Becoming What They Once Opposed
by Thomas A. Droleskey
The then forty-year old New York State Assemblyman Charles Bernard Rangel challenged the lion of Harlem politics of the mid-Twentieth Century, the late United States Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, in Democratic Party primary in 1970. Such a primary challenge against the popular Powell would have been unthinkable ten years before. Powell, though an ultra-liberal, was an effective representative of his district, carrying himself with a flamboyance that once enabled him (as he puffed casually on a cigarette) to say on a interview program on a New York City television station, "Baby, I'm black by choice. I could pass either way."
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who was elected to the House in 1944 and became immediately thereafter a crusader against the segregation that existed in the dining facilities of the restaurant that served members of the House of Representatives in the United States Capitol building, lost his way in the 1960s, having been drunk with his own power and prestige. He lost a slander suit against a woman named Esther James, whom he had called in 1960 a "bag woman" for the police. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., refused to pay the slander judgment. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest. He could only visit his district in Harlem on Sundays in his capacity as th pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. He spent his free time outside of his Congressional duties in Bimini, an island in the Bahamas.
Here is an interesting synopsis of the beginning of Adam Clayton Powell's descent from power as the first black to be elected to the House of Representatives from the State of New York and the founder of a political organization that produced the likes of the late Borough of Manhattan President Percy Sutton, former Mayor of the City of New York David N. Dinkins, and former New York State Senator Basil Paterson, the father of the embattled and, most likely, soon-to-be former Governor of the State of New York, David Paterson:
THE TROUBLE went back to one Sunday night in March 1960, when Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., engaged in one of his periodic tilts against the New York City Police Department, appeared on a local TV news program and accused various Harlem Negroes of colluding with corrupt cops in the policy rackets. Among those he named was one Esther James a "bag woman," Powell said, who delivered payoffs to the officers of Washington Heights.
Esther James was a 64-year-old widow, a churchgoing grandmother who, far from being a crook, had long been sicking police upon illicit enterprises in her Amsterdam Ave. neighborhood, to the degree that an irritated gambler had once shot her in the foot. Still painfully hobbling around to this day, she was very much offended by the congressman's thoroughly baseless charge. She demanded an apology. He paid no attention to her. And so she sued him for $1 million.
Legal processes being what they were, it took the widow James until the spring of 1963 to get her slander case into court as Powell claimed congressional immunity, argued that his remarks were congressionally privileged, contended that he could not be sued. Eventually ordered to stand trial, he thought so little of the proceedings that he didn't bother to appear his own defense. On April 4, a Manhattan Supreme Court jury awarded plaintiff $211,500.
"God bless America!" Esther James wept gratefully. "I got my good name back! The king is dead! Now he will just have to keep his big mouth shut!"
"We felt," agreed a juror, "that nobody has a right to shoot off his mouth that way, especially a member of Congress who should know better."
Now all the defamed lady had to do was collect. But Adam Clayton Powell, it appeared, did not intend to cough up a dime.
BY YEAR'S END, as court officers concluded that they could not attach any of Powell's assets or properties because he had transferred them to other parties, further actions were brought against the congressman. He won brief stays, solemnly promising to come in and submit his financial records to examination. But he never showed up. Accordingly, he was found in contempt of court.
And, accordingly, a duly elected member of the United States House of Representatives now became technically subject to arrest at such time as he ever again set foot in his home district.
EXCEPT ON Sunday, a day on which warrants could not by law be served. And so, in early 1964, Powell began showing his face in New York only on Sundays, preaching his sermon at his Abyssinian Baptist Church and then quickly departing again, either for Washington, where a New York warrant also couldn't touch him, or, as often as not, for Puerto Rico, where he liked to take the sun. And still Esther James saw not a cent.
POWELL GOT A break in February, when the Appellate Division decided that $211,500 was excessive and chopped the award to $46,500. Even so, he didn't wish to pay that, either. "And he calls himself a minister!" snapped James. "I'll fight this man till I'm 99!"
Severely handicapped by his inability to trot out his standard claim that he was the victim of vicious racial persecution since Esther James was, after all, a black lady Powell now fell back on his next most convenient position: He had no time to address legal nuisances, he said, because his presence in Washington was crucial to the future of the pending civil rights bill.
"The diligent application of my attention to this legislation vitally involves the welfare of the entire nation!" he said. At one point, he suggested that the bill would already have been passed had only he not been distracted so. "When I'm not there, things bog down!" he protested. It was noted that he was on holiday in Puerto Rico at the very moment he issued this announcement.
Still, the New York court, in deference to Powell's office, remained patient with him for a number of weeks yet. In May, finally, after he once again ignored an order to appear, Supreme Court Justice Thomas Chimera decided he'd had enough.
