Hijacking Catholicism
By: Joseph J. Sabia / JoeSabia.com
Thursday, September 25, 2003

Father Berrigan's religion of treachery tours Cornell.

The Cornell Catholic Community (CCC) is in crisis. Cornell's Catholic leadership is increasingly eschewing its obligation to teach Cornellians the moral values of the Gospels and is instead using the pulpit as a platform for espousing extremist left-wing political dogma. This weekend, the CCC took its latest step toward radicalism. Chaplain Phil Fiadino, the self-proclaimed “peace and social justice” minister, invited Father Daniel Berrigan — a convicted criminal and Communist apologist — to campus for the purpose of enlightening students on why anti-war activism is holier than defending the nation from terrorists. Suffice it to say, this ain’t your mother’s Catholic parish.

Father Berrigan is loved and cherished by the Marxist wing of the Catholic Church for his support for socialism and his commission of crimes against the United States. In 1968, while the Johnson administration was trying to protect Americans and the South Vietnamese from totalitarianism, Berrigan took steps to sabotage the Vietnam War effort. Along with eight accomplices, Berrigan broke into a Catonsville, Maryland draft board office, removed government records, doused them with napalm, and incinerated them. All of the individuals involved in the incident were arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison terms for their crimes.

Berrigan seemed to view his illegal actions in messianic terms, as if he were Christ himself, batting the Great Satan, America. He made obscene statements comparing American foreign policy to the Holocaust. In his book, Daniel: Under the Siege of the Divine, Berrigan outrageously argued:

“The plain fact is that our nation, along with its nuclear cronies, is quite prepared to thrust enormous numbers of humans into furnaces fiercely stoked.”

Despite Berrigan's professed devoutness, when his final appeal was denied by the courts in 1970, he chose not to take up his cross and face his responsibilities. Instead, like a pathetic coward, he ran. He ran to the place where most radical peaceniks feel at home — Ithaca.

With the FBI hot on his trail, Berrigan showed up at a huge anti-war rally in Cornell's own Barton Hall. As the feds feverishly made their way through the crowd, Berrigan's friends rushed him out, taking him to a nearby farmhouse. After a brief stay, he disappeared into the infamous “underground.” Eventually, though, the long arm of the law caught Berrigan and he was sent to prison for his 1968 crimes.

On January 12, 1971, Berrigan was indicted by the federal government as a co-conspirator in a plot to "kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up the heating systems of federal buildings in Washington, D.C." Though acquitted for not being a central player in the plot, Berrigan's choice of associates indicates bad judgment at best and treason at worst.

Following the Vietnam War, Berrigan publicly sided against American interests on every conceivable foreign policy question. He opposed aid to anti-Communist forces in Southeast Asia; he opposed the use of American forces in Grenada; he opposed the installation of Pershing missiles in West Germany; he opposed aid to the Contras in Nicaragua; he opposed assistance to Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion; he opposed efforts to defeat the U.S.S.R.; he opposed the Gulf War; and he even opposed the 2001 war against the Taliban.

Since the start of the War on Terrorism, Berrigan has consistently blamed America for the Sept. 11 attacks. In April 2002, he delivered a speech entitled “Lamentations and Losses: From New York to Kabul” to students at the College of the Holy Cross. In his speech, Berrigan referred to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as symbols of idolatry. He claimed that, “such worship has exacted a horrendous price, for generations, and always — until a day now seared in memory — the price was paid by others than ourselves.”

In case students did not understand the subtlety of his point, that Americans deserved what we got on Sept. 11, he was more direct later, saying:

“The ruin we have wantonly sown abroad has turned about and struck home...thus: sin, our sin, has shaken the pillars of empire. What has befallen, we have brought upon ourselves. The moral universe stands vindicated.”

So, according to Berrigan, the Sept. 11 attacks were simply the chickens coming home to roost. And the universe was vindicated. Lovely.

Berrigan is an avowed pacifist, meaning that he does not advocate the use of force against anyone — except, maybe, Henry Kissinger — for any reason. But at the root of pacifism is the denial of objective good and evil. Such a theory is inconsistent with the beliefs of any devout Catholic. In the absence of good men defending liberty — with arms if necessary — evil triumphs. That is why the Catholic Church recognizes the doctrine of just war.

By inviting Berrigan, the Cornell Catholic Community has done a major disservice not only to devout Catholics, but to everyone at our University. CCC leaders have bestowed upon him a legitimacy and a respect that he does not deserve. In an email advertising the event, Fiadino acknowledged that while some Catholics view Berrigan as “an embarrassment,” others view him as a “saint.” Fiadino seemed to side with the "saint" contingent, writing:

“It was Berrigan’s deep moral conviction, rooted in Sacred Scripture and Catholic Social teaching, that led him to publicly raise unsettling questions on Cornell's campus...Fr. Berrigan['s] imagination and spirituality was rooted in the charismatic Christ of the Gospels.”

The CCC has lost its moral center. The crisis it faces affects not only the parish leadership but all Catholic students. More than any other demographic group in America, college students need the Catholic Church to instill strong moral values to stem the tide of our hedonistic secular culture. Sadly, rather than provide a bulwark against moral relativism, the CCC has enthusiastically joined the “Who's to say what's right or wrong?” crowd. Inviting Berrigan is simply a symptom of the larger disease. Without a leadership change, the CCC will crumble from within.

Joseph J. Sabia is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University.