Callista Gingrich picked as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista at the presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista at the presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

UPDATE: Callista Gingrich is President Trump’s pick to serve as United States Ambassador to the Holy See, the White House announced Friday, May 19. The announcement comes at the start of a nine-day overseas visit for the president, which includes a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 24. The selection of Mrs. Gingrich, a lifelong Catholic and documentary filmmaker, had been reported earlier this week by several media outlets.

Callista Gingrich will be nominated as the United States ambassador to the Vatican, according to reports from CNN and the New York Times.

The pick ends months of speculation about who will hold one of the top posts in the Catholic political world—and thus be responsible for managing an awkward relationship between the White House and the Vatican.

Pope Francis and President Donald J. Trump clashed over immigration policies during last year’s Republican primaries, and earlier this year the pope and a high-ranking Vatican official appeared to criticize a range of policies championed by Mr. Trump. The official announcement is expected to come before Mr. Trump and Pope Francis meet on May 24 at the Vatican.

This year the pope and a high-ranking Vatican official appeared to criticize a range of policies championed by Mr. Trump.

Mrs. Gingrich, a musician, a best-selling children’s book author and documentary film producer, does not have a long public record to scrutinize for details about how she might approach her post should she be confirmed. And though she was a regular on the campaign trail during her husband’s unsuccessful run for the White House, she offered little in speeches that can be mined for clues as to how she will approach her new job.

But in an Easter statement from the couple, they described Christianity as “under siege.”

“On one front, it faces a growing secularism, which seeks to place human desires ahead of God and His will,” the April 15 statement reads. “On the other front, radical Islamism seeks to destroy Christianity across the globe.”

Mrs. Gingrich has been a practicing Catholic her entire life, and she is credited with the 2009 conversion to the faith of her husband Newt, who was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s.

Mrs. Gingrich is the author of a number of children’s books about U.S. history, told from the vantage point of Ellis, a time-traveling cartoon elephant.

The selection of Mrs. Gingrich to serve as ambassador is not a total surprise. Her husband appeared to lobby publicly for the role, telling reporters in January that she was under consideration by the administration.

Mrs. Gingrich described herself as “a very spiritual person” in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2011, saying that she starts “each day with a prayer, and pray throughout the day, because I am grateful for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us.”

 

 

Celebrating Newt's birthday in Rome. Happy birthday Newt!

A post shared by Callista Gingrich (@callygingrich) on

 

In a 2012 New Yorker profile about the possibility she would become first lady, she said, “When Newt became a Catholic, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.”

It appears Mrs. Gingrich is a fan of Pope Francis—and that the pair has already met. A Christmas card from her Twitter account in 2014 shows the pope shaking hands with her and her husband in St. Peter’s Square.

 

 

During the pope’s 2015 visit to the United States, Mrs. Gingrich posted on Instagram that she had attended both his visit to the White House and his speech to the U.S. Congress. She tweeted at the time, “We have been blessed by the visit of Pope Francis.”

The Wisconsin native attended Luther College on a music scholarship and now plays the French horn in a Virginia community band. She also sings in the choir at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where she and her husband attend Mass. In a 2011 essay about his conversion, Mr. Gingrich said attending Mass at the basilica to hear his wife sing and visiting Catholic churches all over the world with her “opened my eyes to the diversity and richness of the Catholic Church.”

Mrs. Gingrich is the author of a number of children’s books about U.S. history, told from the vantage point of Ellis, a time-traveling cartoon elephant.

She is the head of Gingrich Productions, the company she runs with her husband, which produced two documentaries about Pope John Paul II: one about his 1979 visit to Poland, called “Nine Days That Changed the World,” and one titled “Divine Mercy: The Canonization of John Paul II.” The pair were on hand for the late pontiff’s canonization ceremony in Rome. They visited Catholic parishes and schools throughout the United States promoting the films.

Mrs. Gingrich’s appointment to the Vatican could raise eyebrows in some circles, especially as Rome continues a heated debate about the church’s views on marriage and divorce.

