My Life with the FBI

                                          DANCING WITH THE FBI

While working on the literary adventure of my Memoirs I received two large cardboard boxes in the mail.  Much to my surprise they were gifts from the FBI—my Freedom of Information (FOIA) files of about 300 pages, only a small part of some 10,000 pages covering all my US “intelligence” agencies’ records of my nefarious past.  I had applied for them so long ago that I had given up hope of ever seeing them.  They provide the only practical means, short of personal counter- intelligence, to US citizens of learning how their own government snoops into their lives.
This intensive campaign of spying and careful record keeping also served the purpose of reminding me of activities I had long forgotten.  Among other things, I had been named as an unindicted co-conspirator (later dropped) in the Harrisburg 8 Conspiracy case for planning to kidnap Henry Kissinger and placing bombs under the Capitol, which FBI chief JE Hoover wanted to use to discredit our religious peace movement. 
Apparently on April 1, 1972 “at a rally held in Harrisburg… Paul Mayer read 8 names of persons claiming responsibility for the York sabotage… [where] 313 casings for 500 pound bombs ready for shipment were damaged by a group referring to itself as ‘Citizens Committee to Demilitarize Industry’….  While it is recognized that Mayer will be uncooperative when contacted…every investigative venue must be pursued to its logical conclusion.”
The files engage in a fascinating analysis of my views on non-violence and violence.  “Subject states that violence does not apply to things, such as draft files, but to people, such as napalmed children in Vietnam….  And subject states that ‘the day may come when to be non-violent may be more violent than to be violent’—a position once hinted at by Ghandi.  But when a synopsis states that: “He believes that violence which applies to people is sometimes justified,” one analyst almost comes to my defense with “Advise in detail where this is supported?” and concludes that “in no instances do the details indicate subject has stated (or believes) violence to people is sometimes justified.”  They were trying to determine just how dangerous I was.  My day-and-night observers were also troubled that “he has expressed brotherhood with the Black Panthers and Weatherman while disagreeing with their tactics.”
Hoover’s G-Men seemed to listen to every rally speech, monitor my sermons and read every op-ed piece.  Of course they also used phone taps and informers.  I later realized that we had one living right in our East Orange community house.  Through the interception of some grandiose correspondence with a prisoner they accused me of traveling to Cuba in 1970 to raise money—a far-fetched and fictitious charge because this was many years before my first visit to Cuba.  Similarly they discovered that I was “organizing minor sabotage among employees at Picattiny Arsenal.”  This charge was true and the leak scuttled a potentially powerful and profound action.  I had met a group of devout Catholic laymen who worked as engineers and technicians in one of the biggest bomb plants in the country in Dover, NJ.  They were seriously and prayerfully contemplating some act of nonviolent action against these instruments of death and  I always thought that their or my phones had been tapped. 
It was apparently through this same leak that the protectors of our First Amendment also discovered that “he assisted in harboring fugitive XXXX” (name blanked out but undoubtedly they meant Fr. Dan Dan Berrigan).

The files also report that “Paul Mayer led 15 persons in a sit-in at the Archdiocese of NY offices to protest the RC Church’s position regarding demands made by _________ [James Foreman in the Black Manifesto] for reparation to negroes.”
Finally “Due to his anarchistic (sic) beliefs, including his views of violence and his involvement at least in the defense of those who have participated in the destruction of Government property in opposition to the Vietnam War; and due to his frequent travels throughout the country making speeches supporting his views to obtain funds and muster support both for his cause and the cause of  PCPJ, it is recommended that Mayer be placed on  Priority II of the Security Index.”  It’s nice to get a promotion somewhere.
Would that US military, police, prison and intelligence agencies be held to such scrutiny, high standards and moral delicacy about their views on and use of violence.

                                                                                                                        Paul Mayer

Wrestling with Angels: A Spiritual Memoir of a Political Life

   In his recently completed memoir, Paul Mayer revisits the major social and political movements of the last fifty years—the Civil Rights, anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, Latin America, the Cold War, Cuba. These are the movements of his life. Mayer was there, not only as a concerned citizen activist, but as part of his soul’s commitment to justice. In his memoir, he traces his commitment and involvement and the personal struggles he faced in living out his convictions.
   Paul Mayer escaped from Nazi Germany with his parents just as the persecution of Jews was intensifying. He grew up in Washington Heights in Manhattan. There he faced bullying from the Irish gangs in his neighborhood. But he befriended some of those Irish kids and learned about their lives and religion. He converted to Catholicism and later became a Benedictine monk.
   As a monk and priest in a church that was responding to rapidly changing times, he “heard the cry of the people” and entered the arena of active engagement in political life. In Wrestling with Angels, Paul Mayer takes us through the times, the turbulence, the movements and critical moments of our culture.
   As he does so, he poses the questions: What does it mean to act with integrity? What is the role of a person with conscience in an unjust society? How can an individual foster justice and peace where these qualities are lacking? How far do we have to go? Or perhaps the question is this: How far in do we let ourselves be drawn?
   Wrestling with Angels is a rare and privileged socio-cultural history lesson. Reading it helps us understand where we are today and why. It is also a unique window into the realm of a soul fully engaged in the political and social struggles of the last half century. Reflecting on Mayer’s account of his life can help us understand ourselves in relation to our world today and how to engage with it.
   Paul Mayer was married to a former Medical Missionary nun. They raised two children of their own, Peter and Maria. Today Mayer is active on behalf of the planet as co-founder the Climate Crisis Coalition begun in 2003 to mobilize organizations to work for the protection of the environment. He continues the public speaking and organizing that has marked his career. He also serves as a wedding minister and teaches yoga to the elders in his inner-city community.
   His life, Mayer says, has been “filled with grace, disaster, many missteps and moments of glory.” It’s a life that has been marked by struggles with authorities and “powers and principalities.” He has, in the biblical sense, “wrestled with angels.”

He is presently seeking literary representation. A proposal, endorsements from political and social leaders and sample chapters are available on request.