Newt Gingrich Opens Up On Catholic Conversion

Newt Gingrich

Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News & World Report had an interesting exchange with recent Catholic convert Newt Gingrich.  The  former House speaker who converted last March was on his way to Europe working on a documentary* on Pope John Paul II’s 1979 trip to Poland where Mr. Gilgoff asked if “he expected this trip to be different from previous visits”:

I don’t know that it’s much different. That’s part of what led to my conversion is the first time we [he and Callista**] went to St. Peter’s together. It’s St. Peter’s. I mean, you stand there and you think, this is where St. Peter was crucified. This is where Paul preached. You think to yourself, two thousand years ago the apostles set out to create a worldwide movement by witnessing to the historic truth they had experienced. And there it is. The last time we were there we were allowed to walk in the papal gardens and you get this sense that is almost mystical.

The moment that finally convinced me [to convert] was when Benedict XVI came here [to the United States] and Callista in the church choir sang for him at the vespers service and all the bishops in the country were there. As a spouse, I got to sit in the upper church and I very briefly saw [Benedict] and I was just struck with how happy he was and how fundamentally different he was from the news media’s portrait of him. This guy’s not a Rottweiler. He’s a very loving, engaged, happy person.

I’d first seen Pope John Paul II when he came to the U.S. when Carter was president and I was a freshman congressman. And I [later] met him as Speaker.

The other sense is that the church has had two of its most powerful popes back to back, in their intellectual ability to engage the secular world on behalf of Christ. And the weight of all that, and going with [Callista] to church every Sunday to the Basilica [in Washington, D.C.], a magnificent church with a wonderful mass. In that sense I felt differently a long time ago, which is why I converted.

And part of me is inherently medieval. I resonate to Gothic churches and the sense of the cross in a way that is really pre-modern.

Mr. Gilgoff added: Callista, who is Catholic and who was key to Gingrich’s conversion, added that it was “10 years in the making,” starting around the time Gingrich left the House in 1999. I asked Gingrich if his conversion had changed some fundamental political beliefs for him. He said it was the other way around—that political developments had made him more overtly Christian:

The whole effort to create a ruthless, amoral, situational ethics culture has probably driven me toward a more overt Christianity. I’ll give you an example. As a college student at Emory when the Supreme Court ruled that school prayer was unconstitutional [in 1963] after 170 years of American history, I didn’t notice it. As a graduate student at Tulane I probably would have said it’s a good decision.

I’ve now had an additional 40 years to think about it. And I think about the world of my grandchildren. I don’t think American children are healthier, safer, and better off today than they were in 1963. So I have actually become more conservative in response to the failure of the liberal ethos to solve problems.

For the story click here.

For more information on Newt Gingrich’s conversion click here.

* The documentary, Nine Days That Changed the World, is slated for release this Fall.

** Callista is his wife.

34 Responses to Newt Gingrich Opens Up On Catholic Conversion

  • Callista also was the woman with whom he was having an affair when he left his most current wife. There is something sickening about one’s adultress leading one into the Church.

  • I abhor Newt’s past as much as you do.

    Though only time will tell if his conversion is genuine, unlike Tony Blair’s dishonest conversion.

  • There is something sickening about one’s adultress leading one into the Church.

    Have you ever checked out the biography of King David (it’s in the Old Testament)? Adultery AND murder. Yet God seemed to forgive him for some inscrutable reason. Maybe you could figure that out.

  • Callista also was the woman with whom he was having an affair when he left his most current wife. There is something sickening about one’s adultress leading one into the Church.

    Or glorious. Not excusing their previous behavior at all, but if through their relationship they assist each other in sanctity and achieving salvation, then I suppose they would be another example of God turning evil into good. I know I’ve witnessed and personally experienced that great mercy of God.

