Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Berrigan, Philip
from Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History

Birth Date: October 5, 1923

Death Date: December 6, 2002

Prominent antiwar activist, former Roman Catholic priest, and younger brother of peace activist Father Daniel Berrigan. Born on October 5, 1923, in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Philip Berrigan was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 while studying at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. He served in the artillery and infantry in the European theater during World War II. In 1950 he earned a BA degree in English from the College of the Holy Cross. He later earned a BS degree in secondary education from Loyola University of the South and in 1961 received an MS degree from Xavier University.

In 1955 Berrigan was ordained a Josephite priest. His first assignment after ordination was to teach at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. His activities in the Civil Rights Movement there led his superiors to transfer him to a seminary in Newburgh, New York, where in 1964 he founded the Emergency Citizens’ Group concerned about Vietnam and helped found the Catholic Peace Fellowship.

On October 27, 1967, Berrigan and three others poured blood onto draft records at the Selective Service Office in Baltimore. Brought to trial, he became the first Roman Catholic priest in the United States to be sentenced to prison for a political crime. Before his sentencing, on May 17, 1968, he participated in burning draft files in Catonsville, Maryland, along with his brother, for which he was sentenced to federal prison for three and a half years for conspiracy and destruction of private property, to be served concurrently with his earlier six-year sentence from the Baltimore protest.

While in prison, Berrigan was unsuccessfully prosecuted for conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up the heating systems of federal buildings in Washington, D.C. Berrigan was paroled in December 1972 and left the priesthood in 1973. He thereafter married. In September 1980 Berrigan and his brother Daniel created the Plowshares Movement, a peace association whose major goal was the eradication of nuclear weapons. To inaugurate the movement, on September 9, 1980, the Berrigan brothers and six accomplices broke into a General Electric nuclear-missile plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they managed to carry out some damage and pour blood on company documents before being apprehended. They were tried and convicted of numerous crimes.

Philip Berrigan nevertheless continued his peace and social activism and operated Jonah House in Baltimore, Maryland, which is involved in antiwar activities and in feeding the hungry. He also wrote several books. He died in Baltimore on December 6, 2002, following a battle with cancer.

See also

Antiwar Movement, U.S.; Baltimore Four; Berrigan, Daniel; Catonsville Nine; Kissinger, Henry Alfred

  • Philip, Berrigan, and Fred A. Wilcox. Fighting the Lamb’s War: Skirmishes with the American Empire. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2002.
  • Meconis, Charles. With Clumsy Grace: The American Catholic Left, 1961-1975. New York: Continuum, 1979.
  • Polner, Murray, and Jim O’Grady. Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Life and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Brothers in Religious Faith and Civil Disobedience. New York: Basic Books, 1997.
  • Zaroulis, N. C., and Gerald Sullivan. Who Spoke Up? American Protest against the War in Vietnam, 1963-1975. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984.
  • Zinn, Howard. The Twentieth Century: A People’s History. New York: Harper and Row, 1984.
  • Southerland, James E.
    Copyright 2011 by ABC-CLIO, LLC

    Related Articles

    Full text Article Berrigan Brothers
    Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice

    Two Catholic priests, Philip Berrigan (1923–2002) and Daniel Berrigan (1921–), were known as anti-war protestors. They are especially...

    Full text Article Berrigan, Daniel (1921–) and Berrigan, Philip (1923–2002)
    Encyclopedia of War and American Society

    Roman Catholic Priests and Peace Activists The Berrigan brothers gained fame in the 1960s as vocal clerical foes of the Vietnam War. As...

    Full text Article Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921)
    Contemporary World Issues: Mainline Christians and U.S. Public Policy: A Reference Handbook

    A Catholic priest, peace activist, and poet, Daniel Berrigan, along with his brother Philip, also a priest, gained widespread recognition in the...

    See more from Credo