Thursday, March 20, 2008

Priest arrested

Zelda Jeffers and Fr Martin Newell of the London Catholic Worker community were sentenced to days in prison yesterday, at Stratford Magistrates Court, after pouring fake blood onto the gangway entrance to the DSEi (Defence System Equipment International) Arms Fair at Custom House DLR station in east London in September.
The entrance to one of the world’s largest arms fairs was closed for at least 4 hours as a result.
The were found guilty of “criminal damage” at their trial at the same Court in February and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £700. However, as they refused to pay these, the Magistrate ordered them to serve a custodial sentence. The two admitted pouring fake blood, but denied that it was criminal damage.
Fr Newell had poured out five litres of red paint on the gangway, saying 'rivers of blood that start here at the DSEi Arms Fair’. Having done this, he then knelt down to pray. He was dragged away and arrested.
Ms Jeffers had held up a banner saying "Get the Guns Out of London" and then poured fake blood on herself before being arrested.
Martin Newell said in court today, “To pay this fine would be to co-operate with a system that is fuelling murder and mayhem around the world by promoting and protecting the arms trade. We withdrew our co-operation at the DSEi arms fair last September. We continue that refusal to go along quietly with manifest evil.
"In Holy Week, Christians and others remember the price Jesus paid on the cross for standing up for truth, life and freedom, when he was arrested for his act of civil disobedience when he cleansed the Temple of traders and bankers. It is a great privilege to be able to follow, in a small way, Jesus’ example of suffering for love and righteousness sake.”
At the trial in February, Zelda Jeffers said, “"I am a mother, have held my babies, know the love and care and concern a mother anywhere has for her children. They have a right to physical integrity that is, not to be blown up shot or burnt. I worked as a midwife which is a respected profession, I helped babies be born, I hoped for them to grow up. The week before the arms fair Ryan was shot in Liverpool, with a gun that was manufactured and traded, then ended a young life, this is wrong, it should be stopped. I worked in Nicaragua during and after the war there. I saw the results of these arms not only in maiming and killing but in poverty, ignorance and hunger. How can I not try to stop this going on? The blood coloured paint and dye was not damage but a statement of truth. The action was not criminal but my duty as a human being."
Both Ms Jeffers and Fr Newell cp live and work at the London Catholic Worker community house of hospitality in Hackney, east London. The house provides accommodation for asylum seekers, and members run a community cafe and soup kitchen in Hackney.
The London Catholic Worker is part of the international Catholic Worker movement, started in 1933 in New York to "explode the dynamite of Catholic Social Teaching". The movement is committed to radical social, political and economic change. TheLondon CW organises and campaigns for peace and justice and publishes a quarterly newsletter as well as a website.
You can read a profile of Fr Martin Newell in the Times newspaper here:
H/t Ekklesia


Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with Father Newell telling Caesar, after St Martin of Tours, "It is not lawful for me to fight."

What he can't legitimately do is tell Caesar, "It is never lawful for you to fight."

Volpius Leonius said...

This man who is hiding behind his position of Priest should be confined to a monastry, these kind of actions do nothing but disgrace the Church.

Revolution is not Catholic, the church should remove all support fr om people who do such things in pursuit of "radical social, political and economic change."

The answer is to convert the poeple to the Catholic Faith not disgrace the office of Priest by acting like a common criminal.

James M said...

Good on Fr Newell and Ms Jeffers. Have they done anything wrong? Surely nothing that deserves condemning before that which they were protesting against is condemned (I mean anyone who wants to slam Fr Newell should first slam the arms dealers).

Arms fairs are not about national security, or any kind of security. They are about making vast amounts of money. If the UK, or NATO, really prioritised security then it would not exhibit arms technology at trade fairs; it would not pass on this technology at any cost.

Watch what happens in Iraq. The arms and training we give now are already being turned against British/NATO forces.

Why are we so ready to pass on our weapons technology but so slow to pass on the Gospel? Security forces have a role to play, but absent the Gospel it is unlikely to be a fruitful one.

So any complaints against Fr Newell and Ms Jeffers? How about first criticising those who spill real blood.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I published this because I wish I had the courage to be like Fr Newell.
The armstrade is something condemned by successive Popes, and should be condemned by all Catholics.
The more we pride ourselves on orthodoxy the more committed to justice we should be.

Volpius Leonius said...

Speaking out against the arms trade is one thing, Fr Newell went a bit further than that though didn't he.

