Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Reason 1: I do not trust him and regard his bluster about “representing traditional family values” to be repellent.
I don’t believe the falsehood he’s told (and gotten his daughter to tell for him)—namely, that the story of his demanding his wife talk about divorce while she was in hospital recovering from cancer surgery is false.
The fact is, his first wife documented the story in the WaPo on January 3, 1985:
He walked out in the spring of 1980 and I returned to Georgia. By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said Daddy is downstairs and could he come up? When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from the surgery … To say I gave up a lot for the marriage is the understatement of the year.”
Sorry, but I believe the adult who was there, not the child who suddenly comes out with a new story just as daddy is gearing up to run for Prez—thirty years later. Not that I blame the daughter for defending her dad. It’s what children—particularly children of documented manipulators—often wind up being maneuvered into doing. Would Gingrich really do something that despicably low through his daughter? Well, this is the man then went on to cheat on his second wife—all while pontificating about Clinton’s equally repellent behavior. So yeah, I think that’s exactly what is going on here. I believe his betrayed wife, not the man who betrayed her.
Reason 2. Speaking of Clinton, who can forget him sporting that big ol’ Bible when he was in the thick of his post-Lewinsky lip-biting contrition tour, all while continuing to deny, deny, deny. That’s but one reason I think the argument, “But Newt’s a pious-talking Catholic now! So he deserves the presidency and denying it to him is unforgiveness for sins committed 30 years ago!” is astonishingly bad theology, not to mention incredibly bad prudence. Yet I’ve been told again and again that I must support Newt or I am not forgiving of his pre-Catholic sins—and besides look at him emit pieties about the Eucharist for devout contraception and torture supporter Sean Hannity!
Yeah. And Joe Biden says the Rosary and Nancy Pelosi is “devout”. All public Christians are “devout” (the most overused word in religion reportage). Any politician who wants to court votes will yak about his devoutness for the camera. Heck, even Obama does that with a rather transparent air of, “Dear post-Christian fanbase: We both know I have to say this rubbish to get elected. But we also both know I’m not serious. As soon as the interview is over I will resume my normal posture as a post-Christian secularist.”
In short, so what if Gingrich emits pieties? Sure, there is such a thing as a conversion from Saul to St. Paul. But on the other hand, anybody can say “Lord, Lord”. The question is: do they do what Christ commands? I’m willing to grant that Gingrich is, in some sense yet to be determined, a Catholic, much as I do for Biden and Pelosi. Bully for them. May the grace of God do them all good and bring them to a deeper knowledge of their sin and need for grace and forgiveness. I wish them well and hope for their salvation.
But their allowing themselves to be identified as Catholic is not grounds for electing any of them to high office, particularly when, unlike St. Paul, they give me no particular reason to believe they are willing to obey the Church when it conflicts with their hunger for power. Simon Magus was a convert too—and wished to be known as “The Great Power” (Acts 8:10). Now Newt looks for all the world like he is doing much the same thing. Since his conversion, what I have seen from him is grotesque chutzpah as he has denied his despicable treatment of his ex-wife and even tried to paint serial adultery as a consequence of his intense love of country.
“There’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard, and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”
For the sake of argument, let’s completely check our brains at the door and believe this disgusting excuse for his double treason toward his family. What conclusion should we draw from it? My conclusion is, “For the sake of his soul, never let this man near power again just as I would never reassign a pedophile priest to work with children again.” But according to Newt, the solution to the corrupting effects of power that, by his own admission, led to his downfall is to make him the most powerful man on earth. And if that were not enough, he then sets himself up as the Paladin of Traditional Values, instead of going about in sackcloth and ashes and saying that he has absolutely no right to preach to anybody else about such matters.
Gross. No thanks. Given his track record, I think if you believe him I would like to also interest you in a purchase of the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember the Gingrich conservatives who said of the phonily contrite Bill Clinton, “If a man will lie to and betray his own wife, why should you think he will tell the truth to his constituents?” I believed them then and I believe them now that they no longer believe that elementary piece of logic when it’s their guy grabbing for the brass ring of power.
Reason 3. Speaking of saying “Lord, Lord” while refusing to obey Christ, note that Gingrich, out of one side of his mouth, utters sugary pieties about the peace the Eucharist gives him, while, out of the other side of his mouth, he has simultaneously dissented from Holy Church and betrayed his prolife base by declaring that human life begins at implantation , thereby allowing him to “reach out” to the health care industry’s booming abortifacient money, as well as all those fiscal conservative/social liberal Republicans who wish that prolifers would just disappear. It also, conveniently, leaves him wide open to giving full-throated support to embryonic stem cell research since, after all, the millions of manufactured human beings that will be created and cannibalized should that industry finally take off will never have been implanted before they go to their doom. Newt knows this, but is willing to sacrifice them, as he is willing to sacrifice so much else that is right, in order to have power. Given my audience, I don’t think I need to elaborate too much on what a typically Gingrichian betrayal that is since it is highly unlikely that conservative Catholics will follow him into dissent from Holy Church on this point. Register readers are not too likely to say, “Gee! He’s got a point! The Church needs to back off on the whole ‘life begins at conception’ thing.”
