It is not clear that Newt Gingrich will be the Republican party’s presidential nominee, much less the next president of the United States. But asking the question about a “Catholic president” sharpens what “Catholic” means in politics.
One becomes a Catholic by Baptism, obliged to observe the commandments of God: do not lie, steal, fight, or commit adultery. Catholics are also supposed to go to Mass on Sundays. Mr. Gingrich qualifies best for the first and the last practices on this list, with a dubious record for the in-betweens. He has been rejected by his party for unethical behavior, married three times and twice remarried. Many in Catholic America can not understand why Mr. Gingrich was able to have his third marriage recognized by the church. But John F. Kennedy had failings on the sixth commandment, just like Gingrich, and is still revered as “the first Catholic president of the United States.” Availing himself of the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation, Mr. Gingrich’s sins can be forgiven. If Baptism and Sunday Mass are all that is need to be Catholic, then Mr. Gingrich is another JFK.