"Everything he's done in the past is coming to roost," Chimera said. "The conduct of defendant in this matter has been so flagrantly contemptuous of the authority and dignity of this court as to promote a tragic disrespect for the judicial process as a whole. ... The fact of the matter is, no one is asking the congressman to do any more than any other judgment debtor is required to do. ... There is, in my judgment, no foreseeable day on which we may expect this man to appear on his own."
At which point, the judge signed an arrest order.
"I think I know where he can be served today," ventured James' lawyer.
"You're kidding," Chimera grunted. "You'd never find him."
POWELL'S WASHINGTON office said there would be no comment because the congressman was very busy on the floor of the House. Adam Clayton Powell was very seldom at a loss for words. But he was now in a deep trouble, visited upon him by a single angry little widow woman from Amsterdam Ave., and he was a long way from wriggling out of it. (CONDUCT OF DEFENDANT THE WIDOW AND THE CONGRESSMAN, MAY 1964.)
United States Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was also billing taxpayers for his trips to his island resort in Bimini, where he was to be found even when he was supposed to be tending to his legislative duties, and padding his payroll, which included his third wife, Yvette Diego Powell, who admitted to a House hearing chaired by the late United States Representative Emmanuel Celler (D-Brooklyn, New York), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1949 to 1953 and again from 1955 to 1973, that she had not done a "lick of work" for the money she was paid:
SENSING THAT IT might now be desirable to rid himself of his contempt-of-court problems in New York, Powell quickly paid the ever-persistent Esther James a $33,000 down payment against the slander damages he had owed her for four years. Otherwise, he was not notably contrite: Appearing on Feb. 8 before Celler's board of inquiry, Powell denounced the panel as "unconstitutional" and "illegitimate" and flatly refused to answer any questions.
His testimony was not necessary. From her home in Puerto Rico finally came Yvette Powell, the accused's estranged third wife, who held a $20,578 staff job and now confessed that she hadn't done a lick of work in nearly two years; moreover, she said, her husband routinely cashed her paychecks himself, her signature forged. (MAU MAU Martyring Powell, February-April 1967)
Powell, who had been excluded from taking the oath of office at the beginning of the Ninetieth Congress on January 3, 1967, was expelled from House by a vote of 307 to 116 on March 1, 1967, even though the special committee chaired by Representative Celler recommended that Powell be censured by the House, fined $45,000, and stripped of his chairmanship and seniority. Powell was outraged, announcing that he would, from Bimini, of course, seek to replace himself in the special election on April 11, 1967, winning with eighty-six percent of the votes cast. Powell did not force the issue of a re-seating, filing a lawsuit that resulted in a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the case of Powell v. McCormack on June 16, 1969, that the United States House of Representatives had acted unconstitutionally in expelling a duly elected member who had not been permitted even to take his oath of office for a new term. The decision in that case came after Powell had been re-elected on November 5, 1968, to a thirteenth term, after which he had been seated without a problem.
Although keeping a somewhat lower profile than before, Powell was fined $25,000 and denied his seniority, which he used an excuse to increase his absenteeism from House proceedings. It was against this backdrop that Assemblyman Charles B. Rangel, a thirty-third degree Mason and a Catholic who has become an ardent champion of baby-killing under the cover of the civil law in the decades after the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton on January 22, 1973, challenged Powell, upsetting the flamboyant incumbent in a Democratic Party primary held in 1970, serving in the United States House of Representatives ever since.
United State Representative Charles Bernard Rangel, who has maintained his "good standing" in the structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism despite his ardent support for baby-killing, first established his reputation nationally as a member of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, then chaired by United States Representative Peter Rodino, for his sharp, pertinent questioning of witnesses during the committee's impeachment hearings against then President Richard Milhous Nixon in 1974. Over the course of time, however, the feisty, combative Rangel, who mocked then President Ronald Wilson Reagan's anti-Soviet policies and supported the Communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, became as much entrenched as had his predecessor, aping the late Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.'s, disregard for ethics as he became used to the perquisites and privileges of power and prestige. Thus it is that Charles Bernard Rangel became over the course of time something of mirror image of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., albeit more attentive to his legislative duties and without his late predecessor's legendary flamboyance.
Rangel was even, at least initially, defiant when the Ethics Committee of the United States House of Representatives, which had been conducting an investigation into his activities at a pace that compares favorably to the former independent counsel Kenneth Starr's long years of investigation then President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton without prosecuting the fiend for his crimes, found him guilty of violating House rules when he took trips to the Caribbean that had been funded by lobbyists. Rangel claimed that he could not be blamed for the mistakes of his staff aides:
WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Democrat Charles Rangel, the top tax writer in the U.S. Congress, was admonished by a congressional ethics committee for taking corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean, a finding he said defied "common sense."
The House of Representatives ethics committee concluded that Rangel broke the chamber's gift rules in taking the trips but it did not immediately release its report. Rangel called a news conference on Thursday after news accounts disclosed the findings.
Quoting from his copy of the report, Rangel said it found he did not know the trips in 2007 and 2008 were underwritten by corporations, but that two of his staffers did.
"Common sense dictates that members of Congress should not be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing or errors of staff, unless there's reason to believe that the member knew or should have known -- and there's nothing in the record to indicate the latter," Rangel told reporters on Capitol Hill.
"I think right now I have to let the general community make its own judgment," Rangel said.
Rangel declined to respond when asked if he would step down as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Republicans, who have called repeatedly for Rangel's resignation as committee chairman, said the findings made a mockery of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's pledge to run the most ethical Congress in history.
"The Democratic majority now has a serious ethics scandal on its hands, thanks in-part to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi," said Ken Spain, communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"For months, and even years, Nancy Pelosi has been promoting corrupt actors within her caucus ranks when she should have been punishing them," said Spain.
"Struggling middle class Americans deserve better than to have a tax cheat chairing a powerful congressional committee," he said.
The ethics committee probe of the New York lawmaker has gone on for more than a year.
The panel, composed of three Democrats and three Republicans, is still looking other matters, including his use of a rent-controlled apartment and his fundraising for the Charles Rangel Center for Public Service in New York City.
While the investigation has cast a shadow over Rangel, he has retained the support of a number of key Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As of late Thursday, the ethics committee had not released its report. But Rangel read portions of it to reporters.
"Charles B. Rangel violated the house gift rules," the committee said, adding that release of its report would constitute a "public admonishment."
As one of the most powerful U.S. lawmakers, Rangel spent much of Thursday at a White House summit designed to try to find an elusive bipartisan agreement to overhaul U.S. healthcare. (Rangel says US ethics panel ruled against him)
Although Rangel, who is a genuine, decorated Korean War hero, announced on Wednesday, March 3, 2010, that he would step aside temporarily as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, this is but a face-saving measure in light of the future censures that await him for the use of four rent-stabilized apartments in a Harlem building and for his failure to disclose income from various sources and his soliciting for donations for an academic center to be named in his honor at Baruch College of the City University of New York system on his official Congressional stationery. He will soon join the ranks of the late United States Representative Wilbur Mills, who was engaged in a late-night scuffle with an Argentine woman named
Annabelle Battistella (aka Fanne Fox) on October 9, 1974, as a former Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
There are countless other examples of this. Indeed, one can think of the scathing criticisms that leaders of the Society of Saint Pius X once offered about the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and what were then called "indult" Masses. The priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter were termed compromisers and appeasers who would be unable to defend the Faith as they found themselves coopted by the conciliar authorities to adapt to the mentality of the "Second" Vatican Council and of the Protestant and Masonic Novus Ordo service. None other than the Superior-General of the Society of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, criticized the compromising spirit of Bishop Fernando Areas Rifan just two months after latter participated in a "concelebrated" offering of the Novus Ordo service in Recife, Brazil:
I just would like to give you some steps on one person who is the head of Campos. Before he was consecrated a bishop, Fr. Rifan, just a few months before, said in Rome to the Vicar General —who repeated it to Fr. Schmidberger, so we have it from a direct source —said, "I have no problem with celebrating the New Mass, but I don’t do it because it would cause trouble to the faithful." So when Rome is consecrating Rifan a bishop, they know already that he has no objection to celebrating the New Mass. I think it is important to see that. That is the first step.
I may say that there is even a step before. Before that, he goes with the diocesan Corpus Christi procession, and he says to those who oppose it, "If we would not have done that, we would have jeopardized the agreement with Rome." It shows you the direction.
The next step will be the jubilee of the diocese of Campos. For that occasion, of course, the local bishop is having a great ceremony, and Rome invites Bishop Rifan to go to that New Mass, to be there. And Bishop Rifan goes there. He does not participate in the sense of concelebrating the Mass, but he is there present with all his ecclesiastical ornaments, with a surplice and so on. He is really there at this New Mass.
The next step will be the Requiem [i.e., the Novus Ordo "Resurrection"] Mass for the bishop who had kicked them out, Bishop Navarro. At that Requiem Mass, you have Bishop Rifan there, and also the nuncio. The nuncio invites Bishop Rifan to go to Communion, and Bishop Rifan receives Communion at this New Mass.
