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Paul Mayer, an alleged co-conspirator and a former Benedictine monk, remembers Daniel Berrigan speculating that "bombing wasn't necessarily violent if you didn't hurt anybody." The trouble, Father Dan admitted to Mayer, was that one could never be certain that someone might not be injured.
Galloping to the Rescue? That combination of rebelliousness and goodhearted naivete is a mark of many Catholic radicals—who have a heritage of enthusiastic intrigue against conservative superiors. Even friends express dismay that so many priests and nuns caught up in the resistance often go about their plotting with the same conspiratorial breathlessness that they once brought to underground liturgies or challenging institutional rules. When the cops-and-robbers bustlings of the people around Philip Berrigan contributed to his early capture last year in a Manhattan church rectory, one weary bystander dismissed them as "lollipop revolutionaries." Yet the selfless, spartan, unattached life of priests and nuns could, in theory, make them apt revolutionaries in earnest. For that reason, although both Philip and Daniel Berrigan have been longtime proponents of optional celibacy, they nevertheless promote celibacy for anyone who wants to serve the "resistance" best.
The lack of specific information in the indictment, coupled with the Justice Department's refusal to amplify, has fueled the suspicions of skeptics, although some who initially dismissed the indictments as some mad joke now take them more gravely. In the New York Times, Tom Wicker argued that "if the Government cannot sustain these serious charges—better, for instance, than it was able to justify those against the Chicago Seven—it will provide another shocking example of the kind of official hysteria that so often damages individuals and clouds the public climate." Later the Times noted editorially: "Reason must await the facts."
The Washington Post voiced the fear that the indictments were "merely an attempt to justify retrospectively the premature and indiscreet charges made by Hoover two months ago." The FBI chief himself told TIME Correspondent Dean Fischer last month that he was "absolutely convinced" that he had a "substantial case." Has Attorney General John Mitchell simply galloped to his rescue? Fischer doubts it. "Too much is at stake," he thinks, "for Mitchell to run the risk of this case backfiring. The charges are far more serious than those leveled at the Chicago Seven. It would be uncharacteristic of the man to go put on a legal limb, to risk the resumption of massive antiwar protests in the wake of an abortive trial."
Says Sister Elizabeth, of the impending trial: "It could be