Christ was rejected by the Jews precisely because he wouldn't lead them in protests or revolts against the Romans, for Fr. Newell to compare his actions to that of Christ is ridiculous.

Do you realy believe Christ was crucifed for standing up for "freedom", I don't, he spoke often about the opposite, service, but he didn't say anything about freedom that I recall.

Then he refused to pay his fine, are all Catholics then to follow his example, should we all refuse to pay taxes, after all our taxes are funding, according to the words of Fr. Newell "a system that is fuelling murder and mayhem around the world by promoting and protecting the arms trade."

The truth is it is not guns doing the killing but people, guns do not fire themselves, the solution is for Fr Newell to work to save souls, if men had a truly Catholic conscience then the killing would stop.

All he has achieved is to get himself locked up for promoting not the Catholic Faith as he should be doing but instead anarchy and chaos, these are not the works of God.

If he was doing this kind of thing in China then it might take courage, but really how much courage does it take to risk a few days in prison when you have as your reward the kind of adoration he will get.

Anonymous said...

The Catechism says this about soldiering and the arms trade, Father:

2310: "Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense.

Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace."

2316: "The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. The short-term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and conflict among nations and compromise the international juridical order."

The problem I have with Father Newell is his version of pacifism. He isn't content with the vocation to pacifism which some Christians are called to in witness to the age to come in which there will be no more war, and no marriage either, nor being given in marriage.

He extends pacifism from an individual vocation to an obligation binding on the public authorities.

He seems to forget, too, that you can't have the peace of Christ except in the Kingdom of Christ. Pope Pius XI said as much in Quas Primas, when he said that the turmoil which the nations were then experiencing was to be explained by the fact that Christ the King was denied His due recognition in public life.

Ttony said...

Sorry, Father, but Justice and the Arms Trade can't be posited as two diametric opposites; they are sometimes alternatives, that's all.

We believe that there can be Just Wars: how do we fight them without arms?

If Fr Newell is really describing himself as a Christian Anarchist, then he ought to be ashamed of himself.

Anonymous said...

Ttony has a point here. A lot of these radical pacifist Christians are not orthodox.

Father John Dear for example takes Gandhi as a role model in his pacifism. Excellent man that Gandhi was (he was close to becoming a Catholic when he died), he isn't an appropriate model for a Catholic priest.

Bishop Gumbleton in the US (I think he was Bishop of Detroit) is another pacifist, and during his ministry was a strong advocate of "gay rights".

Closer examination of Father Newell's teaching might be in order.

Paulinus said...

The only "Christian anarchist" of any prominence I can recall was Ivan Illich who left the priesthood and the Church in about 1968 (yes, THAT year). Nuff said. I hope Fr Newell isn't going down the same road.

Jeffrey Smith said...

We need more priests with the courage to take such stands, and less snipers who think it wrong.

Anonymous said...

Also, Father, it says in the Times article, which you linked to, something like, "Father Newell is an unusual priest who doesn't have time for things like arranging baptisms..."

In my humble opinion, a priest's job is to save souls, not start revolutions. Saving souls happens through the sacraments.

I've been told by some ex-priests who eventually came back to the Faith, but nevertheless had to remain laicized due to marriage, that as soon as a priest stops becoming primarily a "sacramental" priest and focuses on other priorities, he endangers his vocation.

I too admire his courage, but think his social activism is misguided.

Abortion is a far more evil and pernicious crime against God and humanity, this is where the social justice fight should take place.

Nations should not be trading arms with rougue states or states who cannot maintain the security of the arms. But arms trading in itself is not immoral.

gemoftheocean said...

He deserved jail time!

I agree with what Mr. Petek says. I expect the WWII allies found weapons useful when trying to put an end to Hitler.

It's not "fun" but sometimes you may have to stop a bully with a little more than "Adolph, stop shoving the Jews and 'undesirables' in the gas chambers."

Bob Drinan types are not useful. counsel peace, by all means, but recognize there is also a time for war, as Ecclesiastes states. Lily livered leftist peaceniks end up getting more people killed in the long run. Bullies always recognize a pushover and will act accordingly.

And Jeff Smith: If you are English, you must hate your own country for the "evil arms dealers" who made the fighter planes which won the battle of Britain and saved your country. You don't just instantly run down to Tesco and by a fighter plane when you need one or get one out of a crackerjack box.

[Fr., now I *KNOW* you are bucking for bishop, because it's fashionable for bishops to have leftist positions against the arms trade.]