    Tito, I disagree with Blair on things too, but I don’t think it is just to say it was a “dishonest conversion”. He may be horribly wrong and obstinately so, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that his becoming Catholic was done dishonestly. I’m just sayin’…

  • Rick,

    I was a bit hasty in my comments concerning Mr. Blair. I probably should have said “the poorly catechized Tony Blair”.

    ;)

  • MZ,

    Perhaps God can draw good out of evil.

  • Tito, I disagree with Blair on things too, but I don’t think it is just to say it was a “dishonest conversion”. He may be horribly wrong and obstinately so, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that his becoming Catholic was done dishonestly. I’m just sayin’…

    The difference with Blair is that he “apparently” had no intention of reforming his evil behavior (endorsing abortion and contraception), I don’t think anyone would be foolish enough to suggest that Newt and/or Callista plan to engage in adultery. For myself, I was quite hopeful about Blair and even believed we could cut him some slack about not acting against abortion while still in power (with an understanding of the British parliamentary system), his actions since then make it clear that he is back to his old ways if he ever really left them. In my humble opinion, and with due respect to the great wisdom of the Holy Father, I believe it was an error not to demand a public rejection of his immoral policies.

  • Newt was drawn to Roman Catholicism by pomp and by powerful Popes. He sees Roman Catholicism as a fortress to give ideological weight to his atrocious politics.

    More of the same, down through history.

  • Adding mind reading to your charisms Catholic Anarchist? Of course your comment was completely predictable. From your comments over the years it is quite obvious that for you your Catholicism is merely your Leftist politics dressed up in ecclesi-speak.

  • Thanks for sharing your grace with us, Michael. Unfortunately, I possess a curiosity about the goings on in others’ minds and souls, but I actually consider myself blessed to not be able to peer into the souls of others like you and Padre Pio could. It’s too much of a responsibility. I’d likely abuse the gift by revealing things learned to tear dowm others and make cheap political points. Then again it probably doesn’t much matter because as I’ve learned from the Internet in the past couple years, converts are no good for the Faith anyway.

  • Adding mind reading to your charisms Catholic Anarchist?

    The Newt said it himself, quite openly. Didn’t you read the interview?

  • Seems like it would be appropriate to give mad shoutouts to Newt and Callista for joining our family of faith. Seems like some of youze mugs- Mike I, MZ- want to take a banquet meal and treat it like takeout from KFC. Lots of high quality folks have been swimming the Tiber for about a generation or so- shall we name Scott Hahn, Mark Shea, Padre Neuhaus of blessed memory, Laura Ingraham. And so on and so on. Would seem reasons to rejoice as our catechisis among the born bred and buttered shows up kinda shabby. Silly me. Just like Billy Joel- I’d rather laff with the sinners than cry with the saints. Meanwhile hearty welcome to Newt and Callista and stay strong in what youze been taught.

  • I read the interview Catholic Anarchist. Obviously we came to very different conclusions based upon the interview. Gingrich appeared to be paying tribute to the 2000 year witness of the Church to the Gospel of Christ, the joy that Pope Benedict has, the intellectual prowess of John Paul II and Pope Benedict in engaging the secular world, traditional Gothic architecture, and the need for a Christian counterpoise to amoral situational ethics. You can argue Catholic Anarchist that these are not his true beliefs, but that is what Gingrich said.

  • What I find interesting is the deep love and appreciation that Mr. Gingrich has for history. As Cardinal Newman once said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

  • Obviously we came to very different conclusions based upon the interview.

    Yes. Obvious.

  • Shame on you, Donald, for imagining that someone could be moved to an appreciation of the divine by something like St. Peter’s Basilica or a Gothic cathedral. Such things are nothing more than worldly pomp.

    Hopefully the truly enlightened can make sure that they’re smashed once the revolution comes and the worldwide proletariat brings about a realization of the True Faith.

  • MI says Gingrich was attracted to “powerful Popes,” implying an attraction to secular power, without noting that Gingrich defined that phrase: “in their intellectual ability to engage the secular world on behalf of Christ.”

