Disarmed and Dangerous

Disarmed and Dangerous : The Radical Life and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Brothers in Religious Faith and Civil Disobedience

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What transformed Daniel and Philip Berrigan from conventional Roman Catholic priests into holy outlaws",for a time the two most wanted men of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI? And how did they evolve from their traditionally pious, second-generation immigrant beginnings to become the most famous (some would say notorious) religious rebels of their day? Disarmed and Dangerous, the first full-length unauthorized biography of the Berrigans, answers these questions with an incisive and illuminating account of their rise to prominence as civil rights and antiwar activists. It also traces the brothers' careers as constant thorns in the side of church authority as well as their leadership of the ongoing Plowshares movement,a highly controversial campaign of civil disobedience against the contemporary arms trade and nuclear weapons.Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady plumb the Berrigans' contradictions: among them, Philip's secret marriage, while he was still a Josephite priest, to Elizabeth McAlister, then a Catholic nun, which led to their dismissals by their respective religious orders and Philip's excommunication from the church and Daniel's speech faulting Israel's treatment of Palestinians, and the resulting criticism loosed upon him from pro-Israeli Americans and many of his allies on the left.Disarmed and Dangerous is a fascinating study of brothers linked by faith and the dreams of peace and social justice in a century bloodied by war, mass murders, and weapons of immense destructive power. It is, above all, an original contribution to modern American history that is sure to be widely read and discussed.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 464 pages
  • 155.4 x 233.7 x 31.5mm | 721.59g
  • The Perseus Books Group
  • Westview Press Inc
  • Boulder, CO, United States
  • English
  • Illustrations, ports.
  • 0813334497
  • 9780813334493

Back cover copy

What transformed Daniel and Philip Berrigan from conventional Roman Catholic priests into "holy outlaws" - for a time the two most wanted men of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI? And how did they evolve from their traditionally pious, second-generation immigrant beginnings to become the most famous (some would say notorious) religious rebels of their day? Disarmed and Dangerous, the first full length unauthorized biography of the Berrigans, answers these questions with an incisive and illuminating account of their rise to prominence as civil rights and antiwar activists. It also traces the brothers' careers as constant thorns in the side of church authority as well as their leadership of the ongoing Plowshares movement - a highly controversial campaign of civil disobedience against the contemporary arms trade and nuclear weapons. In the spring of 1968, the Berrigans stood side by side in a Catonsville, Maryland, parking lot, praying over the flames from a basket of draft files that they had just seized from a nearby Selective Service office, doused with napalm, and ignited. Their fire soon sparked a nationwide series of draft-file burnings, all aimed at halting the bitterly divisive Vietnam War. This initial protest led to harsh prison terms for the Berrigans and seven others, but it publicly established the Berrigans in roles they still fulfill: men of moral conscience who would suffer to confront the enormous power of the state. Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady plumb the Berrigans' contradictions: among them, Philip's secret marriage, while he was still a Josephite priest, to Elizabeth McAlister, then a Catholic nun, which led to their dismissals by their respective religious orders and Philip'sexcommunication from the church; and Daniel's speech faulting Israel's treatment of Palestinians, and the resulting criticism loosed upon him from pro-Israeli Americans and many of his allies on the left.show more

About Murray Polner

Murray Polner has had a rich and varied career as a teacher, college professor, writer and editor. He is the author of When Can I Come Home. His writings have also appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, the Washington Post, Commonweal, The Nation, Village Voice and the Boston Globe. He lives in Great Neck, New York. Murray Polner is an editor and the author of No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran and has written for The New York Times,The Nation,Commonweal,The Washington Monthly, and many other publications. Jim O'Grady is a journalist and the author of the biography Dorothy Day: With Love for the Poor.show more

Review Text

The story of two brothers and the turmoil, in the Catholic Church and American society, through which they have lived. Philip and Daniel Berrigan gained fame in the 1960s for such dramatic acts of war resistance as pouring blood on draft files; they remain among the best-known Catholic priests in America, even though neither holds positions of significant influence in the Church (Philip married, and left the priesthood in 1973). Journalists Polner (No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran, 1971) and O'Grady (Dorothy Day: With Love for the Poor, not reviewed) move beyond the well-known episodes to examine the Berrigan brothers' lives in context: how they came to be relentless foes of war and how their decades of uncompromising protest - continuing to the present - have affected their country, church, friends, and opponents. The Berrigans' fervor is traced to their working-class Catholic upbringing. Reflective, intellectual Daniel, scorned by a violent and rigid father, joined the Jesuits as a teenager. The more worldly Philip, two years younger, came to the priesthood only after stints as a soldier and college student. Ordained in the 1950s, both were activists virtually from the beginning, progressing by the late 1960s to the point where they were openly at war with their government and with the Church hierarchy. As charismatic teachers and priests, as radicals willing to go to jail for their beliefs, the brothers developed an influence (with Daniel's poetry helping to convey the message) that spread through a generation of peace activists and a Catholic community energized by the liberalizing reforms of Pope John XXIII. A fascinating and well-told story, but not fully satisfying. The source of the passion driving the Berrigans' deeds remains elusive, perhaps through no fault of the authors: The brothers, who confess to near-absolute certainty in their moral choices, harbor few of the doubts that help humanize and illumine most lives. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

* Prologue: How Do They Keep Going? * Pater Unfamilias * Bloodline * Fighting Irish * Formations * Awakenings * Exile and Shunning * Kennedy and Cornell * Vietnam * More Vietnam * Catonsville * Underground * Draft Board Raids * Prison * The Trial * The Speech * The Rest of Their Livesshow more

Rating details

39 ratings
4.17 out of 5 stars
5 38% (15)
4 41% (16)
3 21% (8)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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