However, given that polls consistently show that conservative Catholics dissent from Holy Church by supporting the grave intrinsic evil of torture in percentages larger than the average American, I do have to spend a few trillion more electrons and point out that Gingrich is among these open dissenters from Church and has just solidified the now-rigid orthodoxy of the GOP as the Party of Torture in direct defiance of Holy Church:
Waterboarding is by every technical rule not torture. [Applause] Waterboarding is actually something we’ve done with our own pilots in order to get them used to the idea to what interrogation is like. It’s not — I’m not saying it’s not bad, and it’s not difficult, it’s not frightening. I’m just saying that under the normal rules internationally it’s not torture.
I think the right balance is that a prisoner can only be waterboarded at the direction of the president in a circumstance which the information was of such great importance that we thought it was worth the risk of doing it and I do that frankly only out of concern for world opinion. But we do not want to be known as a country that capriciously mistreats human beings.
He deploys many of the standard long-exploded lies and sophistries documented here. Per standard torture apologist methodology, he narrows discussion to only that species of torture that is terror drowning (for which “waterboarding” is the euphemism) and neglects to mention the beatings, suffocation and freezing with which we have murdered prisoners. He never notes the fact that no court has ever found waterboarding not to be torture in any country signatory to the Geneva Conventions or the UN Convention on Torture signed by pantywaist liberal Ronald Reagan. He ignores several federal court opinions defining waterboarding as torture. He ignores the Japanese military leaders executed following World War II for waterboarding. The most highly paid “historian” in the history of the world ignores the 1926 Mississippi Supreme Court case which regarded it as torture. He ignores its prominent inclusion in the Cambodian Museum of Torture, commemorating Khmer Rouge barbarism. And, of course, it goes without saying that he is proud to ignore the UN Rapporteur on it, as all red-blooded “conservative” torture apologists do:
I don’t think there is any question, any serious question. I mean it’s a question of severity. If you think that waterboarding is not severe mistreatment you don’t really know what waterboarding is. … I mean if you then redefine upwards the severity standard to say that it’s only severe if it’s organ failure or death, then you know you’re really very clearly distorting the sense of the words and you know words have to be interpreted in treaty language, they have to be interpreted in their plain meaning and their plain meaning couldn’t be more clear in the case of waterboarding.
In short, for Gingrich to say of terror drowning that “under the normal rules internationally it’s not torture” is a complete and utter lie, believable only to the sophists and liars who now dominate the torture apologetics wing of the Thing the Used to Be Conservatism. If Gingrich cared about the teaching of the Church, he would listen to the Magisterium which says that torture is grave and intrinsically immoral and worthy of the fires of hell. He would pay attention to Pope Benedict XVI when he says that the prohibition against torture may never be contravened. If he cared about the safety of the country, he would listen to the professional interrogators who warn, again and again, that torture is not only wrong, but stupid, counter-productive, and positively harmful to American intelligence efforts. But since Gingrich cares about power and getting the votes of pro-torture “conservative” armchair interrogators who get their information about interrogation from watching 24 and not from people who actually know about interrogation, he argues for torture, not out of Eucharistic piety nor patriotic love of country, but out of a hunger for power. And in that reckless pursuit of power, he poses a danger to bodies (of unborn children and torture victims) and souls (of the many Catholics who may follow him in his rejection of the teaching of Holy Church on one or even two matters of grave intrinsic evil worthy of the everlasting fires of hell)
To be sure, not all conservatives believe his banana oil. Many conservatives reject his loopholing for abortifacients (though many also wish the whole issue would go away). Some, to their honor, speak out against torture (though not many). But the fact that Gingrich is now the applauded front runner (and that the whole Republican field except Paul and Huntsman are solidly in favor of torture along with Newt) tells you all you need to know about the pathetic and shameful state of the GOP. And about their blind shortsightedness. Speaking of which…
Reason 4: Every day it becomes more evident that we are witnessing our Ruling Class’ rush to transform the US into the Soviet States of America. That sounds shocking, but consider the combination of
a)our senatorial elite’s stunning declaration of war on the civil rights of the populace last week. Do read this link if you read nothing else, since the Senate just passed a bill which would give Caesar the power to completely gut habeas corpus for any American citizen, arrest us without charge, and imprison us forever without counsel, merely on the executive’s unilateral assertion that the accused was a terror threat or might know something about a “terror” threat. Obama says he will veto this despotic law that repeals nearly a thousand years of Anglo-American law back to Magna Carta, but given that he immediately followed this assurance up with the claim that he can kill any citizen he chooses without evidence, arrest, trial, judge, jury or verdict—and that the Supreme Court cannot stop him I will not be a bit surprised if he signs it;
b)the growth of Caesar’s overt anti-Catholic and anti-Christian policy;
d)the clear evidence that the real dynamic threatening us is not GOP vs. Dem or liberal vs. conservative, but Big Caesar (Dem and GOP) and Big Mammon in incestuous hostility against the populace.
