D.C. Cardinal Behind Gingrich’s Baptism: Church Must Forgive Past Sin

Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl baptized presidential candidate Newt Gingrich when he converted to Catholicism in 2009 and said critics of past sins should forgive as they too were forgiven.

Wuerl responded Sunday to the press surrounding Gingrich’s behavior before he was baptized, saying voters should respect the candidate’s faith and not subject it to the same political scrutiny as other parts of his record. When Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked, “If anyone has sinned in the past, how should we judge that?” Wuerl responded with the words taken from the Lord’s Prayer.

“We are a church of forgiveness because we’ve all been forgiven. In fact we pray, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” he answered.

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He continued, "It's the only petition in the Lord's Prayer that's conditioned. We ask for everything and we just expect that God's going to give it to us. But when we come to forgiveness Jesus said be forgiven as you forgive."

There has been increasing scrutiny of Gingrich’s past since became a front-runner in mid-November. Gingrich’s past of ethical violations, a television ad with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three marriages have affected his lead.

He has dropped from leading Mitt Romney, his closest contender, nationally by 13 percent in early December to a narrow 4 percent, according to Real Clear Politics analysis.

Gingrich’s marital past of three wives and two affairs has especially worried evangelical voters who what to support a socially conservative candidate.

Iowa Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats reportedly supported Gingrich but endorsed outspoken pro-life, pro-traditional marriage candidate Rick Santorum.

Gingrich has tried to address his infidelities, noting that he sought forgiveness and since committed himself to his newfound faith.

Gingrich’s third wife, Callista, is a devout Catholic, who sings in the choir at D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Gingrich told Catholic TV network EWTN went to weekly masses to watch his wife perform.

The former House speaker then decided to convert to the Catholic faith after Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the U.S. in 2008. He was confirmed on March 29, 2009.

Cardinal Wuerl refused to speak about the specifics of Gingrich’s conversion and said candidates’ faith should not be considered as part of their political resumes.

"When we're looking at what's the best leader for our country, there shouldn't be some sort of litmus test: What religion do they belong to, what is their religious experience?" he said. "I think what we want to do is look at the candidate and see, does that person share the values that I think are important? Does that person present policies that I think advance the common good of our country?"

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