The Catholic University of America

Jan. 14, 2013

Archives Highlights Vietnam War Petition Collection

  NCR ad

A petition letter in the National Catholic Reporter called for priests to oppose the Vietnam War. (Photo courtesy of the University Archives.)

In 1970, the United States was entangled in the unpopular Vietnam War. Many Americans were convinced the war was too costly and unjust. Among those opposed to the war were two priests, Rev. John Sheerin and Rev. William Nerin.

Father Sheerin was the editor of the magazine Catholic World. Father Nerin was a parish priest in Oklahoma. The two paired up to lead a 1970 mail campaign aimed at getting 40,000 Roman Catholic clergymen in the United States to sign a petition against the Vietnam War.

The response letters to that campaign make up a large part of the Vietnam War Petition Collection found in the University Archives. The collection is also the subject of the University Archives’ 150th finding aid  (an online inventory of a collection), which was launched at the end of December.

Other items in the collection include correspondence and news clippings related to the petition campaign.

Carter Rawson, a fall 2012 School of Library and Information Science graduate, worked on the collection as a student.

“Before I started working with the Vietnam War petition collection, I was only faintly aware that the Second Vatican Council afforded mainstream clergy the capacity to later exercise visible manifestations of anti-war sentiment,” he explains.

“The 1970 petition inspired many priests who would not ordinarily consider themselves as activists to engage the laity in speaking candidly about U.S. involvement in Vietnam.”

John Shepherd, associate archivist, says completing 150 finding aids is an important accomplishment for the University Archives.

“We have 360 collections, so completing our 150th collection guide/finding aid is a significant milestone in that we now have more than 40 percent of our collections inventoried at a very detailed level, thus improving access to researchers,” he says.

“Traditionally, archives were doing well if they achieved this above the level of 10 percent. This achievement for us is made more remarkable in that it has been accomplished by an innovative mix of full-time staff, paid student workers, library science practicum students, and non-CUA volunteers,” he adds.

For a list of other finding aids, visit To find out more about accessing collections in the archives, visit



More news from CUA