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Higher Morality Catonsville, for the Berrigans, became something of a litmus for the responsiveness of the American "system." Until the trial, they maintained a kind of naive hope that their message, once heard, would vindicate their actions. In a forthcoming special issue of Holy Cross Quarterly devoted entirely to the Berrigans, Protestant Theologian Robert McAfee Brown tries to assess the symbolic importance of Catonsville. While most Americans bridled at a destruction of public records, Brown sounds a familiar—and simplistic—jeremiad of the antiwar movement: the act was intended as "a vivid reminder of what has happened to the collective conscience of our nation; we are outraged when paper is burned, and we are not outraged when children are burned." Near the end of the trial, the Berrigans joined the other defendants in a dramatic direct dialogue with the judge, arguing that the jury should consider the higher morality of their act. The Catonsville Nine won sympathy, but not acquittal.
Total Resistance Thereafter, a dark, almost apocalyptic vision of society began to dominate the thought of both Berrigans, a view of society as a kind of Catch-22 nightmare. Daniel had already undergone yet another radicalization while awaiting trial. On a trip to Hanoi to bring back three U.S. prisoners, he had been caught in an air raid and found himself hurtling into a shelter with a Vietnamese baby in his arms. The experience became both a scar and a poem: "In my arms, Father, in a moment's grace The Messiah of all my tears I bore, reborn, a Hiroshima child from hell."
The trial simply corroborated the Berrigans' suspicion that society was not reformable from within. The end of the war was no longer enough. "The consciousness of the radical man is integrated," wrote Daniel in No Bars to Manhood. "He knows that everything leads to everything else. So while he works for the end of the war, for the end of poverty, or for the end of American racism, he knows also that every war is symptomatic of every other war. Viet Nam to Laos and on to Thailand, and across the world to Guatemala, and across all wars to his own heart. What he is finally looking for is not a solution (knowing as he does that human history has not offered solutions). He is really looking for a creation: a new man in a new society."
This was now the message: radical change, total resistance. Yet it was refined, carefully restricted resistance that the Berrigans preached. "Do not validate old bankrupt methods of coercion and murder." Daniel warned, "by creating new. bankrupt methods of roughly the same things." They remained exasperatingly ebullient: Philip was still the gregarious, plainspoken man who greeted friends with bear hugs or bone-crushing handshakes: Daniel still the wide-smiling purveyor of a deep, almost secret gaiety. When Daniel was arrested in August, the photo of the arrest prompted Dwight Macdonald and Robert McAfee Brown to identical judgments: Berrigan, grinning, was the free man; the dour agent the bound one.
The Harrisburg indictments now challenge the image of cheerful,