  • Have you ever checked out the biography of King David (it’s in the Old Testament)? Adultery AND murder. Yet God seemed to forgive him for some inscrutable reason. Maybe you could figure that out.

    Perhaps you should re-read that biography. David was close with God before the adultery, and then left God’s graces after commiting it.

    More generally,
    To speak of sin being an instrument in one’s conversion is messed up theology. It is one thing for a prostitute to recognize her deep sin and recognize her need for salvation because of it a la Dostoyevsky tale. It is another to claim that God used Newt’s sexual appetite to cause him to leave yet another woman so that he could join the Catholic Church.

  • And yet God used David’s sexual appetite for Bathsheba to bring into being Solomon. The first child born to David and Bathsheba paid the price of their adultery and David’s murder of Uriah. Yet out of these terrible sins God brought into being the Davidic line. To recognize the power of God to bring good out of sin does not condone the sin, but merely states the obvious.

  • Is there nothing you won’t justify?

  • I thought God has infinite mercy?

  • Michael I.,

    Your lies will not be tolerated.

    If you are incapable of behaving as a Christian you will not have your comments approved.

  • To say that God brough good out of an evil situation isn’t to “justify” the evil.

  • The power of God to bring good out of evil MZ needs no justification by me or by anyone else. It is a self-evident fact, or else all of us would be damned.

  • Wow! Gingrich is now David and the Jesus.

    *mutters something about messianism.*

  • Only God knows what is in the hearts of men… and M.Z.

  • Actually MZ my guess is that in the confessional Gingrich was in the role of the sinful tax collector at the Temple. Readers of this thread can determine who is in the role of the proud Pharisee.

  • Um, if I said that “a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany” that Gingrich is a wonderful guy, then it would be OK to point to messianism. But all I did was point out another instance in history where God brought good out of a sinful situation; anyone with half a brain can see I’m not saying that Gingrich himself is akin to David.

  • Aside from the notoriety and the added salaciousness of it being known that he and Callista were having an affair prior to his having divorced his most recent wife — Gingrich’s case doesn’t necessarily sound all that different from some of the run-of-the-mill conversions I’ve dealt with helping out on RCIA team. It’s very common to have someone coming in through RCIA be the spouse or “significant other” of a current or lapsed Catholic. It’s also pretty common for both to have prior marriages or entanglements that need to be sorted out before they can be accepted into the Church.

    In both the Austin and Los Angeles dioceses, where I have experience, the policy is not to let people into the Church until their current marriages or living arrangements have been regularized. Unless things are vastly different in DC, I would thus assume that Newt and Callista’s prior marriages were declared to be invalid and their existing civil marriage blessed prior to his being received into the Church. (If things weren’t done that way, I’d consider it highly problematic.)

    I suppose it’s a matter of taste whether one talks about God “using” such relationships to bring people into the Church or one simply observes that it happens often, but my experience is that it is quite common for people to come into the Church as a result of the influence of someone he or she has slept with in the past outside of wedlock.

  • Wow. From MZ’s “response” over at Vox Nova:

    Having been so impressed by his current wife’s piety, he finally joined the Catholic Church and has appointed himself spokesman for all that is good and holy. To this, the usually suspects give an amen and thank God for Newt’s libido finally finding a Catholic girl to satiate it and leading him to the Church.

    Is anyone stupid enough to believe such a ridiculous caricature? Saying that God can bring good out of evil in no way equates to “thank[ing] God” for the evil. That’s a pretty elementary distinction.

  • “That’s a pretty elementary distinction.”

    One would think.

  • I have heard the speeches of Mr. Newt Gingrich for a long time, long before his Catholic Conversion. I always wondered if he was Catholic. I am surprised to hear that he has converted recently. I would like to tell him not to mind the voices of this Godless, amoral generation. If this generation likes him, like it does Obama, he would be worthless. Mr. Ginggrich, be strong, be just, and do everything you can to change this country back to God to Whom it belongs.

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