Callista met Newt in 1993, when he was still married to his second wife and Callista was one of his congressional staffers.. They married in 2000, a few months after Mr. Gingrich’s divorce was finalized.

From a church perspective, there are no issues with the Gingrich marriage, as Mr. Gingrich was not received into the church until after he married Mrs. Gingrich.

The Vatican must approve nominees to serve as ambassadors to the Holy See, a process that usually occurs before a candidate is put forward. This is not always the case, however.

Last year, France backed down from its nomination of a gay man to fill the role after church officials dragged their feet for months on the appointment, though the Vatican denied that the nominee’s sexual orientation was the reason.

Still, it is unlikely the Trump administration would announce their pick of Mrs. Gingrich without obtaining a nod from Rome.

The Gingrichs are longtime friends of President Trump, golfing regularly at his resorts and campaigning for him during the 2016 presidential election.

 

 

In a tweet sent last October, Mrs. Gingrich said she and her husband planned to visit the Trump Volunteer Call Center to sign copies of their books, and they also attended the opening of Mr. Trump’s controversial hotel in Washington, D.C.

Speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Mrs. Gingrich said Mr. Trump had “given hope and encouragement to millions of Americans.”

More than a ceremonial role, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See frequently plays host to high-profile American Catholics visiting Rome and facilitates dialogue between the U.S government and the Vatican on a range of issues important to both. In recent years, for example, the Obama administration and the Vatican have shared an interest in fighting human trafficking and slowing climate change.

Pope Francis has also shown a willingness to use the Vatican’s vast diplomatic corps in international diplomacy, which makes the post even more important. President Obama praised Pope Francis and the Vatican for their role in helping to thaw relations between the United States and Cuba.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Mrs. Gingrich will fill a role last held by Ken Hackett, the former head of Catholic Relief Services who was nominated to the post by President Barack Obama in June 2013. The post was created by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Beth Cioffoletti
1 week 2 days ago

Oh my. I don't want to be unkind. Cally Gingrich really looks like a lovely woman, and she sings in the choir and all.

But I would love that job! I told my husband about it. We could have an apartment in Rome, we would represent the people of the United States. Go to meetings and the like, all around wonderful Italian food. It would be a dream job.

But, alas, this job is a reward for political loyalty. Things really haven't changed all that much in a thousand years. Perhaps I don't really want the job after all. I'll stick to advocating for prisoners.

James MacGregor
1 week 2 days ago

You have to "love" the marriage thing. I wonder what the going rate was for permission to marry the divorced man. My wife's son was asked for $15,000 to OK his second marriage after his divorce.

Vincent Gaglione
1 week 2 days ago

On the morning of May 15, 2017 the New York Times reported that Callista Gingrich was being considered for US Ambassador to the Vatican. This article in America seems to affirm her pick. The news to me is stunning and repugnant.

This article poses issues regarding USA vs. Vatican policies. The author politely overlooks the real issues from my perspective.

The circumstances of her relationship and subsequent marriage to Newt Gingrich provided substantial fodder for tabloids, as well as for mockery of the Church’s proclaimed insistence on the sanctity of marriage. And all the appeals to the legalisms of Church law that sanctioned the marriage cannot overcome those reservations by non-Catholics, many Catholics in divorced situations, and thoughtful Catholics alike.

So a Catholic can have an affair with a married non-Catholic and it is not considered violative of Christ’s injunction? Is that because it is not a Catholic marriage? Or is it because Christ’s injunction only speaks to men…”let no man put asunder.” A simple confession resolves all the issues? These split hairs irritate and vex many Catholic souls who find themselves judged as unworthy and living in sin.

I look forward to hearing the praises of Mrs. Gingrich by some of the conservative commenters here, the same people who have such problems with Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia!

J. Calpezzo
1 week 2 days ago

Is this some kind of a sick joke? Fat Newt's adulterous old lady, Candy Plastique, as Ambassador to the Holy See? What are her diplomatic credentials, other than making u-turns under the sheets with El Gordo?

