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Father Frank Pavone on Father Daniel Berrigan's Pro-Life Activism

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Those who fight for the born and those whose cause is to save the unborn don't need to be at odds with each other.

Father Berrigan was a radical figure who sent a total of almost seven years in prison.  What many don't realize though is that his activism extended beyond the anti-war movement and into the anti-abortion movement. Believing in what he called a consistent ethic of life, he  linked abortion to war because both were deadly for innocent victims.  His most well-known pro-life stand occurred in October 1991, when he and others protested the opening of a new Planned Parenthood in Rochester, NY. If we read his legacy correctly, we may recognize that one of Father Berrigan's greatest contributions may be that he demonstrated that those who fight for the born and those whose cause is to save the unborn don't need to be at odds with each other.Saving the innocent from injustice is a cause every Catholic can support.

Highlights

By Fr Frank Pavone
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
5/20/2016 (4 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Fr. Frank Pavone, Fr Daniel Berrigan, Pro-Life, ethic of life

LOS ANGELES, CA. (Catholic Online) - Father Daniel Berrigan, a famous social activist and Jesuit priest who died  in New York City last month at the age of 94, is mostly known for his anti-war protests, but he was also a poet, playwright, and the author of 50 books and, to the surprise of many, a pro-life activist.

Father Berrigan was born on May 9, 1921 in Minnesota to Irish and German parents. He was the fifth of six sons. The Berrigan family moved to Syracuse, N.Y., when he was five years old.  Daniel joined the Jesuits straight out of high school and was ordained in 1952.

He traveled to France for his Jesuit sabbatical "tertianship" in 1953. The French "worker" priests really made an impression on him. He went on to teach at Brooklyn Prep until 1957 and then moved on to LeMoyne College to teach the New Testament until 1962.

After his time at LeMoyne College, Father Berrigan traveled to various continents. Upon his return home he spoke out against U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.

He and his brother, Father Philip Berrigan, helped launch the anti-war movement of the 1960s. Father Philip,  a pacifist Josephite priest and the youngest of the Berrigan and his brother  wrote letters to major newspapers calling for an end to the Vietnam war. Father Philip was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison in 1968 for pouring blood on draft records.

Father Daniel Berrigan traveled to Vietnam in 1968 to bring home three prisoners of war. Shortly after, following his brothers footsteps, he set hundreds of draft records on fire from a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, which landed him on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

He went into hiding before eventually surrendering in April 1969 in Manhattan. The Berrigan brothers went to federal prison in Danbury, CT, and were released after about two years.

Their radical acts started a movement that inspired people to move beyond street protests to civil disobedience and in 1971 both Berrigan brothers were featured on the cover of Time magazine.

In the 1980s Father Daniel founded the Plowshares Movement, an anti-nuclear protest group. In King of Prussia, PA,  he was arrested on felony charges of damaging  nuclear warhead nose cones and pouring blood on government documents.

In 1989, after celebrating mass outside a Seneca County Army Depot with twenty others in attendance, he scaled a fence to protest nuclear weapons and was arrested on the other side by military police. This time he was let off with a warning.  

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Father Berrigan was a radical figure who sent a total of almost seven years in prison.  What many don't realize though is that his activism extended beyond the anti-war movement and into the anti-abortion movement. Believing in what he called a consistent ethic of life, he  linked abortion to war because both were deadly for innocent victims. 

He once erected a crucifix outside a federal building to stand in witness against America's legalized killing.  His most well-known pro-life stand occurred in October 1991, when he and others protested the opening of a new Planned Parenthood in Rochester, NY. The group was part of the Faith and Resistance movement, which supported what is known as the "seamless garment" philosophy. 

This was a statement made by the Catholic bishops linking war, capital punishment and abortion. In fact, during a famous court case that followed their arrest year later, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit testified on behalf of Father Berrigan, comparing abortion to the bombing of a city. 

Father Berrigan wanted to expose the racism of Planned Parenthood and during the trial, he succeeded at calling in to question the true motives of its founder, Margaret Sanger, a eugenicist whose goal was the elimination of blacks and the poor. Unfortunately, exposing these facts didn't help his defense and the facts were vehemently denied by Planned Parenthood, which is now America's biggest abortion business.

Father Berrigan and the others were given forty hours of community service and banned from approaching any Planned Parenthood for six months.

Father Berrigan also worked with AIDs patients throughout his life and was a prolific author, publishing an average of two books per year. Much can be said about this controversial priest, including that the Church is well served when clergy lose the fear of being controversial.

But if we read his legacy correctly, we may recognize that one of Father Berrigan's greatest contributions may be that he demonstrated that those who fight for the born and those whose cause is to save the unborn don't need to be at odds with each other.Saving the innocent from injustice is a cause every Catholic can support.

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Fr Frank Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life.

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