After being sentenced to three years in prison for his part in the 1968 burning of stolen draft files in Catonsville, Maryland, Rev. Daniel Berrigan went underground, evading capture by the FBI for four months. During that time, Berrigan — who passed away on April 30 at the age of 94 — was interviewed for a television documentary called “The Holy Outlaw,” which aired in September 1970, one month after he was finally apprehended.
The documentary, directed by Lee Lockwood for PBS-precursor National Educational Television, has been hard to find over the years, relegated to clips on Democracy Now!and the odd showing at Berrigan-related events. However, thanks to a copy of the film saved by his longtime Jesuit community, Waging Nonviolence is able to share this incredibly rare and important chronicling of Berrigan’s trailblazing act of civil disobedience.
In addition to candid interviews with Berrigan, the film features prominent commentary from renowned historian Howard Zinn, who gives poignant context to Berrigan’s act of defiance, saying, “The law, what we call the law, hunts down some of the best people in society — the people we need to build the kind of country that we need.” Berrigan’s mother, theologian William Stringfellow and members of the Milwaukee 14 also appear in the film, offering support to the self-proclaimed “peace criminal” and “refugee of justice.”