Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Catholic Worker Archives at 50

Phil Runkel at the Catholic Worker Archives.
Photo by Jim Forest

Marquette University began its archival relationship with the Catholic Worker in March 1962, with the receipt of six boxes of Dorothy Day’s papers and records of the New York community.  This was largely due to the initiative and collecting acumen of the director of libraries, William Ready. He had first broached the matter to Dorothy five years before (around the time that he was extending a similar invitation to J.R.R. Tolkien). A half-century later, the collection comprises more than 200 cubic feet, including the personal papers of Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and others involved in the movement; records of past and present Catholic Worker communities; photographs, audio and video recordings; and a wide variety of publications. Most records are open to research use, although materials of a confidential nature have been restricted at the donor’s request. The collection continues to be frequently consulted by students, scholars, and the general public. Catholic Workers can support Marquette’s mission by saving their records (following these guidelines) and donating them on a periodic basis.

The Archives is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Inquiries, requests, and encouraging words are appreciated. Please contact:

Phil Runkel, Archivist
Raynor Memorial Libraries
1355 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 3141
Milwaukee, WI 53201-3141
(414) 288-5903; FAX (414) 288-6709

Monday, January 23, 2012

Peacemakers express concern for imprisoned priest

by Joshua J. McElwee

Activists and friends of an 83-year-old Catholic priest imprisoned for an act of civil resistance are expressing some relief after prison officials responded to concerns he was facing unfair treatment in prison. The priest has not eaten since Jan. 10 to protest his placement in solitary confinement.

Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel was serving a three-month prison term in the Federal Detention Center near Seattle, Wash., for a July 2010 action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility is being planned.

Bichsel was moved Jan. 10 to a prison transition facility in Tacoma, Wash. He was sent back to the federal detention center in Seattle the next day because authorities said he had received an unauthorized visit at the transition facility.

Fellow activists say Bichsel has begun a fast since his return to prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement. The activists also were concerned that Bichsel, who suffers from blood circulation problems, was not receiving an adequate number of blankets to keep warm.

In a posting at the blog of the “Disarm Now Plowshares” group [2] Jan. 19, activist Blake Kremer said Bichsel had told him “it is very cold for me all of the time.”

“I cannot sleep at all,” Kremer reported Bichsel as saying during a phone call. “24 hours a day without sleep, fighting off the chill. I have asked for a jacket or a pillow or a mattress; they do not comply.”

Knoxville County Jail mug shot.
Activist Joe Power-Drutis reported this afternoon on the same blog that Bichsel has now received extra blankets and is “much warmer,” following a support vigil for the priest outside the prison Sunday, which saw more than 40 people attend.

Power-Drutis also said there “remains a couple of other health related issues” that the activists “hope to resolve those soon through direct negotiation.”

Supporters say Bichsel was visited by Buddhist monks with the Nipponzan Myohoji order when he was moved to the Tacoma facility Jan. 10. They say the authorities at the facility reprimanded Bichsel for the visit and had him rearrested the next morning.

According to Kremer, Bichsel started his fast partly “to unite us as one and strengthen resolve against nuclear weapons” and would be appreciative of any who would join him in the effort.

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said that while he couldn’t comment on the case of a specific inmate, he did say that the “typical issue” for all inmates in the federal system is a blanket and sheet, and that there is a “full health services staff on duty at all of our facilities.”

“If we receive information either from the inmate or the inmate’s doctor on the street that there was some sort of pre-existing condition that was being treated, obviously we would pick up the ball from there,” said Chris Burke, a public information officer at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Now, sometimes, our doctors’ treatment may differ from what [the prisoner] was receiving on the street for a lot of different reasons. But those conditions will still be treated regardless.”

Before his imprisonment for the Y-12 action, Bichsel had served a three-month sentence in the spring of 2011 for a November 2009 act of civil resistance at the U.S. Navy nuclear weapons base in Bangor, Wash.

Supporters were concerned for Bichsel during that imprisonment, as he was transferred between at least six different facilities across the country.

Writing on the “Disarm Now Plowshares” blog, Power-Drutis said that a May visit to Bichsel in the Knox County, Tenn., Sheriff's Detention Facility found the priest “a broken and very hurting soul.”

Twelve others participated with Bichsel in the 2010 action at the Y-12 complex, for which they faced sentencing in September.

Four others participated with the priest in the 2009 action, which saw the activists cut through the outer fences of the Washington state naval base before walking toward the center of the base holding a sign that read “Disarm Now Plowshares Trident: Illegal Immoral” and scattering sunflower seeds and hammering on a roadway and fences.

