Radical media, politics and culture.

Prophets without honor

Mike Palecek writes:

A Requiem for Moral Patriotism

by William Strabala, Michael Palecek

The book deals with the historical necessity of protest in the U.S. and offers the lives and careers of these priests as example: Carl Kabat, Darrell Rupiper, Roy Bourgeois, Frank Cordaro, Larry Rosebaugh, Charlie Litecky.

A Requiem for Moral Patriotism

by William Strabala, Michael Palecek

380 pp., 2002
ISBN 1-892941-98-8 paper,
1-892941-99-6 hardcover

The book tells the story of a group of American men who happen to be priests ã who happen to have served decades in American prisons ã and the stalwart women who helped them form an international movement called Plowshares. In so doing, the book tells the morally patriotic story of America, a story told before only from behind an open hand across the face, like a football coach talking to his spotters in full view of a national television audience, afraid someone might see.

Darrell Rupiper, Larry Rosebaugh and Carl Kabat are Oblate missionary priests. Frank Cordaro is a diocesan priest from Des Moines. Roy Bourgeois is a Maryknoll priest. Charlie Liteky is an ex-Trinitarian priest.

Rupiper was in the national spotlight during the Iran hostage crisis. He traveled to Iran as part of team of clerics hoping to gain the release of the hostages. Rosebaugh now lives with the poor in El Salvador. He was a member of the Milwaukee 14, a group that burned draft records in accord with the example set by the Berrigan brothers at Catonsville, Maryland in 1968.

Kabat has served over 16 years in United States federal and state prisons since 1980 as a result of his anti-military actions. Cordaro has served half a dozen federal prison terms for his anti-nuclear activities. He has also given sanctuary to a manure spreader in support of Iowa farmers. During the Carter presidency Cordaro found himself on the front page of the Washington Post after he stood in front of Carter during a press conference to tell the world the truth about the SALT treaty.

Bourgeois, from the deep south and a former military officer who served in Vietnam, recently made his own front-page news [NY Times, Washington Post, others] as leader of the massive protests at Fort Benning, Georgia calling for the closing of the School of the Americas. Bourgeois and Rosebaugh also served prison terms in the 1980s when they sneaked into Fort Benning, climbed a tree and played a tape outside the Salvadoran soldiers' barracks of the last sermon given by slain archbishop Oscar Romero.

Liteky is a former chaplain who served in Vietnam. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and later surrendered it, challenging General Abrams and President Nixon in the process.

With the exception of Cordaro, all of these men began their clerical careers as missionaries, in Brazil, the Philippines, Bolivia and Vietnam, and discovered America in the process.

They discovered that the trail of the poor leads through such countries directly back to America. It leads directly to Rupiper's home in Carroll, Iowa; to Rosebaugh and Kabat's roots in rural Illinois; to Cordaro's Des Moines Italian household, and to the nation's capital, where Liteky was born. They also discovered that the America they grew up in never existed. They read history and learned about America's militarism, its attempts at global hegemony, and they felt they must resist. They wanted with all their hearts for their childhood America to be made real ã a just and loving America ã even if that meant they must spend years behind prison walls.

Recounting the as-yet untold story of these American heroes, the book weaves with a consistent thread the American story, a story of political protest grounded in historical necessity.

In the Cold War Soviet Union few people knew about Solzhenitsyn. For many reasons, few in America know about these priests, even though they have managed to make front-page news at different times. The Berrigan brothers are the prototype for Rupiper, Cordaro, Rosebaugh, Kabat and Bourgeois. Just this past year 78 year-old Philip Berrigan was put again into prison for damaging a U.S. fighter plane used in the bombing of Yugoslavia. And yet the American public is largely unaware.

Strabala and Palecek want the world to know about these priests. They feel it is imperative the United States populace becomes aware of the existence of these men. Not because these priests desire an audience, but because if America is to become the America it can be, that it should be, we need to know the whole story - not just the official story that is dribbled out to us as someone sees fit.

There is no book like this that we know of. Those books about protest talk about the '60s - safe dialogue now that it is ancient history. Billy Graham has a book out entitled Prophet With Honor. We propose that these Prophets practice a very different type of Christianity than Rev. Graham and officialdom preach to the American public. Governmental deceit, protest, responsibility and truth are not "1960s things." They are "now" things."