WITH CLUMSY GRACE: The American Catholic Left, 1961-1975 by Charles A. Meconis

WITH CLUMSY GRACE: The American Catholic Left, 1961-1975

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Too many undigested documents and incoherent details mar this obituary of the radical Catholic wing of the anti-war movement. Meconis' subtitle is misleadingly broad: he's not talking about a large political body, only various cadres of activists who raided draft boards, napalmed files, stole FBI records, etc., and often did time for it. So specific (and small) is this group that Meconis can list all its members by name in an appendix. The list comes to 232 people. Most of the ""actions"" they took part in were harmless symbolic affairs, for which they paid a high price in personal grief and got, at best, marginal results. And now, of course, the movement as such is dead, and most of its many clerical members, like Meconis, have gone secular. There was a lot of good material here, with all these decent, idealistic middle-class liberals suddenly being swept up by the whirlwind of revolution. Almost all of Meconis' accidental rebels, and not just the Berrigan brothers, could probably tell a gripping little story, but Meconis is so eager to tell the whole story that he won't let them. He throws together snippets of interviews, newspaper articles, and other ephemera in a hasty and distracting montage. After a while all the groups, from the Harrisburg Seven to the Catonsville Nine to the Camden Twenty-Eight, begin to merge in an indistinct blur. This interesting and sometimes poignant moment in American history deserves a more skilled interpreter.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1979
Publisher: Seabury