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Monday, August 24, 2009

Time Magazine: Why Newt Gingrich Converted to Catholicism


Newt Gingrich has eagerly embraced the role of political Catholic, taking on liberal Catholics and President Obama
By Amy Sullivan
Monday, August 24, 2009

Visitors to the Basilica of the National Shrine in northeast Washington often do a double take when they see Newt Gingrich and his familiar shock of white hair slip into a pew for the noon Mass on Sundays. The former Speaker of the House is known for many things, but religious zeal is not one of them. In fact, the social conservatives who fueled his Republican revolution in 1994 often complained about Gingrich's lack of interest in issues like abortion or school prayer.

This past spring, however, after several decades as a nominal Southern Baptist, Gingrich converted to Catholicism. With the fervor of a convert, he has embraced the role of defending both his new faith and religious liberty. In his 2006 book, Rediscovering God in America, Gingrich lambasted what he calls the "secular effort to reject any sense of a spiritual life as mattering." And days before he officially joined the Catholic Communion on March 29, he was among the first to criticize the University of Notre Dame for inviting Barack Obama to speak, Twittering (of course): "It is sad to see Notre dame invite President Obama to give the commencement address since his policies are so anti-Catholic."

Gingrich's spiritual awakening has struck more than a few political observers as a bit of positioning for the GOP nomination in 2012. (In the first half of 2009, the former Speaker raked in $8.1 million through his political committee, far outpacing his party rivals.) While he wouldn't be the first to experience a conversion on the road to Des Moines, there are simpler ways of understanding the new godly Gingrich. American Catholicism has been losing members at a remarkable rate; an April 2009 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report found that for every person who joins the Catholic Church, four others leave. But a steady stream of high-profile political conservatives have bucked this trend by converting in the past decade, including columnist Robert Novak, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and CNBC host Larry Kudlow.

Unlike Evangelicals, for whom conversion is often an emotional, born-again experience, Catholic converts tend to make more of a considered decision to join a theological and intellectual tradition. "Conservatives are especially receptive to the promise of there being some capital-T truth that one can embed one's convictions in," says Damon Linker, a former editor of the Catholic journal First Things.

Gingrich describes the appeal of Catholicism for him in just these terms. "When you have 2,000 years of intellectual depth surrounding you," he told me on a recent summer morning, "it's comforting." There's also cachet in conservative political circles to being Catholic. Until their deaths in the past year, Father Richard John Neuhaus and National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. presided over an intellectual haven for conservatives put off by Evangelicals who rail against experts and élites.

Catholicism offers Gingrich not just a strong religious tradition and community. It also gives him peace at home. His wife Callista is a lifelong Catholic who sings in the basilica's professional choir. After the two married in 2000, Gingrich found himself dragged to church whenever they traveled — "she's adamant that we go to Mass" — and started attending services at the basilica to hear Callista sing.

It's not surprising that a man of Gingrich's ambitions would be drawn to the grandeur of worship at the basilica. Incense hangs in the air as the choir's descant reverberates off the highly polished walls of the Greek-style interior. "Isn't it just beautiful?" Gingrich asks. "That's part of what happened to me." (Her husband, Callista says, is an enthusiastic but limited singer: "He makes a joyful noise.")

Gingrich prepared for his conversion with Monsignor Walter Rossi, the Basilica's rector. Because the institution is not a parish church, Gingrich's baptism took place at St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill, where Robert Kennedy attended morning Mass when he served in the Senate. Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl performed the ceremony, with his predecessor Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in attendance. Afterward, a small group of Catholic luminaries celebrated with a dinner at Café Milano in Georgetown.

He may march to the beat of St. Peter these days, but Newt is still Newt. "I don't think of myself as intensely religious," he says. Asked about Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, the first economic and social statement of his papacy, Gingrich admits he hasn't yet read the whole thing but opines that the parts he has examined are "largely correct." And before Mass one July Sunday, Gingrich took a seat near the aisle and bowed his head. But he wasn't praying. Instead, the famously voracious reader was sneaking in a few pages of a novel until the service began.

2 comments:

  1. Well, the Catholic Church has added pollution to their list of deadly sins! they haven't added sins in 1500 years...we can debate global warming, but no one can deny FOSSIL FUELS have contaminated our fish and air quality with MERCURY...we miscarried a daughter because my husband was mercury poisoned from tuna fish, which led to chromosome abnormalities that led to the death of my daughter, the sin of pollution... it is estimated that there are 600,000 miscarriages anually in our nation due to mercury alone...republicans in general like to ignore this fact... i don't know about Newt, but SARAH PALIN is the new face for anti green energy, and the fact is that we need new ideas for fuel alternatives, not more oil company sevants....about Sarah Palin, all I can say is, "simple minds talk about what OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THEM, and intelligent minds talk about new ideas....environment should be one of the top moral concerns of our day, with abortion and gay marriage.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Environment is important, but it does not rank up there with the abominations that cry out to Heaven, such as abortion and homosexuality. How in the world did they determine mercury poison of your husband...that is amazing science! I have never heard this story...do you have a link? I also read that environmental estrogens are destroying male and female fertility and it's everywhere.

    ReplyDelete

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*This video was made during the campaign to ban abortion in South Dakota. Bernard Nathanson repented of his ways and has became Catholic.*

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Randall Terry, founder Operation Rescue, addresses the assassination of George Tiller. Mr. Terry urges the pro-life movement to not surrender words and actions under the heavy opposition from child killers and the Obama administration.

This is, by far, the BEST prayer book I have ever read!

This is, by far, the BEST prayer book I have ever read!
Not just a prayer book for teens...but for people of all ages! You will LOVE it! Order your copy TODAY!

Books for Children

  • Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss
  • The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith, by Josephine Nobisso
  • The Princess and the Kiss, by Jennie Bishop
  • Angel in the Waters, by Regina Doman

More Recommended Reading

  • Abortion: Yes or No? by John L. Grady, M.D.
  • Changed ~ Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One's Abortion Experience, by Michaelene Fredenburg
  • Ending Abortion Not Just Fighting It, by Fr. Frank A. Pavone, M.E.V.
  • Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), by Pope John Paul II
  • God Is Love, An Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI
  • Humane Vitae: A Challenge to Love, by Pope Paul VI
  • Is the Fetus Human? by Eric Pastuszek
  • Led by Faith, by Immaculee Ilibigiza
  • Left to Tell, by Immaculee Ilibigiza
  • Living the Gospel of Life ~ the pastoral statement issued by U.S. Catholic Bishops
  • Noise, by Teresa Tomeo
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hope for the World by Dan Lynch
  • Render Unto Caesar, by Charles J. Chaput
  • The Way to Love, by Anthony De Mello
  • Won By Love, by Norma McCorvey

Dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Patroness of the Americas, Intercessor for the Pre-born
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