This is weird. It seems that Newt Gingrich and I have similar religious backgrounds. We were both raised Baptist and we both converted to Catholicism. But while I took the pope plunge in the late seventies (and quickly came to realize that the Catholic Church is just as grim and judgmental as the Baptist Church but with prettier costumes), the former Speaker of the House nibbled at his first communion wafer just two days ago - which makes him rather old to be discarding the faith of his fathers for a denomination many Southern Baptists still consider to be the Whore of Babylon.
Max Blumenthal at AlterNet wonders if the twice-divorced Gingrich decided to convert with an eye toward the 2012 presidential race. A Catholic political adviser to Karl Rove and George W. Bush says that Newt's sins - including his affair with a congressional aid - have been magically absolved: "From a Catholic point of view, Newt’s sins no longer exist... He’s made a fresh start in life. So Newt will continue to sin and confess but there aren’t going to be a lot of Catholics who will hold that against him. They understand why being a Catholic makes a difference." (Gotta love that divine power of absolution!)
Blumenthal thoughtfully provides Gingrich's post-adultery backstory: House Republicans intimately aware of his affair with Bisek were involved in forcing Gingrich to resign from Congress so they could push on to their apocalyptic impeachment of Clinton without worrying about Gingrich’s exposure. Gingrich promptly turned to matters of the heart, dumping his second wife, Marianne Ginther. He announced his intention to divorce her just as he had done with his first wife, Jackie Battley—while she was lying in a hospital bed, immobilized after a major medical procedure. (Battley was recovering from cancer surgery; Ginther’s appendix had ruptured.) He never bothered to tell his wife in person that he was leaving her for another woman. He called her on the phone, delivered the news, and hung up.
See, he wouldn't have been able to get away with that shit as a Catholic. Okay, he would have gotten away with everything but the divorce part. The god of Pope Benedict XVI is especially tolerant toward heterosexual philandering.
Now that Gingrich has embraced his third wife's religion, it's unlikely that he'll be marrying again. (Was the savvy Callista thinking about Newt's track record when she put a missal in his hand?) Still, if it's a ticket to heaven - or the presidency - that Gingrich desires, he seems to have lined up his ducks admirably.
Although I no longer participate in the supernatural rituals of the Catholic Church, I'm glad that Newt has found a belief system that offers instant forgiveness for his particular foibles.