The Deacon's Bench

There was much buzz a few weeks ago when it was revealed that Newt Gingrich was going to join the Catholic Church.

Last weekend, he reportedly made it official.

Since then, news has been scarce. But this tidbit popped up in the local press:

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) converted to Catholicism on Sunday and celebrated his new faith with some close friends at the hot spot Café Milano.

Gingrich, who had been a Baptist, attended Sunday evening Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill and was confirmed into the Catholic Church that evening during a separate service.

Gingrich’s wife, Calista, is Catholic.

Former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), now a lobbyist at Clark & Weinstock, and his wife attended the Sunday service.

Weber told ITK that the Gingrich party “for his Catholic friends” was “very, very nice.” Weber cracked that it was different from any other event he has attended with Gingrich because “it was the only event with Newt where he didn’t give a speech.”

The possible 2012 White House hopeful had no comment on becoming a Catholic. Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s spokesman, said, “He’s not commenting on it. That’s not to say that he won’t comment on it, but he isn’t right now.”

Gingrich’s Wikipedia page already posts his religion as Roman Catholic.

Writer Michael Novak and Cardinal McCarrick, the retired cardinal of Washington, were in attendance at Café Milano.

Becoming Catholic isn’t simple.

“It’s harder than becoming a Lutheran or a Methodist,” said Weber. “You go through several months of preparation — it’s not like joining a country club.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was at the restaurant dining with three men. He didn’t appear to be there to celebrate with Gingrich.

Meanwhile, one commentator puts the conversion in another context:

On Sunday, March 29, Gingrich converted to Catholicism, the faith of his third wife, Calista Bisek. Though the ceremony was announced without fanfare, leading Catholic conservatives like Deal Hudson are brimming with excitement. Hudson was the most important Catholic political adviser to President Bush and Karl Rove, founder of the seminal Catholic journal, Crisis magazine, and self-described “theocon.” He contends that Gingrich’s conversion represents more than a concession to his wife; it signals a dramatic break from the past, both personally and politically.

“From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told me, “Newt’s sins no longer exist—they’ve been absolved. 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.”

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