The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Welcome, Newt

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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St Edwards Blog

posted March 31, 2009 at 5:24 am

I have been reading about this and I keep wondering why it was not done at an Easter Vigil, with others who are in the catechumenate or perhaps just coming into full communion with the church? After reading this, I am also curious about it being a separate service. I am inclined to think of these things as more communally related, but I might be missing something.Fran

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RP Burke

posted March 31, 2009 at 8:29 am

Full solemn high RCIA — scrutinies, initiation at the Easter Vigil — is the rule only for those who aren’t already baptized. What usually happens is that, in parishes, the “RCIA team” is capable of handling (or chooses only to handls) a single set of preparatory activities, and so candidates are lumped together with catechumens. The result is a confusing rite — our diocese asks that parishes distinguish between the Vigil for baptisms and Easter Sunday for receptions, but that rule is breached, I suspect, more than it’s honored.Newt, already baptized, can be welcomed into the church pretty much at any time. Welcome aboard.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 8:45 am

Instead of wondering or worrying about why it was done before the Vigil, RCIA is really up to the Bishop and when he deems it appropriate to do certain things. Perhaps in his wisdom, Confirming Newt before Easter was the right thing to do.I will be happy that Newt is a confirmed catholic and look for more high profile converts in the near future.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 8:51 am

Praise God for this new member of our Church, who we pray will be a steadfast ambassador for Christ.It is disappointing, however, that Mr. Gingrich was not welcomed into the church at the Vigil, together with his brothers and sisters in the One Body of Christ.It is of greater disappointment that the RCIA, which has now been the norm for decades, is not implemented properly universally. This is a disservice both to the catechumen and candidates, and to the Body of Christ.

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Dcn Scott Dodge

posted March 31, 2009 at 9:13 am

Receiving women and men who are already baptized and catechized into the Church at times other than Easter is what RCIA calls for. There has been a big movement afoot for the last two years to implement this. We are preparing to receive 3 such people, one Episcopalian, one Presbyterian, and one Baptist in just this manner sometime in the summer. The Vigil is really for those who are to be baptized. As the one charged with preparing them, none of these folks need a full course of RCIA.

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Tony Rossi

posted March 31, 2009 at 9:49 am

The separate ceremony may also have something to do with the fact that, since Gingrich is so high profile, he didn’t want to take attention away from the others being welcomed into the Church at the Easter vigil.

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steve p

posted March 31, 2009 at 10:07 am

“From a Catholic point of view, Newt’s sins no longer exist…” ???Am I mistaken, or does the Rite of Acceptance somehow imply that? I could understand if we were talking about baptism of a catechumen (which we all agree is to be done at the Easter Vigil). But for coming into full communion with the Catholic faith, I had no idea that it carried with it complete absolution as at Baptism…Any help on this one?

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Dcn Scott Dodge

posted March 31, 2009 at 10:33 am

One who is baptized and who seeks full communion with the Catholic Church makes a confession of all post-baptismal sins before being confirmed and receiving communion for the first time.

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posted March 31, 2009 at 2:45 pm

steve p,The Sacrament of Confession implies that.

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posted April 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

Does anyone know what happened to the status of his other two marriages? Does the Church recognize the validity of his third marriage?

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posted April 2, 2009 at 1:01 am

Wonderful day to come into the Church. He is one the brightest guys around and I am certain will bring some wisdom along with him. He is certainly pro life and that is important in the age of the holocaust and so many Catholics who have lost their way.

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