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Newt Gingrich finds religion — takes vow of silence

March 31, 2009 |  9:18 am

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, known for his nimble mind and fondness for debate, converted to Catholicism over the weekend at St. Joseph's Church in Washington. Then the former Georgia congressman and onetime Baptist went into a cone of silence, not giving interviews or even Twittering.

In his blog called God and Country, Dan Gilgoff wrote,

So far, Gingrich has been conspicuously quiet about his conversion. He didn't mention it in an interview with me earlier this month that focused on his stepped-up efforts to organize religious conservatives and promote religious liberty issues. An enthusiastic Twitterer, the former speaker has gone tweetless since Saturday.

The twice-divorced Gingrich, who has confessed to previous marital infidelities, converted to the faith of his third wife, Calista Bisek. And politicos are already speculating that the conversion will help shore up his position with values voters as he contemplates another race for the presidency in 2012.

Deal Hudson, who founded the Catholic magazine Crisis and advised George W. Bush's political guru Karl Rove, argues that the Gingrich's conversion represents a personal and political cleansing.

"From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told the Daily Beast's Max Blumenthal, “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.”

Former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), himself a Catholic, attended the Sunday service with his wife. The lobbyist at Clark & Weinstock quipped that the event was different from others he'd attended with Gingrich because "it was the only event with Newt where he didn’t give a speech.”

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo Credit: Associated Press