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Letter of Philip Berrigan to Robert McNamara, 1967

Letter of Philip Berrigan to Robert McNamara, 1967
View larger version of image Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
Collection: Cornell University Library
Date: 1967
Date of Digitization: 2004
Source: Daniel and Philip Berrigan Collection at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
Original Dimensions: ?
Creator: Berrigan, Philip, 1923-2002
NOrthfield 9-9159

                                                  St. Peter Claver CATHOLIC  CHURCH
                                                  THE JOSEPHITE  FATHERS


All of us are sincerely grateful for your letter, and its courteous and 
enlightened tone. In view of your responsibilities and heavy burdens within 
government, it is indeed heartening to receive your perceptions about the 
Church's right to dissent, and its obligation to make dissent "thorough and 
unemotional," as you put it.

[For our part, we are strongly] 
We in turn are quite totally convinced that this age calls for politics which 
keep clearly in view the rights of man- a politics not largely compromised 
by nationalism, racism or economic power. If war today is too crucial to be 
left to generals, politics are too reliant upon the military too prone to 
use the military to offer solutions  to essentially political, social and 
economic questions. Here the Church can (though it often does not) supply 
a key ingredient through its prophetic role. And through we are not opting 
for unwarranted intereference, for a quasi-political role for churchmen, we 
are suggesting on a universalist view of the rights of man which transcends 
ideology, race, class and religion. In spite of your claim that American 
decision makers give such questions the "most careful deliberation" it is 
our contention that decisions are more often "American” ones  which imply 
that moral considerations are marginal to decision making.

This is not to say that we have no appreciation of your role, since it is immeasurably 
more weighty and agonizing than our own. We feel that if it had not been 
for your intelligence, leadership and service, the military view of inter-
national realities would be far more prevalent, that the arms race would 
be more advanced and more hopeless  of solution;  that the dilemma in Vietanm 
would be far more profound, and that the overall international position of 
America would be more deteriorated. We therefore lend our fullest support 
to your continuing presence as Secretary of Defense. More than that, it is our 
opinion that in you Americans like ourselves (who largely are unrepresented 
in Congress  on this war) have a representative  of our views and aspirations, even 
though it may be impossible at times  to express  these publicly. Finally, it 
seems to us that you may be the one man qualified, on levels of policy-making, 
to view America's position abroad morally, philosophically and politically with 
dispassion and insight. Your Montreal speech seemed to us more indicative of 
what you are as a man and public servant than anything else you 
have recently been able to say.

In light of all this, consider ourselves at your disposal,  and on as strictly 
confidential basis as you would desire. By communication and meeting, we may 
be able to give you some dimensions  of the rising dissent in this country; 
while you may be able to help us in charting a more positive and beneficial 
role for the Churches.  In a word, some continuing contact may be mutually 
helpful for our people and for mankind generally. Be assured of our prayers 
and good will. May God's wisdom be yours and may His strength be your constant 
protection and help.

                                    Sincerely and gratefully yours,