Gingrich's Catholic Conversion Erased His Sins, Not Their Earthly Consequences or His History
Fortunately, Republicans have other choices without a shameful history of serial marital infidelity.
Ronald Reagan famously described facts as "pesky things."
Newt Gingrich's marital indifelities are pesky facts that the absolution of the Roman Catholic Church does not undo.
Ramesh Ponnuru, a convert to Roman Catholicism and a senior editor at National Review said in perfectly in the subtitle to a December 22, 2011 post titled "The Redemption of Newt Gingrich": "Spiritual reconciliation does not mean political exoneration."
In 2009, Gingrich became a Roman Catholic.
As a Roman Catholic, I pray that his professed penitence is genuine and his conversion was not a political tactic aimed at making him the next President of the United States.
Gingrich's attribution of his serial adultery to patriotism this year indicates that he needs more prayers and is not the kind of moral exemplar that a President of the United States of whatever faith should be.
Many apparently well-intentioned people say that Gingrich should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Ponorru pointed out that giving Gingrich the benefit of the doubt should not signify that he's presidential material.
Ponorru deemed the view that "Gingrich's history of adultery" should be treated as "a negative factor but not a dispositive one" to be "sensible," and rejected "arguments to the effect that Gingrich’s past sins should not affect our judgment of his candidacy at all."
Ponorru answered, essentially. "It doesn't work that way" to Gingrich supporters, including fellow Catholics, who think that because (assuming that his conversion was sincere) Gingrich "has been absolved of his sins in the process of conversion" and therefore his heavenly "slate has been wiped clean" and we're "obligated to forgive him for any past transgressions," there should not be any eartly repercussions.
Ponorru presented three reasons why any candidate’s past infidelities are not nullified by forgiveness and repentance:
"First: Absolution does not perfect character, and even a sincere penitent may have demonstrated, by his past behavior, characteristic weaknesses that could lead to a repetition of the offense. Gingrich has said that his adultery resulted, at least in part, from getting so caught up in his work for the American people as speaker. If that is true, then high office would seem to be an occasion of sin that Americans have a reason of charity to spare him....
"Second: Catholic teaching and practice wisely seek to avoid 'scandal,' which in this context might be best understood as actions that inadvertently spread moral misunderstanding. Making a known adulterer president might run the risk of teaching the false lesson that adultery (or immorality generally) is not important....
"Third: A primary voter might reasonably vote for another candidate on the grounds that a candidate known to have had extramarital affairs would have a harder time winning the general election. The voter might himself place a low weight on the candidate’s moral offenses, that is, but fear that many other voters will place more weight on them.... It seems indisputable that the difference in marital circumstances between President Obama and Gingrich would redound to the credit of the former should they face each other in a general election...."
Ponorru concluded: "A candidate’s conversion and repentance of past sins...cannot erase voter concerns that arise from those sins. Those concerns rightly remain an obstacle on Gingrich’s path to the White House."
Sadly, Ponorru also deemed it necessary to write: "All else equal, a president with no history of adultery would be preferable."
Until recently that seemed to be too obvious to state.
Fortunately, Republicans have other presidential hopefuls without a shameful history of serial marital infidelity.
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.