Gingrich: “I pray before every major decision”

In the final hours before the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich seemed to be preaching to the choir yesterday — or, at least, speaking to the all-important evangelical voters:

Newt Gingrich spoke about his Catholic religion and belief in God today on two different campaign stops, recognizing the Christian Evangelical support is a necessary factor for caucus success.

Gingrich is still working for last minute Christian votes before Tuesday. He held a telephone meeting with Iowa pastors Friday.

“I pray before virtually every speech and virtually every major decision,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich converted to Catholicism only a few years ago, after marrying his wife, Callista, whom he credits for his faith.

“Callista is a cradle Catholic and grew up in the Catholic church, I’m a convert. But all I can tell you is I find taking communion an enormously rewarding and deepening experience,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich changed religious denominations several times and as a politician with more than 30 years in the public sector, his tumultuous personal life has been lived out in public.

Gingrich has been divorced twice and his third marriage began with a long affair while he was Speaker of the House.

“I’ve been very clear publicly I’m not a perfect human being and I’ve made mistakes in my life and I’ve had to apologize to God and to seek reconciliation,” Gingrich told a self-proclaimed evangelical lady during the question and answer portion of a town hall in Atlantic, Iowa, who asked if he could win the evangelical vote.

“I believe most evangelicals know that defeating Obama is at heart of our country’s future,” Gingrich said, “I think what you’ll find is overall, overwhelmingly evangelicals would prefer me to Barack Obama.”

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40 responses to “Gingrich: “I pray before every major decision””

  1. Actually, he says that he prays before “virtually” every major decision. I wonder which ones he skips?

  2. I know that I am probably nitpicking here, but this kind of terminology always upsets me… “I find taking communion an enormously rewarding and deepening experience,” Gingrich said.

    *sigh* That is very poor Eucharistic theology and someone with Newt’s intellectual prowess, would – I hope, speak more clearly.

    For the record I would say receive and not take. As for good eucharistic theology, what are we giving when we encounter the Lord in the breaking of the bread?

  3. I hate asking this question because I am not into the public banning of anyone communion – ( when needed it should be done in private) but for heaven’s sake- if he was married and divorced twice in other christian churches to ladies who were never previously married – does the church just pretend he is unmarried the third time around ?
    I understood that the church recognized valid marriages in other christian churches- but I am no expert. How does this work?

    If his name was Joe Biden ( who I am not much of a political fan) we would see 100 posts questioning his right to even grace the steps of a church let alone receive communion.

  4. Catherine, using “virtually” is a more honest answer, don’t you think. To say, “I pray at every,” would mean he is perfect. I would like to think I pray before every decision or word I use, but I recognize I make decisions without praying first. I’m growing every day as a Christian, and I hope to virtually pray at every decision.

    Fran, semantics…as a new convert, I have fallen short and used “take” instead of “receive.” In Speaker Gingrich’s and my defense, the words are synonyms.

    I wish we would stop beating up on fellow Catholics. The man has faced serious demons and has repented…publicly. I sure wouldn’t want what I’ve confessed to be placed in front of all. Can’t we give him a break and pray for and support him?

  5. Joe…

    Presumably, Gingrich had his previous marriages annulled. Which means that the Church decreed that sacramental marriages did not exist when he took his previous vows.

    So his present marriage would be considered both valid and licit, provided it was properly witnessed by the Church’s minister.

    Sacramentally, it’s as if this were his first (and only) marriage.

    Dcn. G.

  6. Pray for him….yes. Support him as a fellow human being on his life’s journey…yes. Vote for him….that’s up to every individual. I rarely vote for any candidate who keeps telling me how important his “faith” is to him (or her.) I prefer to see how they live out their faith in the way they conduct their campaigns and the policies they espouse. I don’t see anything Mr. Gingrich says or does in these areas that would separate him from his fellow politicians….like most, he pretty much signs on to whatever other Republican candidates are all “forced” to sign on to if they hope to receive their party’s nomination (the same goes for Democratic candidates.)

  7. Nothing personal Fran, but for heaven’s sake, a rare politician extols the Eucharist and you are getting hung up on semantics?

  8. I’m afraid I’ve had too much experience of this guy to give him any breaks, going back to 1979. Those of us who have worked in Republican politics have a lot of trouble taking this version of Newt very seriously.

  9. Here’s a tidbit on the annulment of his second marriage: “In May 2002, Newt asked the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta for an annulment based on the fact that Marianne was reportedly previously married.”

