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Bart and the Holy See


“W ell done, Congressman. Helluva job.”

“Unbelievable, Congressman. Truly a blessing.”

Congressman Bart Stupak continued to work his way from the dais to the exit through the small ballroom at the New York Hilton. The Mid-Atlantic chapter of the NRLC had just honored him with their man-of-the-year award, and now he was trying to gladhand as few of the believers as possible to make it to another appointment, just a few blocks away at the Archbishop’s residence.

Bob Sanderson, the chapter chair, waited by the exit and took as they exited into the hallway. “Bart, great job. The Archbishop’s going to give you a warm welcome. And he’s a bourbon and scotch man, so you might want to think about how you want to wet your whistle on the way over there. Give him my regards.”

The Congressman crossed the lobby and stepped out into the raw November night. The Empire State Building burned bright blue and white in tribute to the Yankee’s recent victory. From the ballfield to the boardroom to the halls of Congress, Michigan had taken it on the chin this past year. The Tigers awful collapse, Obama’s imperious task force and that martinet Waxman displacing Dingell – the tide was running out fast on his state. His district didn’t bear the brunt of the slaughter. His upstate consitutents never had it good anyway, at least not in the sense of the Grosse Pointe and Blomfield Hills types, so they had less to lose. But even the average Joe could sense that the state’s sense of purpose, its place in this great nation, was ebbing fast.

He headed east on 52nd Street towards the Cardinal’s residence on Madison. He caught the spire of St. Patrick’s and it cheered him, as it always did. It spoke to him in a personal way, saying “Look around you, amid all this, and be a beacon, be the best, shine so that others might believe.”

God, I made some believers out of me recently. The sweet, sweet victory of putting that helmet-haired Pelosi in her place, an old styled Michigan payback to those Californians for what they did to John. She thought the votes would just line up and march right behind her on health care. Health care, his domain, where he’d brought Big Pharma and others to heel during the past two years of his chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. Nancy had counted on rounding up Democrats. What she hadn’t counted on was rounding up people of faith.

The Archbishop had summoned him upon learning of the award he was to receive. The Congressman was not interested in receiving a job-well-done handshake. He was here to press his case – to seek the Ambassadorship to the Holy See.

The thought of his presenting his credentials to Benedict at the Castel Gandalfo made him weak at his knees, a schoolboy at his prom. But effecting this was not trivial. Ambassador Diaz and been confirmed by the Senate just three months prior. Diaz seemed like a good man, but he was a theologian, and the Vatican needed another theologian milling around like a hole in the head. Stupak knew he could be re-elected, and then 6 month’s later be installed as the Ambassador. Diaz, an educator at heart, could be kicked aside to head up some Catholic university, maybe one of the minor ones in upstate New York.

He turned right on Madison and saw the illuminated entrance at 452 Madison. A police car was parked out front. Twenty-five years ago it could have been him in that car, protecting His Eminence. One year as a beat cop and eleven years as a state trooper, and here he was twenty-five years later about to ask the most powerful Catholic in the country for an ambassadorship to the Vatican. It was his to ask. He made the Catholic Bishops relevant again in the public arena, no small feat given the two decade rise of Protestant fundamentalism in Washington.

A door opened as he approached, and a Monsignor waved him in. “Welcome, Congressman. I’d like to add my personal note of thanks for your eponymous amendment. A great victory for you, and even more so for the lives of the most innocent. The Archbishop is in the conference room, second door on your left.”

The Residence was more men’s club than rectory. Wood paneling rather than blandly painted plaster, wooden backed chairs with velvet cushions rather than the stiff chairs that looked like they failed tryouts for electric chairs – the Archbishop had it pretty good. He knocked twice sharply on the door before letting himself in. At the near end of the tennis court-sized oaken table sat the Archbishop and Monsignor Hebda, about to be installed as Bishop of his native Gaylord diocese.


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