Jesuit anti-nuclear activist back in jail for probation violation (article from NCR)

Editor’s Note: The following May 22, 2013 article by Seattle-based freelance writer Julie Gunter is reprinted from National Catholic Reporter Online: Jesuit anti-nuclear activist back in jail for probation violation.


TACOMA, WASH. — A noted Jesuit peace activist who has spent over a decade in jail for nonviolent protest actions, mostly over nuclear weapons issues, has been returned to prison for probation violations.

Fr. Steve Kelly, who has been on probation since June 2012 after serving a 15-month sentence for breaking into a nuclear weapons facility, was sent back to prison May 20 by a federal judge.Kelly, 64, was transported from the SeaTac Detention Center to the United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Tacoma, to receive the 60-day sentence. With time served, he is expected to be released May 29.

Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly is seen in a 2007 file photo, taken outside outside Fort Huachuca in Arizona. (CNS photo/Felice Cohen-Joppa, courtesy

Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly is seen in a 2007 file photo, taken outside outside Fort Huachuca in Arizona. (CNS photo/Felice Cohen-Joppa, courtesy

More than a dozen friends and supporters, including members of Tacoma’s St. Leo parish community and his Jesuit superior Fr. John Fuchs, attended the hearing. Some also attended a vigil outside the courthouse an hour before Kelly’s court appearance.

Kelly was arrested March 29, Good Friday, for blocking a road outside the Lockheed Martin missile plant in Sunnyvale, Calif. A trespassing charge was later dropped, but he was taken into custody for an outstanding federal warrant associated with probation violations.

Kelly was on probation for the 2009 Disarm Now Plowshares action, during which he and four other activists cut through multiple security fences and accessed highly sensitive areas of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific in Bangor, Wash., where more than 2,300 nuclear weapons are believed to be stored.

After serving 15 months in prison for that action, Kelly was released June 21, and his first probation violation occurred within 72 hours when he failed to contact his probation officer. He violated his probation again a couple months later when he traveled to Atherton, Calif., for the funeral of Sacred Heart Sr. Ann Montgomery, a longtime activist and friend who had been part of the Disarm Now Plowshares action.

In court May 20, Kelly made an emotional appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the healing of divisions between people. Other testimonies praised Kelly’s character and commitment to peace.

Fuchs addressed the judge on Kelly’s behalf stating, “Fr. Steve Kelly is one of my brother Jesuits … Our religious Constitutions commit us to working for peace and justice in our world, resisting all forms of violence and unjust war, following our consciences regardless of the consequences. Steve is being faithful to his vocation as a Jesuit.

“I know Fr. Steve very well, having directed him in a number of spiritual retreats, and I can assure you … that he is one of the most nonviolent, gentle and committed persons I know,” Fuchs said. “I only wish that I and the rest of us could be nearly as courageous as he has been in following his call.”

Over the past two decades, Kelly has been imprisoned for an estimated 12 years, according to St. Leo parishioner and friend Joe Power-Drutis. Kelly has been held often in solitary confinement because as a matter of conscience he refuses to work for the Bureau of Prisons while incarcerated.

Kelly discussed his unique witness in a 1998 interview with America magazine. “My hope is that the church will really become a peace church,” he said.

“I realize that what I’ve done is not what most people would call being an effective witness. I don’t expect the culture as a whole to change overnight. The people I would like to reach are people of faith and belief. As for what I’ll be doing in the future, as long as nuclear weapons are being made for use on human beings, I’ll try to resist their creation.”

[Julie Gunter is a Seattle-based freelance writer.]


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‘Violence ends where love begins’: A conversation with Sr. Anne Montgomery

by John Dear SJ on May. 01, 2012 in the National Catholic Reporter

Sr. Anne Montgomery is a legend in some peace movement circles. A member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, she has spent more than three years in prison for many civil disobedience actions against war, including seven Plowshares disarmament actions*; many years teaching in Harlem; and many years living with the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, Palestine-Israel. Continue reading

Steve Kelly: Still a Prisoner for Peace

While serving a two-year term at the Federal prison in Allenwood, PA, in 1998 Steve Kelly, SJ was interviewed by America, The National Catholic Weekly.  The article was titled “A Prisoner for Peace: An Interview with Steve Kelly.”  Steve was doing time for his participation in the Prince of Peace Plowshares that took place the previous year.

