: 1-57075-305-9
  • Job: And death no dominion. Franklin, WI: Sheed & Ward, 2000.
  • Wisdom: The feminine face of God. Franklin, WI: Sheed & Ward, 2001.
  • Lamentations: From New York to Kabul and Beyond. Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2002.
  • Testimony: The Word Made Fresh. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004. ISBN 1-57075-545-0
  • The Kings and Their Gods: The pathology of power. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8028-6043-9.
  • No Gods but One. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8028-6462-8

Collected editions[]

  • Daniel Berrigan: Poetry, drama, prose (edited by Michael True). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998.
  • Essential Writings (edited by John Dear). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009. w

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[7]


Some - a poem by Daniel Berrigan music michael hermiston


Howard Zinn Reads Daniel Berrigan's Poem

Audio / video[]

  • The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, performed by the Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles (LP). New York: Caedmon, 1972.[7]
  • The Trouble With Our State (CD). Yellow Bike Press, 2007.[6]

See also[]


  • Murray Polner; Jim O'Grady (1997). Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Life and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan. Basic Books. 


  1. [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Aloi, Daniel (2006-04-04). "From Vietnam to Redbud Woods: Daniel Berrigan launches events commemorating five decades of activism at Cornell". Cornell University Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  3. Nancy Zaroulis; Gerald Sullivan (1989). Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam 1963-1975. Horizon Book Promotions. ISBN 0-385-17547-7. ;Howard Zinn (1994; new ed. 2002). You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train. Beacon Press. pp. 126–38. ISBN 0-8070-7127-7. 
  4. “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  5. Chris Hedges (11 June 2012). "Daniel Berrigan, America's Street Priest, Stands With Occupy". 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Daniel Berrigan," Wikipedia, Aug. 7, 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Search results = au:Daniel Berrigan, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 3, 2014.

External links[]

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