James L. MARSH and Anna J. BROWN, editors. Faith, Resistance, and the Future: Daniel Berrigan’s Challenge to Catholic Social Thought. New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2012. ix + 387 pages. $70.00 hc. ISBN 978-0-8232-3982-5. Reviewed by Robert P. RUSSO, Lourdes University, Sylvania, OH 43560.
In the Introduction to what should have been a festschrift of the theological witness of Daniel Berrigan, editors Marsh and Brown asked two multilayered questions, which arose out of a 2005 conference held at the University of Notre Dame: “What kind of challenge, insight, inspiration, and critique does Daniel Berrigan’s life and work offer to Catholic social thought and practice, inside and outside the university? And what can serious academic discussion and critique bring to his thought, that is, how does it test, deepen, and enrich his thought?” (1) Although Berrigan may not be fully studied, or appreciated, by the university system in this country—that is certainly not the focus of his mission, the reader will quickly discern that the thesis of this work is not only too broad in scope, but left largely unanswered and only partially explored.
After a brief, albeit interesting, introduction, the reader encounters essays from two types of authors, those who get the essence of who Daniel Berrigan is, and those for whom the subject of this book is a mere insertion—in a defeatist way, the book is more about the social-political turmoil that surrounded Berrigan (e.g. the Viet Nam War and Marxism), and individuals he had little or no interaction with (e.g. Bernard Lonergan and John Rawls). Among the authors who understand Berrigan intimately, Robert A. Ludwig rightfully claims that Berrigan’s theological “approach is experiential and historical, heavily dependent on scripture, and oriented toward decision and action” (31). In the essay entitled “The Language of the Incandescent Heart,” author Anna J. Brown does a marvelous job of comparing Berrigan to Etty Hillesum (another figure Berrigan did not know), citing that they both “opened themselves fully to a world ravaged by war and learned to accept, with gratitude and praise, all that this world gave in return” (57). In “Consecrating Peace,” author William Desmond sees Berrigan’s struggle for justice through the lens of prophetic witness to truth, wherein a witness represents “one who stands there before the others, standing for something, not just standing there as himself or herself, but for something beyond himself or herself” (115).
Daniel Berrigan was interviewed for this project in 2008, and one wishes that he was more involved in the annotation of this volume. In providing the “final word,” Berrigan spoke poignantly of the memories of such peace activists as Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton: “It seems to me that to be true to memory is to reproduce the essential goodness and truth telling that mark these lives and this work, all of which we are still trying to understand and walk with today” (286).
The discerning reader may rightly wonder why it took seven years for this volume to come to fruition. Unfortunately, there are also glaring errors in both fact and grammar. In the Introduction, the editors claim that, in the 1950s, Daniel Berrigan met the cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement, Peter Maurin. This could not be possible, as Maurin died in 1949. One major grammatical error concerns an author’s use of the term Gulf War, which was printed as “[t]wo wars in the Golf.” One might have hoped that a major publishing house, such as Fordham University Press, would have adopted a more rigorous editing process, but, as Daniel Berrigan once said in quoting his late Brother Philip: “Hope is where your ass is” (70).