    I am married to a non-Catholic, and this kind of thing makes my husband very cynical about anything the Church says about marriage.

  10. Catherine…

    That fact in and of itself — “based on the fact that Marianne was reportedly previously married” — is not grounds for an annulment. The Church would have to find more evidence than that.

    One of the biggest misconceptions about the Church is that annulment amounts to a “Catholic divorce,” and can be easily had for the right amount of money or the right connections. I’m involved in facilitating annulments in my diocese. Trust me: it ain’t that simple. Or easy. (Which is one reason, among many, why a lot of Catholics decide to skip the process–which can sometimes take years–and get married outside the Church the second time around…)

    Dcn. G.

  11. Good thing God doens’t feel that way about His mercy or we would all be in trouble. Look I don’t know if Newt has a “real” conversion or not, but I’m certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  12. I have friends who have gone through annulments, and I’ve also read a lot on the subject. I’m afraid that Newt’s whole story makes me cynical as well. I met his first wife when they were dating. I met his second wife when they were newly married. I know people who worked for the guy, and I had professional contact with him. He is not doing us any favors by trying to be a “public Catholic.”

  13. Sorry, I messed this up — I met wife number two, and wife number three. Never met the first wife. i presume he got an annulment of that marriage as well.

  14. Klaire – I did say that I was probably nitpicking, but a few thoughts about your words on semantics. Perhaps I am nitpicking, but perhaps I am wondering about what the candidate actually knows, thinks and prays about regarding the Eucharist. How does the candidate live the Eucharist?

    I will get perhaps more semantically hung up when I say that the etymology of the word for Eucharist, as you no doubt know, is thanksgiving. Do we “take” thanksgiving? Or do we receive and live it? The etymology of the word mass is to dismiss. What happens at the Table is made alive by what happens when we go to “announce the Gospel of the Lord.”

    These things do matter because we are Catholic, because we do not “take” without giving and because we members of a communal and liturgical church. This means so much more than just a candidate saying something about communion. Talk is cheap.

    I am not saying that Newt is just talk, but I am, with all due respect to Newt, to you, to all – posing some questions- some good Catholic questions.

  15. Fair enough Mama Kelly, but I would offer that considering the matter more deeply would benefit us all. Please note that I am talking to myself and not just to you and others. We all must be reminded!

    Peace and good to you- I am always heartened by those who come to the Church later in their life journey. God bless you always!!

  16. I think there is a distinction between “having mercy” on another Christian who has fallen, picked up, and professes to be on the right track, and a person who is to be placed in a position of trust.

    The fact of Mr Gingrich’s previous marriages and their declarations of nullity is not as alarming as how the last two came to be and the candidate’s professed “excuse” for philandering. If he were marrying into my family, I would welcome him as a brother and treat him as a reformed Christian. But I would be watchful for my sister.

    If he were a parishioner, I would not recommend him for ministry as a deacon, in marriage prep, or on the finance council. If I were his confidant, perhaps I would discourage him from running for office out of concern for his newfound faith.

    As a voting citizen, his documented history of ethical lapses is far more of a concern than his marital infidelity. If he were to come clean and say, “I violated professional ethics as Speaker and as a member of Congress,” I could “forgive” him, especially in the sense that I was not directly harmed by his antics. But if I were a Republican caucusing tomorrow, I would look for a better,cleaner candidate.

    Not to mention his campaign is toast.

  17. Excellent comments, Todd. Mr. Gingrich is making the story of his marriages and his conversion part of his political campaign (which is, as you suggest, giving off the distinct scent of grilled bread), which IMHO justifies commenting on them in that context. I do not see into his heart, I have no wish to sit in judgment on his status within the Church, but I sure as heck would not vote for him.

  18. He prays only to the god of his own personality cult, and to Mammon. The upside of that, for him, is that his prayers are always heard and answered in the affirmative.

  19. Dear Fran,
    I had exactly the same reaction as you when I first read it. Now I know that, as a professor of theology, I hear a lot of foolishness and incorrect/inadequate responses from my students sometimes (!), but I think what bothered me goes beyond simple inadequate catechesis. I’m concerned because that expression (“to take communion”) appears in more evangelical branches of Christianity, which brings with it a whole context (subtext?) of political rhetoric as well.

    However, as others have noted, I’m willing to cut Gingrich some slack here. But acknowledging the work of the Holy Spirit, acknowledging that he may have made some serious, foundational changes in his life, and acknowledging that he’s a “new man in Christ”: none of that means I have to trust him with the Oval Office. After all, St. Paul, after his conversion, did not immediately jump into his apostolate. He first went back to Tarsus where, according to many commentators, he labored at his profession of tent maker for 10 years before accepting his apostolic mission.

