Adventures in Recovering the Telos

CatonsvilleBy Tommy Airey

It was a cool Tuesday night in mid-June, four hours north of Detroit and forty-five days after the death of Daniel Berrigan. Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann gathered an intergenerational group from among original members and friends of the Detroit Peace Community–so named by members of Jonah House back in 1980 during a week of civil disobedience at the Pentagon. This night’s topic was the Catonsville Nine action of 1968, the mid-day, non-violent storming of the Catonsville, Maryland draft board: they took 378 draft files and set them on fire with homemade napalm in the parking lot and then waited in prayer and song for the police to show up. It sparked hundreds of similar actions all over North America. After Bill’s introduction and historical context, we read The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, a reworked transcript of the trial, put to poetry by Berrigan. I was struck by how coherently these nine spoke about the theological and spiritual motivations for their hit-and-stay action. They were all speaking the same compelling language. Continue reading