Given this, what continues to amaze me is how fantastically short-sighted “conservative” Catholic enthusiasm for all this is. Given that Newt Gingrich is (next to Obama) just about the biggest grossest poster child there is for this incestuous wedding of Hudge and Gudge, as well as for the police state tactic of torture to enforce it, I think a vote for this man is utter folly.
But “conservatives” (who cheered as the GOP led the bipartisan charge for the passage SB 1867) persist in the delusion that turning the US into a police state will not endanger them and that opposition to this cowardly gutting of our most fundamental rights back to Magna Carta can only be motivated by a love for al Quaida and communists. Only smelly hippies and librul reporters will be treated like enemies of the State. Prolifers and religious people won’t. Nor is it possible that the state could declare you, a completely innocent person, to be a terrorist and strip you of your rights as a citizen and disappear you while a pliant media declares you an enemy of the state. That will only happen to Bad Guys.
So, for instance, organs of “conservative” opinion like the Washington Times frame the passage of a Kafkaesque bill which makes it possible for a despotic Executive to unilaterally strip any American citizen of his rights, arrest him without charge, deny him counsel, and throw him in prison forever this way: “Senate defies Obama veto threat in terrorist custody vote”.
See how it works? Instead of alerting us to the radically anti-American nature of this despotic law, the headline paints the story as brave “conservatives” leading the charge against “terror” while the Hated Liberal Prez wants to make us vulnerable to evildoers tunneling under our homes! Yay! We’re having our most fundamental rights completely stripped away—for safety! If you don’t cheer for that, you love al Quaeda and hate America! Meanwhile, the bill, which Obama promised to veto, but which he appears likely to sign, gives… wait for it… Obama and all future God Kings, I mean Presidents, the power to declare you a terrorist on his say-so alone and toss you—an American citizen—in Gitmo forever without trial or appeal if he feels like it. Gingrich’s contribution to this appalling move by our elites: in addition to jailing you forever without charge, due process or appeal, the President should be able to torture you too, if he feels like it. Notice who the winners are if, God forbid, this bill becomes law: not Dem vs. Republican or liberal vs. conservative, but Ruling Elite vs. Populace. It is we the people who now stand naked before the onslaught of a state that utterly strips us of the protection of law against Big Brother.
In short, righties who trust our “conservative” elites to guard the American tradition of ordered liberty and accountable government are as much suckers as the lefty Obama worshippers who are now puzzling at how Obama’s incestuous relationship with Big Mammon could possibly have resulted in him granting himself the power to launch more wars and murder American citizens without trial. Having seriously believed he would defeat dreaded conservatives and not make common cause with the rest of the Ruling Class, lefties are now wondering why he isn’t springing to their defense when the riot squads pepper spray peaceful protestors but is instead very much in bed with Big Mammon. The difference is, the supposedly clueless protestors have at least figured out that their hero cares nothing about them and is part of the bipartisan Ruling Elite of Big Mammon and Big Caesar, while a huge number of “conservatives” still believe that a man like Newt Gingrich—the very archetype and child of this incestuous union—regards them as something besides people to exploit in his selfish hunger for power. Speaking of which…
Reason 5: Take it away, Ron Paul!
The man is indeed “the very essence of the Washington insider”. If we are to judge from his actions and not his rhetoric (and, as responsible voters, that is precisely what we are to do), he is a friend only to Big Caesar and Big Mammon. If he has twice betrayed his own family and never come clean about it but continued to deny his despicable treatment of his first wife in her illness, if his entire career in office and out is riddled with lies and betrayals (as it is) why on earth would any sane voter imagine for a second he is not lying to us now? To trust him is, as his two ex-wives learned the hard way, the height of folly. For a voter to now trust him is absurd. To insist that one must vote for him out of fealty to the Catholic faith is, while not quite blasphemous I suppose, one of the dumbest things a Catholic could possibly say. I will no sooner vote for this perfidious man than I will vote for Obama. Indeed, Obama can at least boast a stable marital history.
How has it come to this that such a man is the front runner for the party that claims to represent family values, respect for the Judeo-Christian tradition and respect for the rule of law? When I see some good fruit, I will begin to trust him. Till then, the clear and obvious teaching of Jesus is to remember that bad fruit comes from bad trees.