Dominic Deus
1 week 2 days ago

J. --I bet you can do better than this. There are plenty of issues to raise. Show us a couple.

--Dominic

Dominic Deus
1 week 2 days ago

#

--Dominic

J. Calpezzo
1 week 2 days ago

Breaking News: Trump Commits Treason. Shares classified files on terrorism with Russians in the Oval Office.

J. Calpezzo
1 week 2 days ago

Breaking News: Trump Commits Treason. Shares classified files on terrorism with Russians in the Oval Office.

Mike Evans
1 week 2 days ago

This does seem incongruent to say the least. I have never been more ashamed of so called Catholic politicians. What will it be next? Pope Francis is being "played" and so are the hierarchy.

Charles Erlinger
1 week 2 days ago

What if their being played is the good news, and that the bad news is that they're not?

Charles Erlinger
1 week 2 days ago

What if their being played is the good news, and that the bad news is that they're not?

Vince Killoran
1 week 2 days ago

Let's be charitable people! These ambassadorships are handed out for political and personal reasons. Still, even Shirley Temple Black had experience in public life (e.g., she ran for office a couple of times, was involved in California's Commonwealth Club).

I did think the Gingrich's Christmas card photograph was inappropriate.

Dominic Deus
1 week 2 days ago

Dominic Deus here. Let us remember that this story is speculation at the moment and *if* Callista Gingrich is nominated, she can be rejected by the Vatican diplomatic corp. Anyone can. Even me.

As to the nature of her romance and marriage to her husband Newt, I know very little about it other than *his* conduct at the time seemed incredibly dishonorable toward his then gravely ill wife but there may be more to to than I know. Nothing I can think of that would change my opinion, however.

I have followed Newt Gingrich's political career for more than two decades and what I can say about him is that he is very intelligent but has managed to fail to use his abilities for the purpose of anything politically good, ever. In my estimation, he is a very small man compared to what he could have and should have been. That's the kindest thing I can say and I will say no more.

BUT...little of that has to do with his wife. Let's not jump into guilt by association; frankly that's hard to do with Newt Gingrich but doing it is the right thing.

If she is confirmed, I wish her well. She should, however, call me ASAP for a quick briefing. Christianity, particularly white Christianity is not under siege and Islam as a whole is neither violent nor seeking to destroy America. There are a lot of other things an ambassador needs to know in order to be taken seriously. she could go find a Jesuit. I would not recommend consulting her husband.

One other thing: Does she speak Italian? That's usually a requirement, isn't it?

We live in unusual times. (That's code for "Look who's President!")

--Dominic

John Walton
1 week 2 days ago

While you're all throwing bricks at Newt and Callista, to edify the Vaticanate -- the fastest increase in per capital real incomes for the bottom decile of wage-earners took place in the years immediately following the passage of Gingrich's "Contract with America". This is putative apostasty for the incumbent of Peter's Chair, but factually true. The other two periods of rapid income growth for the bottom decile took place after the Kennedy and Reagan's tax cuts.

Facts are often inconvenient for the Vatican, vide Galileo.

Paula Swain
1 week 1 day ago

I am confused, dismayed and disappointed in the Catholic Church for allowing marriages between a divorced person and a practicing Catholic solely based on the technicality that the divorced person's original marriage was not in the Catholic Church therefore not recognized and invalid allowing a marriage within the Church. Very hypocritical. And now Callista Gingrich who took full advantage of this loophole is possibly going to be given one of the highest honors given to a Catholic? I understand forgiving the sin of adultery which she and Newt committed. I understand but do not agree with granting them to marry because I am sure Newt Gingrich's children from his previous marriages will not agree that those marriages were not "valid". It is an abomination that the Catholic Church allows and fully participates in this type of farce on a daily basis. Rocks my faith in the men who run the Church. I have encouraged my children to find comfort in a less hypocritical practice of religion. They have all gone on to find truth in Protestant sects.

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