Philip Berrigan

Facts about Philip Berrigan

Philip Berrigan died at 79 years old
Born: October 5, 1923
Best known as: Blood-pouring, missile-hammering ex-priest


Philip Berrigan Biography

A World War II artillery and infantry officer, Philip Berrigan did an about-face after becoming a Catholic priest and devoted his life to opposing what he saw as warlike, imperialist U.S. policies.

Berrigan came to public attention in 1967 and 1968 for acts of civil disobedience that included destroying draft files with blood and fire at Selective Service offices in Baltimore and Catonsville, Maryland.

For the latter he and his brother, Daniel, also an activist priest, spent nearly two years in federal prison.

Excommunicated for marrying in 1973, Phil lived the last third of his life in an intentional community, Jonah House, which he and his wife — former nun Elizabeth McAlister — formed in Baltimore.

In 1980, Phil led a group that trespassed at a Pennsylvania electric plant and used blood and hammers to damage a partially assembled nuclear warhead.

This inspired more such events at military bases and industrial sites in what has become known as the “Plowshares” movement, named for passages in the biblical books Isaiah and Micah that speak of beating “swords into plowshares.”

Extra credit

He was ordained in the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity in 1955 as a member of the Josephite order… FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had him indicted and Dan listed as a co-conspirator in an alleged plot to kidnap Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and damage government buildings. The case ended in a 1972 mistrial due to a hung jury, with 10 of the 12 jurors wanting to acquit… Phil and Liz had three children: Frida (born 1973), Jerome (1975) and Katy (1981)… His autobiography is Fighting the Lamb’s War: Skirmishes with the American Empire (Common Courage Press, 1996).


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