Among the other four who participated in that action was Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, who has been imprisoned since April at the Seattle facility, where he is serving a 15 month sentence. According to supporters, Kelly has been in solitary for most of his imprisonment.

Two of the other three people found guilty for the 2009 action have since been released. Susan Crane, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, is still being held on a 15 month sentence at the Federal Correction Institution in Dublin, Calif.

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is]


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Almost Forty Anti-Torture Activists Arrested at White House

WASHINGTON, DC--Thirty-seven members of Witness Against Torture were arrested in front of the White House on Thursday, January 12 around three this afternoon. Dressed in the iconic Guantanamo orange jumpsuits and black hoods and accompanied by a cage representing indefinite detention, the activists were warned to clear the sidewalk by National Park Police or risk arrest. After occupying the sidewalk for more than three hours, they were arrested one by one.

“We came to the White House because just eleven days ago, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act. It is dead wrong,” says Leah Grady Sayvetz, an activist and college student form Ithaca, New York arrested this afternoon. “The NDAA makes Guantanamo near-permanent and expands detention powers just when this terrible and immoral detention apparatus should be being dismantled.”

The activists held signs that said: “NDAA is Guantanamo Forever,” NDAA is Guantanamo Come Home,” “Shut Down Guantanamo,” “Shut Down Bagram,” “Release Those Unjustly Bound” and pulled a full-size cage up on the side walk.

Witness Against Torture took the cage to the White House on Saturday, January 7 and began a twenty-four hour a day vigil that ended on January 11 at the end of the Ten Years Too Many National Day of Action to Shut Down Guantanamo.

Witness Against Torture, a grassroots movement to shut down Guantanamo, is completed a ten day “Hungering for Justice” liquids-only fast January 12. About one hundred people—in DC and around the country—participated in the fast and engaged in daily actions in front of the White House, and elsewhere to call attention to the terrible injustice that is Guantanamo, Bagram, and secret prisons.

For more information, visit:

Photos, photos, photos!

Nearly 300 photos of 2012 Witness Against Torture were taken by Justin Norman, from Des Moines, Iowa.

A slide show of these photos is here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Guantanamo Nightmare Turns Ten

by Ane Bores

Ten years after the fateful events of September 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda suicide bombers flew two planes into the Twin Towers in New York, killing thousands of civilians and sparking a conflict between East and West which continues to this day, the closure of the Guantánamo detention centre is still more of a dream than a reality.

The US high security concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, around 570 miles from Havana, was opened in 2002 to house terrorists captured during the War on Afghanistan.  Former president George W. Bush launched this offensive soon after 9/11 to protect the US public from the terrorist threat.

The Guantánamo detention centre has always been at the centre of controversy because of its disregard for the presumption of innocence and the most basic rights of detainees.
According to several UN reports, there is clear evidence that many of those held have suffered torture or degrading treatment, including interrogation under extreme conditions.
Hundreds of classified documents published by Wikileaks have revealed that the Pentagon’s real objective was always to obtain the greatest amount of information possible in order to help eliminate al-Qaeda members.

This is what happened at the beginning of May, 2011, in the case of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, who was executed by the US government on the basis of information obtained from suspect interrogation techniques.  Meanwhile, some 60% of prisoners transferred to Guantánamo remain under indefinite detention; even though it has yet to be proven that they actually pose a real threat.

Broken promise

In January 2009, President Barack Obama promised to close Guantánamo within twelve months.  The day after taking office, Obama ordered the temporary suspension of activities at the camp, and no military tribunals were held for 120 days while the new administration reviewed the judgments of those accused of terrorist offences, expressly condemning the use of illegal interrogation methods.

However, three years later, Guantánamo is still unfinished business for the Obama administration.  The camp remains open and exists in a legal void.  The lack of financial resources for transferring prisoners to the United States, and the refusal of other countries to take any of the detainees, means the closure of Guantánamo seems increasingly remote and impossible to predict.

The camp’s closure was hindered considerably when the Republicans successfully gained control of Congress in the 2010 elections, using their new majority to block the use of public funds for prisoner transfers.

It was around this time that the US held the first and only civilian trial of a Guantánamo detainee.
Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted of 284 of the 285 charges against him, but the prisoner transfer veto by Congress meant that further trials could not go ahead.  The US Attorney General was obliged to lay charges against a group of five prisoners to be tried by a military tribunal at Guantánamo Bay.

Some prisoners were moved to other countries, such as Spain, but that was only around 70 of them – a small minority indeed.

