By Brenda Norrell
TUCSON -- I did not go to federal court today.
I did not want to see Fr. Louie Vitale and Fr. Steve Kelly go to prison.
Tonight, no doubt, they are sitting in their cells, either over at the Pima County Jail in transport or in a federal prison. Most likely, they are smiling and praying.
Last summer, when I met Fr. Kelly and first interviewed him, he said there was never enough time when he was in prison. There was so much writing, reading and praying to be done. There were his notes to write down and always the chance of hearing a little news in passing from the outside. He had spent years in prison for literally trying to beat a nuclear weapon into a plowshare. Then, he marched onward and forward for prayer and protest at Guantanamo.
It was unnerving to see someone dedicated enough to spend years in prison because it was the right thing to do.
Then, there was Fr. Vitale, ever-smiling with his gentle and loving nature. The image I remember best is not from Tucson federal court, but the image from a photo. He is standing in the wire cage, the holding cell, at the Nevada Test Site, the same holding cell where so many Western Shoshone stood to protest war and the nuclear industry. He is smiling, and no doubt praying. For Fr. Vitale, 75 years old, going to prison was the right thing to do.
Those are the images I want to remember.
What a sad state of doom and wretchedness that the United States has fallen into, sending two priests to prison for praying in protest of U.S. torture outside an army base.
Priests sentenced to five months in prison: