This post was written by Father Michael P. Morris, Archivist of the Archdiocese of New York.
In the first reading this morning at Holy Mass from the Acts of the Apostles,the Sanhedrin are warned by Gamaliel, a respected Pharisee, not to take the teachings of the Apostles too lightly: So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if it is of men, it will fail, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God (Acts 5: 38-39, RSV). Interestingly, the “G” belonging to the late President Warren G. Harding stands for Gamaliel.
Our twenty-ninth president, selected by a war-weary American electorate in 1920, was a colorful, if not hapless chief executive. His real talent was rooted in his work as a newspaper editor. Harding represented his home state of Ohio in the United States Senate, and in many ways, was a reluctant candidate for the White House. His two and a half year tenure was marred by scandal and the disenchanted Harding once overheard saying: “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floors at night.”
In 1922, a year before Harding’s untimely death, investigators uncovered a scheme where Department of the Navy oil fields in Teapot Dome, Wyoming and California were leased out to private petroleum companies. Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall of New Mexico was implicated in the acceptance of a large bribe, which ultimately resulted in his felony conviction and a nine-month prison sentence. But God was not finished with Albert B. Fall. During his prison stay, Fall converted to Catholicism, and died in 1944…a faithful adherent to the Church. A great lesson in God’s mercy from the annals of American history!