The Nation: The Berrigans: Conspiracy and Conscience

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now: they will be in history as another chapter in that oldest story, the collision of conscience with the state." That is not all. To those who read the Berrigans' writings and ponder the Berrigans' lives, the greatest fascination lies not with the collision between conscience and state, but rather that between the Berrigans' conscience and their own.

It can be said for the Berrigans that they are, after all, prophets, and it is the business of prophets to prick the human conscience. One need not agree with a prophet to be goaded by him; prophets often have a view of life so single-minded that other perceptions are distorted. But prophets should know, as surely the Berrigans must, that even that dispensation has its limits. What will be on trial at Harrisburg will not be the Berrigans' philosophy, but the facts of the case and, ultimately, their integrity. Barring some monumental misunderstanding or misinterpretation, either the Berrigans or their accusers must be wrong. Their followers—and not only their followers—would like to believe the brothers. They proclaim their innocence; if their prophetic role is to endure, they had better be right.

*One problem in conspiracy law is that conspiracy is a crime of intent; proving intent is difficult when the object of the conspiracy has not been carried out. For conviction, federal law requires proof not only that two or more people agreed to do something illegal, but also that at least one of them took a concrete step toward that end.

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