So, let me ask it again in a more extended fashion: Are conservative Christians, who believe in the morality of the natural law and all that it entails about marriage, family and civil society, prepared for America to have a First Lady who was a home wrecker and was once the President’s mistress, with her husband as the national standard bearer for the causes of life, conjugal love, and the common good?This is a legitimate question, and my answer to it is that I would rather not have such people--sinners--occupying the White House. Adultery is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments and is a mortal sin. On the other hand, I would rather not have a person who is a polytheist in the White House either. Mormonism is essentially polytheistic, a violation of another of the Ten Commandments, and also a mortal sin.
I would far rather have a non-sinner in the White House. As soon as anyone spots one, I'd like to know about it.
But there is an important difference between the two scenarios above--the Gingriches and the Romneys. It is that the former are repentant, and the latter are not. And so I'm not clear on how unrepentant and continuing violation of the first commandment is less problematic than the repentant violation of the sixth commandment.
In fact, if we are looking for God's own attitude toward the relative sinfulness of these two particular sins--polytheism and polygamy--it is not too difficult to see where the greater problem lies. God frequently penalizes individuals--and the nations they lead--for committing the former, but does not seem to have much of a penchant for penalizing an individual or nation for the latter.
In fact, if multiple marriage disqualifies one for public office, it is instructive who is thereby disqualified. We can start with David and Solomon. In fact, it would be an interesting question to consider how a guy with 700 wives would do in the Republican primary. In fact, with the kind of extended family that implies, one wonders if there would be any way he could lose.
I do not believe that the relatively greater divine distaste for polytheism over polygamy is an indication that polygamy was morally acceptable, but it does seem to pose a serious problem for anyone who wants to argue that serial monogamy (which it seems is less of a sin than polygamy) is any more problematic than polytheism.
I have pointed out elsewhere that I agree that character matters, but that I also think that conversion matters more. Not only has Gingrich publicly admitted that what he did was wrong, but as a Catholic convert, you have to do this little thing that involves going into a little room and spilling out your guts--including sexual sins--in detail to a guy on the other side of a panel, who, once you are finished, absolves you of your sins.
I too, like Beckwith, wish that Gingrich had been a little more contrite in his answer--as he has already been when he has discussed this elsewhere. I too, like Beckwith, think he should have been more sensitive about the pain he caused his wife. Maybe St. Augustine was being a little too self-obsessed himself when he said pretty much the same thing about the concubine he abandoned--it pained him.
In fact, it kind of bothered me that Ronald Reagan was a divorcee.
This is not a trivial problem. Gingrich's past bothers me. So does Romney's present. Maybe Santorum's future should concern me as well--he seems pretty squeaky clean so far, but who knows.
One of them will win the Republican nomination and face Barack Obama, who, incidentally, is neither a serial monogamist nor a polytheist.
Should I vote for him? It's an uncomfortable and awkward question.