He didn’t wait for me to answer. He read my face. “Bob, you’re what we call a social conservative or even a paleo-conservative.” Then he gave a tutorial on liberty, which is the freedom to do what’s right, not the choice between doing good or evil, which is what many people think it is. True liberty, Mike explained, is the freedom to discover what God requires and being unhindered in living it out. It means rendering unto Caesar only what Caesar is entitled to – limiting the government to its God-assigned role of safeguarding peace and justice.
Mike was an evangelist for marriage, God’s way of organizing the world and civilizing men. Married to his dear wife Rose Ann for 41 years, he lectured single guys on the importance of starting a family. “Unmarried men are a blot on the universe,” he’d say, entirely serious. He also could, between sips of Guinness, explain colorfully why the Irish are not especially fond of the British.
Mike’s passion and humor occasionally got him into trouble. Regarding the role of federal judges in legalizing abortion and undermining the rule of law, he quipped to a reporter, “I don’t want to impeach judges. I want to impale them.”
Mike influenced countless people, often by example. When we were hurrying to lunch one day, a homeless man accosted us. Mike spoke gently to him and walked him to a sandwich shop and bought him a sub and a Coke. That was standard procedure. He had a love for the downtrodden that reflected his relationship with Jesus, his beloved church and his blue collar roots.
Two decades ago, Mike became aware of some church officials covering up abuses by homosexual priests. Failing to get change through private channels, he led a press conference exposing the cover-up. “That cost me some friends,” Mike told me.
A couple of weeks before he died, Mike received the Pro-Life Recognition Award from the National Pro-Life Religious Council, and the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Award from Legatus for his 40 years of pro-life service. O’Connor was the courageous New Yorker who quietly opened AIDS treatment facilities and prayed with patients. Because he upheld the church’s moral teachings, he endured hate and even spitting. He was one of Mike’s heroes.
For several years, Mike served as Concerned Women for America’s director of government relations. When I agreed to work for CWA in 2001, Mike was a big reason. If a stand-up guy like that could do it, so could I. We joked for years about the mild flak we got. Mike’s favorite line was, “if you’re a woman and you looked like me, you’d be concerned, too!”
Last Thursday, an overflow crowd at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, Md. said goodbye to one of the most decent, kind and wise men ever to enrich our lives. Our hearts and prayers go out to Rose Ann, four grown children and seven grandchildren.
As for Mike, I have no concerns about where he is right now.