Priests We Arrest, Priests We Don't | Sojourners

Priests We Arrest, Priests We Don't

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

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As part of the Catonsville Nine, the rebel priest Daniel Berrigan joined eight other Catholic activists in setting fire to hundreds of draft files with homemade napalm. It was 1968 and he was protesting the Vietnam War. The way he evaded prison was perhaps as memorable as the crime he committed. As Joyce Hollyday describes in “Daniel Berrigan’s Lifetime of Saying ‘Yes,’” “Berrigan slipped away under the noses of federal marshals who were poised to take him to jail—making his getaway during a public festival inside an 8-foot-tall puppet of one of Jesus’ disciples.” He spent several months on the FBI’s most-wanted list, hiding out at over 30 different homes, including that of theologian William Stringfellow. Stringfellow had nicknamed his home in Block Island “Eschaton,” a Greek word that identifies the time between the end of the world and the beginning of eternity. It was a dramatic stage for Berrigan’s inevitable arrest: Before the prison cell, the priest had waterfront views.

If you turn one page of the February issue of Sojourners magazine, you will pivot from a story about a revolutionary priest to a story about pedophile priests. Abby Olcese writes about the experimental documentary Procession, in which six survivors of childhood sex abuse return to the sites of their abuse as adults: an old church, a confessional. A lake house with waterfront views. The documentary gives us a behind-the-scenes look as the six men “collaboratively create dramatic scenes to process physical, emotional, and spiritual traumas. Their journey highlights the value of supportive communities, and the restorative potential of creative expression.”

“What moves me are the ironies / that draw the mind free of habitual / animal ease,” wrote Berrigan, in his poem “Ironies.” An irony of our February issue: Berrigan went to prison for promoting peace; the abusive priests in Procession never served time. “Hope and despair together / bring tears to face,” the poem continues. I suppose it’s unavoidable that a magazine about religion would include both hope and despair — stories where the priests are heroes and other stories where they’re the villains.

“One is called to live nonviolently even if the change one works for seems impossible,” Berrigan said once, articulating well the necessity to fight, even when the fight feels futile. But today, I resonate even more with the syntax of Procession’s Mike Foreman, whose abuser was protected by the statute of limitations: “I’m never ever ever gonna give up seeking what little justice is possible from these f***ing assholes.”

1. Daniel Berrigan’s Lifetime of Saying ‘Yes’ by Joyce Hollyday
The poet, prophet, and priest’s legacy of laughter and delight.

2. ‘Encanto’ Offers a Warning About Ignoring Young Prophets by JR. Forasteros
Abuela’s anger is familiar to anyone who’s been part of a toxic church, family, or business.

3. Walled-In Tragedy by Faith-Marie Zamblé
Caroline, or Change reveals that not all rooms are created equal, nor the dreams they inspire.

4. Two Devotionals That Inspire Us to Connect to Creator and Creation by Julie Polter
Time to Grow by Kara Eidson and Becoming Rooted by Randy Woodley remind us that our bodies and souls are intertwined.

5. ‘Don't Look Up’ Shows Us How (Not) To Pray by Olivia Bardo
As one character puts it: “May Jesus Christ bless every single one of you — especially the honorable members of my own party.”

6. Survivors of Catholic Clergy Abuse Turn to Acting to Process Trauma by Abby Olcese
Robert Greene's Procession demonstrates the restorative potential of creative expression.

7. ‘Red Lip Theology’ Lets Black Christian Women Be Ourselves by Deirdre Jonese Austin
Candice Marie Benbow expands the breadth of literature written specifically for Black Christian women.

8. Evangelical Marriage Advice Failed Us by Krispin Mayfield
A new book shows how we can rescue sex from bad theology.

9. Why The Passion Conference Was Bad News for Public Health by Holly Stallcup
Passion’s leaders ignored surging COVID cases, modeling a self-focused, individualistic faith to the next generation.

10. Carrie Newcomer's Folksy Soundtrack for This ‘Great Unraveling’ by Jes Kast
The singer-songwriter and poet moves between pastoral and prophetic with gentleness, maturity, and playfulness.