DISARMED AND DANGEROUS by Murray Polner

DISARMED AND DANGEROUS

The Radical Lives and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The story of two brothers and the turmoil, in the Catholic Church and American society, through which they have lived. Philip and Daniel Berrigan gained fame in the 1960s for such dramatic acts of war resistance as pouring blood on draft files; they remain among the best-known Catholic priests in America, even though neither holds positions of significant influence in the Church (Philip married, and left the priesthood in 1973). Journalists Polner (No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran, 1971) and O'Grady (Dorothy Day: With Love for the Poor, not reviewed) move beyond the well-known episodes to examine the Berrigan brothers' lives in context: how they came to be relentless foes of war and how their decades of uncompromising protest- -continuing to the present--have affected their country, church, friends, and opponents. The Berrigans' fervor is traced to their working-class Catholic upbringing. Reflective, intellectual Daniel, scorned by a violent and rigid father, joined the Jesuits as a teenager. The more worldly Philip, two years younger, came to the priesthood only after stints as a soldier and college student. Ordained in the 1950s, both were activists virtually from the beginning, progressing by the late 1960s to the point where they were openly at war with their government and with the Church hierarchy. As charismatic teachers and priests, as radicals willing to go to jail for their beliefs, the brothers developed an influence (with Daniel's poetry helping to convey the message) that spread through a generation of peace activists and a Catholic community energized by the liberalizing reforms of Pope John XXIII. A fascinating and well-told story, but not fully satisfying. The source of the passion driving the Berrigans' deeds remains elusive, perhaps through no fault of the authors: The brothers, who confess to near-absolute certainty in their moral choices, harbor few of the doubts that help humanize and illumine most lives. (b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1997
ISBN: 0-465-03084-X
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996




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