With her husband announcing his intention to run in the Republican presidential primaries, the demure Mrs. Gingrich is suddenly front page news.
This is interesting. I scan the headlines as usual on the front page of the New York Times Tuesday, and there above the fold is this: Gingrich Set to Run, With Wife in Central Role. Thus signaling big media’s strategy of controlling the narrative about a serious contender.
Which, as Howard Kurtz points out by noting that Laura Ingraham pointed it out, is a bit duplicitous.
[Ingraham] found the Times piece to be snarky and questioned the Page 1 display, saying Michelle Obama doesn’t get this kind of scrutiny.
But that’s a given with the Times. Let’s keep perspective. And humor.
You have to read the Times in context, take the great writing and reporting and leave the nonsense. In this front page piece, they reach for the banal attempt to validate a prejudice:
His critics cast Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, as a hypocrite who sought to impeach a president over infidelity while engaging in it himself.
Most of us in serious journalism are so far past the ‘some say…’ or ‘critics claim..’ disguise for lack of research depth (as used by new and inexperienced reporters) or loaded editorial comment (as used by tendentious news management staff) it’s embarrassing to see major media stoop to it still.
A friend of mine in media and well connected (and generally sympathetic) to liberal Democrat politics called me about this story. He knows I keenly follow the truth regardless of party or leaning, and particularly follow matters of faith in big news stories, and he wanted to know about ‘the Catholic angle.’ Callista Gingrich is, after all, acknowledged in the Times piece in the second paragraph as “a churchgoing Roman Catholic”, and that’s saying something these days.
It also says Mr. Gringrich “has embraced Catholicism and found God.” Yes, I told him, no matter what else you think of Mr. Gingrich, that is true. The faithful witness of Mrs. Gingrich is largely responsible for that conversion, as was his encounter with Pope Benedict on his apostolic visit to America in 2008. But that’s all another story, and one that will evolve and get told over the months to come.
Kurtz wraps up for now with this:
The Times quotes Jackie Cottrell, a friend of Callista Gingrich, as saying: “They would say they wished they had met in a different time in their lives under different circumstances. But it’s important to note that they brought their family together in a loving way.”
If Callista doesn’t like the way she is being portrayed in the media, she has the power to do something about it. Both she and her husband declined to be interviewed by Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, but there’s nothing stopping them from sitting down with someone they trust—say, on Fox News, for starters—and telling their story the way they want it told.
I interviewed Mr. Gingrich a couple of weeks ago, just before the beatification of Blessed John Paul II, on the documentary he and Mrs. Gingrich made on the pope called ‘Nine Days That Changed the World.’ It went well, was serious and respectful, and stayed on topic. I have extended the invitation to Mrs. Gingrich for a follow up interview, and it remains open.
Meanwhile, CatholicVote.org has posted a piece that issues a challenge to Mr. Gingrich that I’m keen on advancing… Don’t only not shy away from allegations, seize them and take the initiative to stand on a platform of orthodox faith and family values. Specifically, Gingrich can do great good in addressing the issue of divorce.
Data from the National Survey of Children (NSC) indicate that approximately 80% of divorce cases in this country are forced divorces. In other words, the vast majority of divorces are situations in which one person puts an end to the marriage through legal coercion, even while the other is fighting to save it.
In a time when “self above all others” serves as the motto for our system of family law and our culture, one would be hard pressed to find a more relevant and pressing issue for the Catholic Church, which upholds the sanctity of lifelong marriage and does not acknowledge divorce. And yet to date, we seem content with viewing spousal abandonment as a mental health issue for the person left behind, rather than the danger to the institution of marriage it is. We refer the abandoned to a “divorce coping group” and encourage them to carry their cross. This is not enough.
Recently, former Speaker Gingrich gave the keynote address to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. CatholicVote.org calls him to task for not taking the initiative to address the obvious.
The main subject of Gingrich’s speech at the breakfast was the vital role played by recently beatified Pope John Paul II in the demise of communism (he has produced a documentary on the subject). This is a topic worthy of discussion and praise. But Newt might also have seen this forum as an opportunity to address the issue of divorce reform, which is sorely in need of public advocates. This was, after all, the same pope who said the following on divorce:
“It could perhaps seem that divorce is so firmly rooted in certain social sectors that it is almost not worth continuing to combat it by spreading a mentality, a social custom and civil legislation in favor of the indissolubility of marriage. Yet it is indeed worth the effort! Actually, this good is at the root of all society, as a necessary condition for the existence of the family. Its absence, therefore, has devastating consequences that spread through the social body like a plague…and that have a negative influence on the new generations who view as tarnished the beauty of true marriage.”
Why shouldn’t part of Newt Gingrich’s platform as a Catholic social conservative include an effort to renew and restore faith in the sanctity of marriage? Among other things our seminaries need to train parish priests in educating the faithful on how to sustain marriages in this culture consumed with sexual freedom and personal autonomy. Such a campaign would be especially meaningful if encouraged by someone with Newt’s background, and could have a far-reaching impact.
Catholic couples in the pews need to hear instruction from their bishops and priests – not just occasionally, but repeatedly – on the difficulties marriages face today. They need to know that spousal abandonment is a real and serious threat to all marriages. They need clear and candid instruction on how to tackle this threat through the strengthening of virtues related to purity and fortitude. For instance: “Husbands, are you guarding your eyes and your hearts when you leave home every day? Is there someone of the opposite sex with whom you are spending an unusual amount of time at work? Maybe entertaining thoughts about her when she’s not around? Are you using pornography?”
Or “Wives – is the failure of communication in your marriage such that it may be time for you to seek marital counseling? Summon the humility to do this – even if the mere idea of it is repulsive to you! It could mean the difference between lifelong marriage and an unwanted divorce.”
These are the kinds of probing questions and insights our bishops and priests could offer in order to fortify married men and women in the Church against a culture where divorce means a “fresh start.”
So this is a challenge and an opportunity to Newt and Callista Gingrich. Instead of avoiding the tough questions, seize them. Take the lead on the most vulnerable point he has, own it, address it and turn it into something teachable to the American people.
We’ll be watching. And among the earliest if only outlets reporting on this campaign of social moral issues that necessarily set the foundation for everything else.