Anonymous said...


I understand your point on orthodoxy and justice. I think, especially in America, orthodox Catholicism has become a prison of the Republican party. Catholic need not be small government, pro-gun capitalists. But the abortion issue trumps so many others.

It's also hard for me to support the current position of the popes on the death penalty.

To me, it seems that eliminating the death penalty is highly immoral.

Church Tradition fully supports the death penalty. Not just as a means of protecting society from the criminal, but for retribution and making temporal amends for the evil done.

Just one other point in its favor - countless souls have been saved because they faced execution.

I take it, Father, you are against capital punishment?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Pro-Life trumps everything, but it shouldn't eclipse everything. Because we are pro-Life we are against everything that destroys life.
I have difficulty with being totally anti-c.p., some crimes are so terrible death seems light a punishment. Anti-c.p. isn't quite what the catechism teaches.
Making some one a killer, executioner, for the state is problematic.

Volpius Leonius said...

It is quite simple, he is setting a bad example. If the law allowed people who disagreed with something to start running around throwing paint about society would not be a very nice place to live.

There are plenty of People who disagree with the Catholic Church, how would we feel if all these people started throwing paint about outside our Churches just before Mass started? Or if they broke into our Churches and staged protests preventing us from attending Mass?

We would rightly expect the police to put a stop to it.

The Catholic way is reform or counter revolution, to build up something good NOT violent protest and revolution, NOT to destroy what is already here, these are the tools of the devils servants.

Radical change is just another word for revolution, revolutions bring nothing but pain and bloodshed as any student of History can tell you.

Courage when not governed by Prudence is not a virtue but rather the vice of rashness.

Fr. Blake you do more to stop the killing with the offering of one Mass than this man has done with ten years of acting like a political revolutionary.

Volpius Leonius said...

"[Fr., now I *KNOW* you are bucking for bishop, because it's fashionable for bishops to have leftist positions against the arms trade.]"

Mind your manners gemoftheocean.

Anonymous said...


This discussion made me think of a minor news story several years ago here in the States. A young married Catholic US Air Force officer was disciplined for refusing to partner with a female officer for duty in a nuclear missile silo. The pairs of officers who work in the nuclear silos have to work together in a secluded suite underground in the silo for 24-hour periods of time.

I suppose a liberal would look at this situation and mock it as a perversion of moral priorities. Here this young man has no scruples about turning a key which will launch a killing machine of apocalyptic proportions, yet he holds to traditional morality and propriety with respect to strict and circumspect relations with the opposite sex.

James M said...

If anyone thinks the arms trade is OK as it stands, please recall these words of Pope Benedict: "...on the basis of available statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the huge sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. This challenges humanity's conscience." [Benedict XVI, Address to Diplomatic Corps, 6 Jan 2006--quoted in Sacramentum Caritatis]

Whatever Fr Newell's shortcomings may be, in this action I think he has acted not only proportionately, but with restraint. God bless him.

Anonymous said...


A little bit simplistic.

Most of the poor in the West are poor due to poor life choices -- premarital or extramarital sex, drugs, alcohol abuse, or pure laziness.

The amount of social spending on poverty in the West drawfs military spending by a huge magnitude.

I reject the modern Church's call for statist solutions to poverty or any other social ills. All social ills have at their base the rejection of Christ and His Church -- proclaiming this message, however, is more costly than the liberal sloganeering we've heard since V II.

Volpius Leonius said...

He has effectively declared that all people should refuse to recognise the authority of the government, I fail to see how that is proportionate or can be considered acting with restraint, it seems to me he has simply given free reign to his passions.

I have seen what rabble rousers such as Father Newell achieve when people actually bother to take notice of them, I tell you the effects are not the work of God.

Anyone who thinks civil disobedience is good should go and live in a place like Somalia, lawlessness is not fun.

nickbris said...

Skulduggery in the banking world,manufacturing arms & selling them around the World is about all we are good for now.

Sending sick people away to die to save money on medical treatment and treating refugees like invaders ,putting Priests in gaol for legitimately protesting.

We do need a Revolution and the sooner the better.

Volpius Leonius said...

Every revolution has made things worse not better, it is because of the evil spirit of revolt that we are in this sad state of affairs in the first place.

Anonymous said...

If there is no commercial arms trade, then only governments will have weapons.

Looking around at many governments in the world, today and in the past, giving them a monopoly on effective force is not a positive move.

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