Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Newt Gingrich and the sanctity of marriage.

You may recall that Newt Gingrich converted to Roman Catholicism last year. The same Newt Gingrich who attacked Bill Clinton for unseemly affairs is now an advocate for family values and the sanctity of marriage, and setting himself up for a run at the White House in 2012. What's the problem? Well, ol' Newt is on Marriage # 3.

The Daily Beast:
Mr. Gingrich’s marital history is a matter of public record, and it is not tidy. He first married at age 19, to his 26-year-old former high-school geometry teacher and then, so the story goes, presented her with divorce terms after she was wheeled out of cancer surgery.

Mrs. Gingrich #2 was dumped after her husband had carried on an extramarital affair with a fetching, blond congressional staffer named Callista Bisek, who went on to become the present Mrs. Gingrich #3. This Family Values paradigm was complicated by the fact that whilst Mr. Gingrich was filibustering Ms. Bisek over the Speaker’s desk, he was simultaneously leading the impeachment charge against a naughty president of
the United States.

To be sure, Mr. Gingrich has since been at pains to emphasize that it was not Mr. Clinton’s naughtiness that he minded, but his perjury. Well, OK, but really, sir. As the noble Rochefoucauld taught us, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”
This marital history was a bit problematic because Mrs Gingrich #3 is a Roman Catholic and wanted a blessing on her marriage. What to do, what to do? Ah..... annulment.
Mother Church can be rigid, but at times—bless her—she can think like a $700-an-hour K Street lawyer. ...

As the Rev. John Catoir, a doctor of canon law, points out, “Forty years ago, people were told ‘You made your bed, now sleep in it.’” Thank God this is no longer the Church’s guiding philosophy. If the church had been this progressive in the matter of annulments back in the 1530s in merry olde England, the Archbishop of Canterbury would today be a Roman cardinal.
Really? Well, yes, apparently so. As Mrs Gingrich # 2 explained to Esquire, Newt invited his mistress (the future #3) to live with him while still married to #2. He asked #2 to ignore the affair and let him continue it. She refused, and they divorced. And then, the ever considerate Roman Catholic church annulled the marriage, without any input from her.
It's hysterical. I got a notice that they wanted to nullify my marriage. They're making jokes about it on local radio. The minute he got married, divorced, married, divorced — what does the Catholic Church say about this?
Apparently, not much. Newt's previous marriages--both of them--hey presto! vanished, and he and #3 can be blessed in church. I'm all in favor of absolution, but pretending something never happened?

Even hard-right Republican Sen Tom Coburn has a bit of an issue with this.
Coburn made it clear that he won't be on Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential bandwagon. Gingrich "is a super-smart man, but he doesn't know anything about commitment to marriage," he said of the thrice-married former House speaker. "He's the last person I'd vote for for president of the United States. His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president."

But back to this annulment thing. For a church that doesn't believe in divorce, the RC is pretty liberal in granting annulments to make inconvenient marriages "go away". Especially if you can pay for them. I knew a young woman whose parents had divorced after her father had an affair. He married his mistress, who wanted a Roman Catholic blessing, so he arranged an annulment years after the fact. My young friend's mother was blindsided by this and heartbroken to hear her ex cynically claim that they had lacked discretion, or some such nonsense. She lacked the financial resources to fight it. My friend herself was outraged that her father unilaterally declared his marriage hadn't been real, and the Church went for it. Although the Church has a contorted argument to claim the children are still "legitimate" from a marriage that is annulled, it was deeply hurtful to her and I suspect seriously damaged her relationship with her father.

Or the nice man I sat next to on an airplane, who was hoping to annul his marriage after his wife left him and the kids, only to learn the price was too dear, and he with a son in college. Clearly a good man, struggling with a life sentence that forbids him the solace of remarriage and companionship. (I suggested he visit the Episcopal Church, where divorce is dealt with more humanely.)

Or the RC acquaintance of BP's who was told she couldn't receive Communion any more after she remarried. She'd sought an annulment but it was opposed by her ex. He was very generous to the church, of course, so he was still welcome. But they'd be happy if she'd keep doing her substantial volunteer work, and tithing, and SO surprised she left.

So the perception is that the Church is talking out of both sides of its mouth about marriage. Like the broader society, rules only apply to the little people, not the elites: not the Kennedys, or Kerrys, or Gingrichs. But the problem is, the little people aren't compliant children sitting in Church and believing everything that Monsignor tells them. These days, they have other sources of information, and the hypocrisy is more easily exposed.

It should be entertaining to see how Newt Gingrich spins his marriages. The portrait of him that comes from the Esquire story is of a cynical, calculating, egotist in the "do as I say, not as I do" mold. The right wing is good at spinning but this one is going to cause whiplash.



Malcolm+ said...

"If the church had been this progressive in the matter of annulments back in the 1530s in merry olde England, the Archbishop of Canterbury would today be a Roman cardinal."

Actually, Rome was every bit as "progressive" back then. And had Queen Catherine's nephew not been holding the Pope a prisoner, there is little doubt that the Holy See would have found a convenient grounds of nullity.

Andrewdb said...

I seem to recall that one of the Kennedy clan's ex-wives objected to an annulment, not that it did any good.

I also recall that Princess Stephanie of Monaco was having a tough time getting an annulment, until her father, Prince Renier (sp?) halted the tithe to Rome. Amazing how fast things moved after that.

Anonymous said...

I am told by friends who are still Roman Catholic that the Vatican is cracking down on annulments issued for psychological causes. No matter which way the wind blows, the truth is that the Roman Catholic Church acts like a purity cult when it comes to matters sexual, and there are victims of RC system, woiunded and bleeding, all over the place.
Lou Poulain, Sunnyvale CA

JCF said...

whilst Mr. Gingrich was filibustering Ms. Bisek over the Speaker’s desk

Ewwww! My eyes, my eyes! }-X

[Will read rest of article when brain-pan has been scrubbed, and stomach de-clenches...]

Jim Pratt said...

The ability of Rome to milk the annulment cash cow depends on people wanting the Roman church's blessing. Note in the Gingrich case and in the case of IT's friend, it was the "new" wife who insisted on the blessing. (in both cases, I'll guess it was her first time down the aisle).

More and more people are just telling Rome where to stick it. About half my marriages are divorced RCs. The blessing of God is more important to them than the blessing of Rome.

MarkBrunson said...

she can think like a $700-an-hour K Street lawyer. ...

I was thinking $20 a pop, and a different profession, but . . .

Of course, "she" (oh, the irony-rich greens!) charges extra for "around the world."

JCF said...

Money for annulments?

Things really aren't any different than when Luther protested the sale of indulgences, are they?

habitofbeing said...

I have problems with the annulment myself but know of no evidence of annulments being paid for. Do you evidence to back up your claim or is your statement that annulments are paid for garden-variety anti-Catholic bigotry?

IT said...

Actually, habitofbeing, most dioceses charge "processing fees" for annulments which generally starts at $500 and goes up. You can Google this easily.

Moreover, as an ex-Catholic myself, I have met a number of people caught up in the annulment process, at least one of whom informed me that he couldn't afford the $1200 he was to be charged for "processing fees", and another who informed me that her father paid the fees for the annulment over the protests of her mother.

As for garden variety bigotry, nothing in the garden there. I'm happy to claim many Roman Catholics amongst my friends. Indeed, at the time I met and later married her, my wife was a practising Roman Catholic. Of course, on account of that marriage, she's now a happy Episcopalian.

But to be clear, my disdain is for the bigotry of the bishops, not the Roman Catholic faithful, the latter of whom actually still practise social justice instead of waging vicious culture wars. Catholics are ill-served by their hierarchy.

thanks for stopping by. If you want to make further comments, I suggest you do it on a more recent thread.

JCF said...

IT FTW! :-)

To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy's joke, if you cruise 4 month old threads looking for "anti-Catholic bigotry", you Just Might Need a Life! ;-p