Michelle Nickerson, Loyola University Chicago | Newberry

Michelle Nickerson, Loyola University Chicago

Friday, February 15, 2019

3 to 5pm

Religion and Culture in the Americas Seminar

A Not So Friendly Witness: Catholic Radicals Put the FBI and Vietnam War on Trial

Taken from the fourth chapter of my book manuscript, The Camden 28: Catholic Resistance to the Vietnam, this paper explores the escalating anti-statism in American politics as a result of the war and Watergate. In the late 1960s, Catholic activists launched a wave of actions to protest discriminatory conscription by raiding draft boards and destroying files. Imbuing the movement with their church’s social justice spiritual traditions, discipline, and hierarchical structure, they attacked selective service offices for exploiting working class and non-white men who could not shirk service with exemptions and deferments. This piece homes in on a moment just after the arrest of one raiding party caught red-handed by the FBI while burglarizing the federal building in Camden. The defense is attempting to turn a key state’s witness who wrestles with loyalties to his country, his church, and his family in his decision to testify. His struggle offers both a sustained glimpse into the deep reach of federal counter-surveillance and prosecutorial activity, and insight into how religious radicals used these tools of their jailers to perform new forms of spiritual witness.

Respondent: Mary Beth Fraser Connolly

Cost and Registration Information 

Newberry Scholarly Seminars papers are pre-circulated. For a copy of the paper, email scholarlyseminars@newberry.org. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.