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

  20. Well, I’m not going to fight about it, but so much for the bad man who does repent to goodness. I’ve used the example before of Saints Peters and Paul, both men as “sinful” as Newt I suspect, yet they are the ones via the grace of God and repentance to have become the pillars of our Catholic Church.

    I’m certainly not an apologist for Newt, just a big fan of the power of grace, repentance, and God’s mercy.

  21. If he is praying, and I have no reason to doubt that he is, then I pray he is doing some listening too

  22. I see Newt using language that bridges the divide between Evangelical and Catholic. He’s reaching out and using a language that is familiar to Evangelicals in trying to communicate what all know to be a different reality.

  23. All great comments, Todd. However, if it were a choice between Newt and Obama, I’d take Newt in a heartbeat. I’ve long since abandoned notions of getting moral men and women into high office. This thread is why.

    Look at the comments here. The man has repented, is the most pro-life candidate by far, a strict Constructionist, and we savage him with a fury that ought to be directed at the current occupant of the White House. Christians find the guy who professes faith and then break out the proctoscopes, ultimately rejecting them on myriad grounds of imperfection. Meanwhile, nobody cared to investigate Obama at all, and when there were those who tried calling attention to his many serious flaws, he was elected with a commanding majority. It’s galling, actually.

    So Newt committed adultery, several times. Tragically, that places him with a near majority of Americans who are married, and that group is poised to become the minority. But I’m with Klaire, he’s entitled to the support of his new Catholic family, or at least the very, very few who are humble enough to still go to confession for their own sins.

  24. Dr. Nadal, do you think that he is a more pro-life candidate than Rick Santorum? I would value your words on this topic. Thank you.

    As for his repentance, I have not questioned that here, not at all. I think that we are all well advised to remember that what happens ultimately is between us and God and how we choose to live. He appears to live differently today and that is a good thing.

    That said, I am not sure that one’s public behaviors are a barometer of humility in the end. Once when I was having a conversation with a priest, a long time ago, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, he said something I have never forgotten. We were discussing some of the hot button issues of the day back in the very early 90’s. I commented on a public figure. The priest very kindly looked at me and reminded me that we do not know what is truly on other people’s hearts or conscience. He noted that a great saint may have failed and denied Christ at the end and a tremendous sinner might do the opposite.

    It is a reminder that none of us can really say who is the more moral with much ease.

    This is not meant to argue with anyone here… just to say how hard it is to discuss politics and faith and how people live their lives.

    And I am grateful for this forum in which to discuss such things.

  25. Fortunately, we live in a nation of more than two. The choice is fairly wider than Mr Gingrich and Mr Obama.

    “(W)e savage him with a fury that ought to be directed at the current occupant of the White House.”

    Not quite. Mr Gingrich is a caucus candidate, involved in a process to select one of the many candidates for US president. He’s not running (yet) against the “current occupant.” Meanwhile, every bit of public information pertinent to his leadership is fair game in the public sphere.

    My own sense is that Mr Gingrich is an intelligent, talented, experienced politician. He also possesses serious flaws. I wish him well in retirement. I’m sure he’ll be a good Catholic.

  26. This is gravely malicious. You have just destroyed any reputation you might have had for decency, fairness, and honesty. I’m amazed that Deacon Greg allows such a foul and hateful comment to remain on his blog.

  27. naturgesetz…

    I let the comment stand because it’s over-the-top ridiculous, and too clever by half. It has no teeth.

    Dcn. G.

  28. Fran,

    I think that Gingrich and Santorum are essentially the same regarding pro-life from a policy perspective. Santorum has had much more searing personal experience with two of his children, and I think he sees things from the inside in a way that Gingrich cannot.

    I see them as both very good men. Newt has come by his goodness the hard way, but even there I see potential. I collaborate with physicians who once performed abortions for a living. Because of the grace in their lives they speak to the issue in a manner and with an authority that others simply can’t.

    I recall Jesus telling His Apostles that Mary Magdalene “loves much because she’s been forgiven much.”

    If Kevin is reading, he might want to contemplate that.

  29. I call em as I see em. It is, if nothing else, a completely honest opinion of a man, a public figure, whose political and personal life is a legitimate matter of debate given that he aspires to the highest seat of power on the planet.

