John Dear (born August 15, 1959) is an American Catholic priest, Christian pacifist, author and lecturer, and a former member of the Society of Jesus. He has been arrested over 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war, injustice and nuclear weapons. Dear has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, in January 2008 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and most recently with Leo Rebello for the 2015 award.
Dear was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on August 13, 1959. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, in 1981. He then worked for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Life as a Jesuit
In August 1982, Dear entered the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, at their novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. He then spent two years studying philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York (1984–1986), during which time he lived and worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service in a refugee camp in El Salvador for three months in 1985. For his period of regency, he taught at Scranton Preparatory School in Scranton, Pennsylvania, from 1986 to 1988. He then spent a year working at the Fr. McKenna Center, a drop-in center and shelter for the homeless, in Washington, D.C. From 1989 to 1993, he attended the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and received two master's degrees in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
Dear was dismissed from the Jesuit Order on December 20, 2013. He claimed that it was due to his Provincial Superiors' change of direction from the commitment to working for peace and justice which had been part of the ethos of the Society of Jesus when he entered.
Peace and nonviolent commitment
During that time, Dear founded Bay Area Pax Christi, a region of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, and began to arrange for Mother Teresa to intervene with various governors on behalf of people scheduled to be executed on death row. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Baltimore, Maryland on June 12, 1993, and began serving as associate pastor of St. Aloysius' Church in Washington, D.C.
Throughout these years, Dear was arrested in scores of nonviolent civil disobedience actions against war, injustice and nuclear weapons—from the Pentagon to Livermore Laboratories in California. On December 7, 1993, he was arrested with three others at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, for hammering on an F-15 nuclear capable fighter bomber. He was jailed, tried and convicted of two felony counts, and served 8 months in North Carolina jails and nearly a year under house arrest in Washington, D.C. As part of the Plowshares disarmament movement, the defendants argued that they were fulfilling Isaiah's mandate to "beat swords into plowshares," and Jesus' command to "love your enemies.”
From 1994–96, Dear served as executive director of the Sacred Heart Center, a community center for low-income African-American women and children, in Richmond, Virginia. In the Spring of 1997, he taught theology for one semester at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. From 1997–98, he lived in Derry, Northern Ireland, as part of the Jesuit "tertianship" sabbatical program, and worked at a human rights center in Belfast.
From 1998–2001, Dear served as executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the United States, based in Nyack, New York. In 1999, he led a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners on a peace mission to Iraq, and also an interfaith delegation to Palestine/Israel.
Immediately after September 11, 2001, Dear served as a Red Cross coordinator of chaplains at the Family Assistance Center in Manhattan, and personally counseled thousands of relatives and rescue workers. From 2002–04, he served as pastor to five parishes in the high desert of northeastern New Mexico, and founded Pax Christi New Mexico, a region of Pax Christi USA.
In 2006, Dear led a demonstration against the U.S. war in Iraq in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2009, he joined the Creech 14 in a civil disobedience protest at Creech Air Force base against the U.S. drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was arrested and put in the Clark County, Nevada jail for a night. He was later found guilty but given time served.
Speaker and writer
Over the years, Dear has given thousands of lectures on peace, disarmament and nonviolence in churches, schools and universities across the United States, and around the world, including national speaking tours of Australia, New Zealand and England.
Dear writes a weekly column for the National Catholic Reporter. He is also featured in several other books and featured in a wide variety of U.S. publications, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. He is featured in the DVD documentary film, The Narrow Path, and the subject of John Dear on Peace, by Patti Normile (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009).
Dear has received several peace awards, including the 2010 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, from the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa; and the Courage of Conscience Award, from Peace Abbey in Boston, Massachusetts.
Dear has been also nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, including a nomination in January 2008 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In 2014, he was nominated with Leo Rebello for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.