An interesting take on the GOP frontrunner’s faith:
Mr. Gingrich represents a new kind of Catholic, one very different from the Kennedys, who were Democrats, political liberals and cradle Catholics shaped by the Irish immigrant church. To a Kennedy-era Catholic, divorce was a sin, labor unions were a virtue and anti-Catholic bigotry was a staple in many Protestant circles.
Mr. Gingrich is a culture wars Catholic for whom the church seems a logical home for conservative Republicans. Generations removed from the Kennedy years when Catholics predictably voted Democratic, this is a new era in which conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants have joined forces in what they see as a defining struggle against abortion, same-sex marriage and secularism.
Critics and cynics have derided Mr. Gingrich’s latest religious transition as a conversion of convenience designed to give moral cover to Mr. Gingrich, who is on his third marriage — this one to Callista Bisek, a former Hill staff member 22 years his junior who had been his mistress for six years. But those who know him say the conversion was sincere, born of both an intellectual and a spiritual attraction to the church of his wife.
Michael Novak, a prominent Catholic writer on philosophy and political culture now teaching at Ave Maria University, a Catholic institution in Florida, said he remembered running into the Gingriches in Rome when Mrs. Gingrich was singing at the Vatican with the basilica choir from Washington.“He was just attracted by the stateliness and the beauty of the church, and the antiquity, and that’s what prodded his historical interest,” Mr. Novak said. “As he got involved with the history, it blew his mind. There was just so much of it and I don’t think he had understood that before, that he really had a sense of the intellectual tradition behind it.”
Mr. Gingrich’s campaign staff did not respond to requests for an interview. He spoke about his conversion this spring in a speech to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington: “People ask me when I decided to become Catholic. It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realized one day that I should accept the faith that surrounded me.”
Like many recent converts to the church, Mr. Gingrich is what Catholics call a “John Paul II Catholic,” those inspired by that pope to embrace traditional church teaching, eschewing calls to liberalize or modernize the faith, Mr. Novak said.
Mr. Gingrich’s enchantment with John Paul led him and his wife to make a documentary film extolling the Polish pope’s role in liberating Poland from the Communism. (The film, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” is co-produced by Citizens United, the same organization involved in the landmark Supreme Court decision on campaign financing.)
George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative research group in Washington, and a papal biographer who appeared in Mr. Gingrich’s movie, said, “Mr. Gingrich was impressed by John Paul II’s courage and by the late pope’s conviction that aroused consciences can be a powerful force in reshaping history — which is what happened with the Solidarity Movement in Poland.”