Before dawn on Feb. 12, 1997, Ash Wednesday, Steve, Philip Berrigan, Steve Baggerly, Susan Crane, Mark Colville and Tom Lewis-Borbely boarded the USS The Sullivans, an Aegis destroyer, at the Bath Iron Works in Maine.  They poured their own blood and used hammers to beat on the hatches covering the tubes from which nuclear-armed missiles can be fired and unfurled a banner which read Prince of Peace Plowshares “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…” Isaiah 2:4.

The government, rather than taking an introspective look at its unhealthy (and illegal) relationship with nuclear weapons, threw the book at Steve and friends.  That was one of many times that Steve would serve time for putting his unwavering faith into action.  Today, nearly 14 years since the interview in America, Steve once again resides in what has become a monastic setting over the years – a prison cell (and a “solitary” one at that).

The interview in America gives a glimpse into the heart and mind of our dear friend Steve Kelly.  Joe and Theresa Power-Drutis resurrected the original article, complete with a photo of Steve in his earlier years as a Jesuit.  Click here to read the article (PDF format). 

Steve is still very much a “Prisoner for Peace.”  The last question in the magazine interview sums up why he continues his nuclear abolition work against such huge odds.  Carry on Steve!!!  And – May we all carry on with you!!!

You will be 50 on your next birthday. What are your hopes about the future?

My hope is that the church will really become a peace church. I realize that what I’ve done is not what most people would call being an effective witness. I don’t expect the culture as a whole to change overnight. The people I would like to reach are people of faith and belief. As for what I’ll be doing in the future, as long as nuclear weapons are being made for use on human beings, I’ll try to resist their creation.

Faith and Disarmament

On June 12, 1981, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen gave a prophetic speech to the Pacific Northwest Synod of the Lutheran Church of America.  Taking up our cross with Christ in the nuclear age, he proclaimed, means unilateral disarmament. Furthermore, he suggested that “our paralyzed political process” needs a catalyst and that catalyst is tax resistance.
Hunthausen’s statement was received enthusiastically by religious leaders and followers of nonviolence across the country.  His words remain urgent and relevant to us today, as we continue to struggle with the question of how to build peace in this nuclear empire.

Faith and Disarmament

I am grateful for having been invited to speak to you on disarmament because it forces me to a kind of personal  disarmament. This is a subject I have thought about and prayed over for many years. I can recall vividly hearing the news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. I was deeply shocked. I could not then put into words the shock I felt from the news that a city of hundreds of thousands of people had been devastated by a single bomb. Hiroshima challenged my faith as a Christian in a way I am only now beginning to understand. That awful event and its successor at Nagasaki sank into my soul, as they have in fact sunk into the souls of all of us, whether we recognize it or not. Continue reading

What We Believe, or The Dream of God


Now and then when the violence in the world seems to rage out of control I find myself drawing inward to that contemplative space where I can re-collect my thoughts and center on the task at hand.  Today was one of those times, and I found a suitable meditation thanks to Pax Christi.

The beloved Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara, former Archbishop of Recife and Olinda, Brazil, who died in 1999, is well known for defending the poor and working for social justice.  In response to claims that he was a danger to Brazil’s national security he said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why are they poor, they call me a Communist.” Continue reading

Sunday Evening: On The Cost of Peace


It is late Sunday evening.  I hope that the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 are resting well, and I look forward to greeting them tomorrow morning.  Reflecting back on Friday afternoon after a very long day in court, their lightness of heart during the jury’s deliberations and that evening was remarkable.

Walking with Steve Kelly up the hill from the courthouse to St. Leo, his greatest concern – and even that was minor – was that he might be catching some sort of cold or flu virus, and he was most concerned that he might transmit it to others.

Knowing, as they do, the likelihood that this jury will convict them on at least some of the charges, they were still able to smile, and laugh and sing with the rest of us on Friday evening.  Their deep conviction in something beyond themselves gives them strength to stand outside of the very powers that seek to silence them so that it may continue to pursue its endless quest for power and global domination.

Going into their Plowshares action the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 knew the consequences and were (and still are) willing to pay the price the government will demand.  They have put themselves on the line for peace.  They remind us that there is a price to being a Peacemaker, and make me ask myself if I am doing enough, giving enough of myself in the name of PEACE.

So I leave you with a quote by Daniel Berrigan; food for thought on the eve of what will likely be the final day of the Disarm Now Plowshares trial:

We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total—but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial. So a whole will and a whole heart and a whole national life bent toward war prevail over the mere desire for peace…. There is no peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war—at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake.



Note: Court reconvenes tomorrow morning at 8:50am, and Judge Settle will bring the jury in at 9:00am to give them instructions before sending them back to continue their deliberations.

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