The next step will be the Mass of Thanksgiving of the new cardinal of Sao Paolo. This time, Bishop Rifan is there again present at that New Mass; he is in the choir. He is not in his surplice; nevertheless, at the time of consecration, with the other priests and bishops celebrating, he raises his hands and says the words of consecration. A seminarian saw him.
And now, the 8th of September this year, we have photos and even a video of the Mass concelebrated by Bishop Rifan on the occasion of the centennial of the coronation of Our Lady of the Aparecida, who is the patroness of Brazil. He is concelebrating the New Mass, a New Mass where you have really scandalous happenings: ladies giving Communion in the hand, a ceremony of coronation where, among all the cardinals and bishops, there is a lady who is crowning our Lady, and so on. Trying to defend himself, he said "But I did not say the words of consecration." I may say, that makes it even worse, because that means he is cheating.
That’s the evolution: now he is two years a bishop, and he is already concelebrating the New Mass. You see, and that is the natural development which was announced from the start by the officials in Rome, Cottier, now Cardinal Cottier and Msgr. Perl. At the time of the agreement between Campos and Rome, Cottier said: "Now they have recognized the Council. The next step will be the new Mass." He even said, "There is a natural, psychological dynamic." And you see in Bishop Rifan a real, natural, clear demonstration of this phrase. (EXTRACT from Bishop Fellay's November 10, 2004 conference in Kansas City, MO regarding Bishop Rifan's actions.)
Look at what has happened in the past sixty-four months since that conference was given in Kansas City, Missouri. The leaders of the Society of Saint Pius X have become just as silent about Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's apostasies and sacrileges and blasphemies as the leaders of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, and all of the other Motu communities and diocesan priests/presbyters who offer or simulate the modernized version of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition (see
Pressing the Mute Button). The leaders of the Society of Saint Pius X have indeed become exactly what they once opposed with vigor and force. And this is to say nothing of how some of those once associated with the Society of Saint Pius X have become as arbitrary in their treatment of the sheep as they themselves had been treated by the Society's leaders.
We must never lose sight of the fact that any one of us can fall in such a way. For it is one thing to change one's positions and to admit this openly, it is quite another to be transformed unknowingly into the very thing that one had opposed with vigor long before. (And I think in this regard of a former professor and colleague of mine who, a bit into the cups, shall we say, denounced those professors who were chronically late for the start of their classes and never stayed on the subject matter of the course they were supposed to teach, a perfect description of himself!)
Fallen human nature is such that we can forget that we must be converted on a daily basis, that we must die to self and live penitentially as the consecrated slaves of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to avoid becoming caricatures of what we ourselves have criticized or have indeed opposed in the past. Such a fall need not be fatal, however. We simply have to have the humility to admit that we have fallen into such a trap and to seek out the Mercy of the Divine Redeemer in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance, begging Our Lord to send us the graces through the loving hands of His Most Blessed Mother, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces, that are necessary for us to recognize our faults and our failings and to never think ourselves so self-important that we are beyond criticism. Indeed, the Examination of Conscience that we are supposed to make every night requires us to realize just how far short we fall of what it is to be a disciple of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, just how much we have to do to reform our own lives so that the weeds of Venial Sin can be rooted out and true virtue begin to grow and to take firm root in our immortal souls.
Each of us must fight a daily battle against the influences of the world, the flesh, and the devil upon our souls. The devil hates us because we are made in the image and the likeness of the One he hates, the Most Blessed Trinity, and he desires to use all of his powers to drag us down with him into Hell for all eternity.
Thus it is that we need to pray to Our Lady that we will be willing to accept humiliations and injustices in this life with perfect equanimity of spirit as we pray for those whose attacks, far from being an occasion of anger and self-righteousness, are actually the means sent to us by God to perfect our sins, to make reparation for our sins, to plant at least a few good seeds for the conversion of men and their nations to the Catholic Faith, including the conversion of men like Charles Rangel and David Paterson and everyone else in public life who have fallen prey to the vagaries of their own sins and who have never understood that they must serve Christ the King at all times, both in their own personal lives and in their civil capacities, as He Has revealed Himself to us exclusively through His true Church. We must pray for humiliation and sufferings so that our disordered self-love and our pride can be beaten out of us once and for all, making us more fit to serve the cause of restoring all things in Christ the King through Mary our Immaculate Queen, especially by praying as many Rosaries each day as our states-in-life permit.
By trusting in Our Lady, wearing her Miraculous Medal and her Brown Scapular (fulfilling the terms associated with its promises), we use the weapon of the Most Holy Rosary to make sure that can oppose the wiles of the devil in our own lives, making us better able to save our own souls and to help those who have become drunk with their own power and influence in this world to save theirs as members of the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation and without which there can be no true social order.
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?
Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saint Timothy, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints