Catholic Resistance: How the Camden 28 Put the Vietnam War on Trial

“The captivating story of Catholic Resistance reveals the deep spiritual currents that fed peace activism of the Vietnam era. Through this narrative re-telling of a political action, arrest, and trial known as “the Camden 28,” it documents the impact of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) on a generation typically remembered for its secular radicalism. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Michelle Nickerson Loyola University Chicago Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

“Catholic Resistance” asks how Catholic theology and the church’s teachings on social justice shaped Vietnam War era peace protest. The Camden 28 was a group of activists, operating through the movement known as “Catholic Resistance,” or "the Catholic Left" who raided a selective service office and destroyed draft files in 1971.

"Catholic Resistance" will be a trade or cross-over book that relates this history in a narrative style pitched at a broad reading audience. My book examines this action, as well as the subsequent arrest and trial of the burglars, as a window into the world of faith-based activism. I study how Catholics—by then mainstreamed into American society—influenced the larger culture and political landscape. In addition to priests, nuns and lay activists, I track the many non-Catholics who found a spiritual home in this movement. The book documents the impact of notable Catholic radicals like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, whose writing on and examples of non-violence inspired many to adopt their form of Christian witness.

Such lines of inquiry can help us understand the role played by faith traditions and institutions in the remarkable transformations of the 1960s and 1970s, a history that typically foregrounds secular activists based at universities.

Answers to the questions posed in the project are rooted the Vatican-II era transformations of the church, the convergence of two radicalized generations—new leftist youths and middle-aged Vatican-II reformers—and interfaith alliances forged by Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. The Catholic Left, as a subject of study, also offers the opportunity to examine a working-class flank of the anti-war movement. The workers, children of workers, and clergy who comprised most of the movement attacked the draft system for exploiting the most disadvantaged categories of Americans.