    It is my opinion, based on my read of the long trajectory of his career, that he is not a man of humility or sincerity or ethical consistency. I can’t know what’s in his heart any more than I can know that of anyone else, but his actions strike me as those of a man who feels accountable only to his own sense of entitlement to power and money.

    That’s not an implication of wrongdoing or factual misrepresentation or anything of the like. It is one man’s opinion, albeit one shared by a significant share of the population, including a number of conservatives.

    As a news man himself, Deacon Kandra knows that nothing I said in that comment would be considered libelous. He could, of course exercise his prerogative as the blog owner to remove what I said and/or ban me from the site. It is a credit to him that he fosters an atmosphere of lively debate and diverse opinions on his blog.

    He is also quite right that my opinion, in and of itself, has no teeth. The aggregate opinion of the voting public, however has the bite of a pit bull. The voters also have some good sense. If our country still has any aspirations larger than “getting rid of Obama,” I believe they will demand, and obtain, someone of better moral fiber, and leadership vision, than Mr. Gingrich. That is, of course, only my opinion.

  30. I would assume that he would not have been accepted into and married in the Church if his other marriages had not been annuled. Since on one knows all the facts, everything is speculation.

    As to his comments about the Eucharist, I have heard Catholics say a lot dumber things than this who are Eucharistic ministers in their parishes. One that gets me is when I hear one say the station they are assigned to hand out the bread or wine. If that is what they believe they are “handing out”, something is very wrong. I do agree that this is not the right way to look at the Eucharist when one says they “take” the Eucharist rather than recieve, but if this had not been Newt, I suspect some here would not have had an issue. I would hope that all would be a lot more upset to see some pro abortion political hack “receiving” the Eucharist while still supporting this ongoing holocaust.

  31. So Todd, how about St Austustine and many other saints who have lived lives with a lot more problems. How about St Paul who was in charge of having Christians killed? I have less of an issue with this than those who are directly connected to putting political hacks into office to further the killing of innocent babies at the rate of 4000 a day. Newt has almost a perfect pro life record and that is much more important to me in his role a president than his personal failures in other areas. I doubt he will try to make it legal to cheat on your wife or cast her aside and I trust he will put justices on the court solidly pro life and certainly more pro life than Obama.

    If it does come down to Newt and Obama, Catholics should have a clear and easy choice for Newt.

  32. Augustine was elected bishop after a life which included promiscuity, so we are led to believe. Adultery is a more serious sin. The early Church was very skeptical of Paul, and who knows: maybe that’s why he never settled down in one place.

    As for abortion, I think the anger you’re trying to tap here is that in the US, women are free to make the abortion decision for themselves. Politicians have stepped out of the way. They do not cooperate directly, unless they have procured an abortion for a family member or friend.

    The pro-life movement has decided to hang its hat on the political side. And when that fails, they try to encourage people to vote for a party who has no incentive to resolve the issue, close the gap, and lose millions of religious-minded voters. The GOP plays the movement and bishops like cheap garage-sale violins. It grew frustrating enough for me twenty-five years ago to the point where I left any political pro-life effort.

    As for your choice, Mark, I suggest reading comprehension. If I had a choice of voting for Mr Gingrich or Mr Obama, I’d likely vote third party. But I think Catholics can vote for the current occupant with a clear conscience.

  33. Todd, if you cannot see the difference in pro life between Obama who is even listed as Partner of the abortion mill planned parenthood site, versus someone in Newt who over 20 years has a near perfect voting record on pro life issues, then you are deceiving yourself. And anyone with half a brain knows that when those who lean toward a conservative vote and committed never to support a pro abortion candidate like Obama vote third party which in American politics has zero chance of winning, it is a vote for Obama and his appointing more pro abortion judges to the court plain and simple.

    And since the courts have made life of the baby a political issue, it was not the pro life groups which chose the battleground, but were frankly forced to get involved in this arena. Prior to two very poor decisions by the courts, the first on the myth of separation of Church and state which was an outright distortion of what was actually written and viewed that way for from founding until 1954 and the lie of finding privacy rights which allowed women to kill babies in 1973, the religious were not directly involved and thought they were protected by the constitution. People want religion out of politics, then the answer is to have justices who will interpret the constitution as written and who reverse these errors in the same way we reversed errors on other issues. If people want to allow the murder of babies, take it the route designed by the founders in the constitution of amendment. Same is true of gay special rights and removal of God from a country of one nation under God.

  34. If I were Newt, I’d be praying alot! :o)
    I personally think he says whatever he thinks will work at the time. I have a hard time trusting anything he says.

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