The convert and likely candidate for President was the keynote speaker at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast this morning.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivered the keynote speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast Wednesday morning. If the audience’s reaction is any indicator, he’ll have to do a lot more to woo religious conservatives in a presidential run.
Gingrich, who became a Catholic in 2009, discussed his conversion as a gradual process led by his wife Callista, a life-long Catholic. “People ask me why I chose to become Catholic,” he said. “It is more accurate to say that I became Catholic and eventually realized one day that I should accept the faith that surrounded me.”
The former speaker’s appearance at the breakfast shows he’s trying to shore up his religious bona fides, in advance of a possible presidential run. Still, Gingrich’s past affairs and two divorces, including one that an ex-wife said he suggested as she recovered from cancer in the hospital, continue to haunt him. The audience gave him a warm but not hearty round of applause, and many criticized his past infidelities.
“You can say ‘mea culpa’ as many times as you want, but that doesn’t change what he did to his wife,” said one volunteer who asked not to be named because of her affiliation with the organization. “People just don’t forget that kind of thing.”
Gingrich walked the audience through his “faith journey to Catholicism” and recalled a discussion with Reverend Monsignor Walter Rossi of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
The two men chatted about “the crisis of secularism in Europe and the growth of a government-favored pagan culture to replace Christianity,” he said, and agreed that American churchgoers are now facing a similar predicament.
“The American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites and, as a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media, and judicial class in America,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich blasted the “fanaticism of the secularists,” pointing to controversial court rulings, opposition to displays of the cross on public property and a push by scientists to replace the Anno Domini dating system with the Common Era system.
He said the “constant secular pressure” guided him to embrace Catholicism.
“Callista and I have two grandchildren,” he explained. “The more I thought about the culture they are surrounded by and the direction of that culture’s evolution, the more troubled I became. The more I looked at this historic phenomenon, the more I had to come to grips with my own beliefs and my own tolerance of the increasingly aggressive secularization of our country.”
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