Tom Joad

For Those Who Seek Peace and Justice

Dan Berrigan's Statement on the act of Resistance at the Catonsville Nine Trial

Our Apologies Friends, for the Fracture of Good Order...

On May 17th, 1968, Nine people, including Father Daniel Berrigan and his brother Father Phillip Berrigan, entered a draft board and removed draft files of those who were about to be sent to Viet Nam.  They took these files outside and burned them with home-made napalm, a weapon commonly used on civilians by the U.S. forces.  They then awaited their arrest by authorities.  The following is the statement Dan Berrigan read in court during their trial. 

Some ten or twelve of us (the number is still uncertain)

will, if all goes well (ill?) take our religious bodies

during this week

to a draft center in or near Baltimore

There we shall  of purpose and forethought

remove the 1-A files  sprinkle them in the public street

with home-made napalm  and set them afire

For which act we shall beyond doubt

be placed behind bars for some portion of our natural lives

in consequence of our inability

to live and content in the plagued city

to say "peace peace" when there is no peace

to keep the poor poor

the thirsty and hungry thirsty and hungry

Our apologies  good friends

for the fracture of good order  the burning of paper

instead of children  the angering of the orderlies

in the front parlor of the charnel house

We could not  so help us God  do otherwise

For we are sick at heart   our hearts

give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children

and for thinking of that other Child of whom

the poet Luke speaks  The infant was taken up

in the arms of an old man whose tongue

grew resonant and vatic at the touch of that beauty

And the old man spoke:  this child is set

for the fall and rise of many in Israel

a sign that is spoken against

Small consolation  a child born to make trouble

and to die for it  the First Jew (not the last)

to be subject of a "definitive solution"

And so we stretch out our hands

to our brothers throughout the world

We who are priests to our fellow priests

All of us who act against the law

turn to the poor of the world  to the Vietnamese

to the victims  to the soldiers who kill and die

for the wrong reasons for no reason at all

because they were so ordered by the authorities

of that public order which is in effect

a massive institutionalized disorder

We say:  Killing is disorder

life and gentleness and community and unselfishness

is the only order we recognize


For the sake of that order

we risk our liberty   our good name

The time is past when good men may be silent

when obedience

can segregate men from public risk

when the poor can die without defense

How many indeed must die

before our voices are heard

how many must be tortured dislocated

starved maddened?

How long must the world's resources

be raped in the service of legalized murder?

When at what point will you say no to this war?

We have chosen to say

with the gift of our liberty

if necessary our lives:

the violence stops here

the death stops here

the suppression of the truth stops here

this war stops here

Redeem the times!

The times are inexpressibly evil

Christians pay conscious  indeed religious tribute

to Caesar and Mars

by the approval of overkill tactics  by brinkmanship

by nuclear liturgies  by racism  by support of genocide


They embrace their society with all their heart

and abandon the cross

They pay lip service to Christ

and military service to the powers of death

And yet  and yet  the times are inexhaustibly good

solaced by the courage and hope of many

The truth rules  Christ is not forsaken

In a time of death some men

the resisters   those who work hardily for social change

those who preach and embrace the truth

such men overcome death

their lives are bathed in the light of the resurrection

the truth has set them free

In the jaws of death

they proclaim their love of the brethren

We think of such men

in the world  in our nation  in the churches

and the stone in our breast is dissolved

we take heart once more.