newt gingrich and how to wipe to sin-slate clean

Alternet has an interesting piece on Newt Gingrich's apparent 2012 presidential bid, complete with a Catholic washing of the slate. Now remember, kids, this is the scary Republican guy who divorced twice. His signature move, as described by Max Blumenthal:

He announced his intention to divorce her just as he had done with his first wife, Jackie Battley—while she was lying in a hospital bed, immobilized after a major medical procedure. (Battley was recovering from cancer surgery; Ginther’s appendix had ruptured.) He never bothered to tell his wife in person that he was leaving her for another woman. He called her on the phone, delivered the news, and hung up.

Now there's a classy motherfucker, a prince among men.

But, for all of us worried about his political career, well, there's no need to fret because Catholicism has come to rescue. Apparently, Big G has converted, much to the delight of all those Catholics he once pissed off with morals looser than Bill Clinton with a cigar. Blumenthal again:
...on Sunday, March 29, Gingrich converted to Catholicism, the faith of his third wife, Calista Bisek. Though the ceremony was announced without fanfare, leading Catholic conservatives like Deal Hudson are brimming with excitement. Hudson was the most important Catholic political adviser to President Bush and Karl Rove, founder of the seminal Catholic journal, Crisis magazine, and self-described “theocon.” He contends that Gingrich’s conversion represents more than a concession to his wife; it signals a dramatic break from the past, both personally and politically.

“From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told me, “Newt’s sins no longer exist—they’ve been absolved. He’s made a fresh start in life. So Newt will continue to sin and confess but there aren’t going to be a lot of Catholics who will hold that against him. They understand why being a Catholic makes a difference.”

Blumenthal is pretty straightforward in pointing out the hypocrisy of it all. But what I want to know is what this says about Catholicism in particular and religion in general. As my wife points out, it looks like Catholics use the confessional as a means to keep on sinnin'. And why not? If you can just step in the magic laundry box with sin-stained clothes and come out smelling of myrrh, might as wallow in the mud, right? The most ludicrous thing about all of this is the following question: where is God in all of this? Doesn't God get to have a say as to whether someone is forgiven or not, and what penance is needed? But that's the genius of the Church: persuade the masses that God doesn't speak directly to the ordinary folk, but through intermediaries whose authority is derived from God. And how do we know this spiritual authority derives from God? Easy: the Church is a master of spiritual circular reasoning. They represent God because well, they represent God.

There's something seriously wrong with one might call laissez-faire spiritualism, especially when it comes served with a dose of political expediency. Through the simple act of conversion - saying that he longer believes X, but now believes Y - Gingrich is now ready for a political rebirth. My gosh, aren't we past this nonsense yet? Wait. Don't answer that.

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