The conservative Catholic scholar Frank Beckwith credits Newt Gingrich for changing his life for the better a couple of decades ago. And he recognizes that Gingrich has had a Catholic religious conversion, which by definition includes confession and remission of sins. But Beckwith cannot support Gingrich’s bid for the White House:
This is not to diminish or call into question Gingrich’s conversion. Quite the opposite. For, as the Catholic Catechism teaches, absolution of sins does not eradicate all the effects and consequences of those sins on the shaping of one’s character. This requires ongoing conversion, including detaching oneself from those things that may provide an occasion for sin.
It seems to me that a man whose sins arose as a consequence of the pursuit of political power and the unwise use of it after he became Speaker of the House should not be seeking the most powerful office in the world.
This is plain common sense. Why is is to uncommon among so many of us conservatives on the Newt question?
One part (but not the whole!) of the answer: it might well have to do with a theological difference. The Catholic (and Orthodox) viewpoint is that when one is forgiven sacramentally, that only opens the door to grace. One still has to repent, and keep at it — including going to confession, and sincerely exerting oneself in repentance. On this way of thinking, given what we know of his public character, to give Gingrich power again would be something like hiring a reformed alcoholic to run Seagram’s. The temptations would be simply too great.
Perhaps it’s easier for Evangelicals and Pentecostals to believe that a sincere confession of one’s sin, and an expression of repentance, is more effective in removing the tendency toward sin than Catholics and Orthodox believe it is? I don’t know about this. Evangelicals, what do you think? Help me out here.