Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Lives and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan

Murray Polner, Author, Jim O'Grady, With Basic Books $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-465-03084-2
Activist priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan became (in)famous during the Vietnam War for leading protests at draft offices (notably the 1968 Catonsville Raid in Maryland) and went to prison for their acts of conscience. Now in their 70s, the brothers still protest issues like nuclear weapons, though fewer people listen. Polner (No Victory Parades) and O'Grady (Dorothy Day) attempt to trace the Berrigans' history and evaluate their impact. Though the authors received the Berrigans' cooperation, their book is neither hagiographic nor especially intimate. Rather, the authors draw on a wealth of sources--including the brothers' numerous books--to provide a nuanced and thoughtful study. Much of the story concerns public acts and speeches; the authors also delve into their subjects' psyches, such as the interplay in Daniel Berrigan's life of celibacy and intense friendship. The authors are generally admiring of the Berrigans' convictions, though they can be critical: they note that Daniel romanticized the North Vietnamese and once spoke with thoughtless offense about Israel, while Philip intimidated potential followers. Ultimately, while the authors acknowledge that the ""possibly myopic"" brothers have accomplished less than they might have, they credit the Berrigans and the Catholic Left for helping to end the Vietnam War and for raising enduring questions about the ethical aspects of government policy. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-8133-3449-3
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