Today in Catholic History – The Beginning of the Plowshares Movement

On 9 September 1980, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ and his brother Philip Berrigan, Fr. Karl Cabatand five others began the Plowshares Movement when they broke into a General Electric Nuclear Missile plant where nose cones for the Mark 12A were made. The group, which would come to be known as the Plowshares Eight, struck the nose conses with hammers, poured blood on blueprints and offered prayers for peace. They were arrested and after ten years of appeals were sentenced for 23 1/2 months of parole – having already spent a significant time in prison. A movie about the event appeared in 1982 as “In the King of Prussia”.

At trial, the members of the Plowshares Eight would argue that their actions were a justified response because the Nuremburg Trials in Germany gave every citizen the right to act against crimes of humanity – in this case the threat of nuclear war. However the trial judge ruled that the defendants motives were irrelevant.

The Plowshares Movement would conduct over seventy acts of destruction against weapons in various sites around the world – the Berrigans participated in several of these acts. Each act was to be non-violent and seen as a symbolic attempt to turn weapons into plowshares. The Plowshares Movement would also inspire similar groups to imitate their methods.

We choose to obey God’s Law of life, rather than a corporate summons to death.

In our action, we draw on a deep-rooted faith in Christ, who changed the course of history through his willingness to suffer rather than to kill.


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