Wikileaks exposes the scandal

On April 25, 2011, leading international newspapers published revelations by Wikileaks.
The internet organization had gained access to around 760 classified military reports dating from 2002 to 2009 which exposed how many elderly people and teenagers with no terrorist links were being held and transferred to Guantánamo with the sole aim of obtaining information from them.

According to the files, prisoners would be held in detention regardless of their state of health if it was thought that they were hiding valuable intelligence.

The Spanish newspaper El País, which had access to the classified documents, reported that the US administration did not even know why some of the prisoners had been moved to Guantánamo, and in many cases it was concluded that the detainee posed no threat, although they were still kept in detention.

One 89-year-old man with senile dementia and depression, for example, was imprisoned because a satellite phone had been found in the residential block where he lived.

The reports also explain the Pentagon’s assessment system for trying detainees, based, in the main, on suspicion and the accusations of fellow inmates.  Despite failing to obtain any reliable evidence to corroborate the offences they are charged with, 143 people have spent more than nine years imprisoned in Guantánamo.

Eight dead prisoners

Inayatula, an Afghani, was last year to the list of prisoners found dead at Guantánamo under suspicious circumstances, who now number eight.

The US military put his death down to suicide.  They allege that Inayatula, who is accused of being a member of al-Qaeda’s logistical wing, was unconscious and not breathing when the guards found him, and that they were unable to revive him.

In the midst of the controversy over interrogation methods at Guantánamo, Inayatula’s autopsy will reveal whether or not he was yet another victim of Barack Obama’s policy failures.


Ed Note:
The results of Inayatula’s autopsy have yet to be reported.  However, if this report is handled as questionably as similar reports, it is unlikely the public will know the truth in any case.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Three Y12 Resisters Finally Released

Police handcuff resisters at the July 2010 action in Tennessee.

Thursday, January 6, 2012 marked the end of eight long months of imprisonment for Steve Baggarly, Mike Walli and Bonnie Urfer who have been released from prisons in Lisbon, Ohio; Morgantown, West Virginia; and Lexington, Kentucky.

Each received maximum sentences for their faithful witness against the destructive power of thermonuclear weapons at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, July 5, 2010, resistance action. For each of them, the Y12 action was one of many compelling actions in which these resisters have stood to speak truth to power. Their odyssey through the legal system took them to jails and prisons in Knoxville, TN; Maryville, TN; Ocilla, GA; and Oklahoma City, OK in addition to the facilities from which they are released today.

Bonnie Urfer
Still in custody is Bill “Bix” Bichsel.  He entered SeaTac prison to serve three months for his Y12 action in November.  (See related story.)

The last remaining Y12 resister from the July 2010 action to be sentenced is Dave Corcoran, who entered a plea of guilty in late December and will be sentenced on March 21, 2012.



Mike Walli
Ed. Note:  Bonnie Urfer and Steve Baggarly wrote eloquent sentencing statements.  These may be read below.

Bonnie Urfer's Sentencing Statement

Steve Baggarly's Sentencing Statement

Steve Baggarly

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rita Corbin Calendars Still Available

Maggie Corbin reports that there are some 2012 Calendar, designed by her mother Rita Corbin, are still available.  Rita had finished about half of this annual project when she was killed in car accident in November.  Maggie is herself a graphic designer and was able to complete and publish the calendar.

The calendars are $7.00 each to cover the cost of printing and shipping—an amazing bargain for something so beautiful and inspiring.  Also available are Rita Corbin art note cards for $7.00 per dozen (assorted designs)

Please send orders to
    Rita Corbin Art
    PO Box 1543
    Brattleboro, VT 05302

Make checks payable to Maggie Corbin.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Maloy Catholic Worker Craft Retreat Returns!

Basket weaving at a previous retreat.

MALOY, IA--Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker in Maloy, Iowa, will host a Craft Retreat, February 16-21, 2012.

Once again, the retreat will offer a rich blend of learning, sharing, making music, making useful things and celebration.

Here is a tentative schedule:

  Thursday: Arrival, organizing, planning and loom set-up
   Friday: Rag preparation and weaving, cheese making
   Saturday: Basket weaving (with newspaper) class, weaving on loom
   Sunday: Liturgy, Sabbath relaxation and in the evening, pot luck, folk dancing and singing with our neighbors.
  Monday: Weaving continues. Candle-dipping
 Tuesday: Scripture study, finish projects, clean-up, good-byes

Other possible crafts are soap making and weaving dishcloths or kitchen towels.  If you have a skill you’d be willing to offer, let the organizer know.

For more information, contact: 
Betsy Keenan <>