Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Newt and Jackie and Marianne and Callista: Ross Douthat's Marriage Ideal and Traditional Catholic Values

Don’t you just love it when someone like Newt or Rush preaches “traditional” family values, while hopping from wife to wife over the course of his career?  In Newt’s case, traditional Catholic family values . . . .

At Esquire right now, John Richardson has a tell-all interview with Newt’s second wife (he’s now on his third) Marianne Ginther.  She indicates that, though Newt has propagated an “official” version of his first marriage to Jackie Battley which has him dating her (she was his geometry teacher) when he was eighteen, Newt was actually sixteen when the two began dating.  It was Jackie whom Newt divorced as she recovered from cancer.

Marianne had just discovered she had multiple sclerosis when Newt dumped her, letting her know that he had found someone else and needed a Chevrolet rather than a Jaguar.  He made the announcement having just returned from a speech at Erie, Pennsylvania, where he preached the gospel of traditional family values.

It was after Newt’s third marriage to Calista Bisek that the Catholic church opened its arms of pastoral mercy to him (three heterosexual marriages, WELCOME!; one gay “marriage,” GET LOST!), and Newt became Catholic.

And why, after I’ve typed the preceding paragraphs, do I feel as if I have just slogged through a particularly slimy soap opera plot featuring Ross Douthat’s description of the ideal of marriage—the kind of marriage in which children are most effectively raised: whoring daddy and status-seeking mommy, indeed!  Yoked for life to tame the tiger of each other’s desires . . . .

Newt definitely is considered an ideal Catholic in some Catholic circles right now—and influential ones at that.  In mid-June, the Vatican newspaper Zenit published an article praising him for collaborating with Citizens United, “an advocacy group active in promoting traditional American values,” to produce a documentary about the life of John Paul II that seeks to rescue John Paul (and Benedict) from tawdry journalistic attempts to besmirch their reputations.

As the Zenit article notes, if anyone knows from besmirching, that would be Newt.

And the marriage merry-go-round is only part of the story of Newt’s “traditional American values”: get a load of  the financial side of the story at Salon today, and you have to wonder why Zenit imagines it’s doing the papacy a favor by turning Newt Gingrich into its most praiseworthy defender these days.

I tend to draw the opposite conclusion as I examine Newt’s behavior: anyone who cares about family values and Catholic teaching ought to avoid this particular Catholic gentleman like the plague.

The graphic: Newt promoting the documentary about John Paul II praised in the Zenit article cited above.