What kind of Catholic is Newt Gingrich?

Amid the hubbub surrounding the Gingrich surge, this is one question that has perplexed commentators of all religious and political persuasions. There’s no consensus about where to find the Catholic in Newt.

At this point, the question is not where it is exactly, but where to begin looking.

So, let’s review speculation about the Catholicity of Newt Gingrich. I’ll also advance my own hypothesis and give it a professorial flourish by using a suitably big word.

Hypothesis number one: The new Catholic Newt is simply being American.

Playfully characterizing Gingrich as a “religious flip-flopper” draws attention to how Gingrich, like many other Americans, has seemingly changed his religion to suit prevailing fashion. Perhaps there’s also an ironic part to this interpretation in that Gingrich has supposedly made use of the religious market place to embrace a religion that would take umbrage if treated as a “commodity.”

It might be reasonable enough to see Gingrich’s Catholicity as a kind of epiphenomenon reflecting American cultural propensities–after all, Newt is indeed American. But conversion as “flip-flop” seems to preclude understanding conversion as a turn toward something; it’s not just a lurching back and forth from one view to another. It also makes the Catholic in Newt hard to locate. [more]


Washington Post