What Absolution Can’t Do

by Ramesh Ponnuru

In an article on the homepage, I try to think through what impact Gingrich’s religious conversion should have on assessments of his scandalous past behavior:

Most conservatives seem to have adopted a sensible view about the relevance of Newt Gingrich’s history of adultery to his presidential campaign: It is a negative factor but not a dispositive one. Conservatives who agree on this point may differ on just how much weight to give that factor. Here and there, however, one hears arguments to the effect that Gingrich’s past sins should not affect our judgment of his candidacy at all. The point is put with special force by, and to, some of Gingrich’s fellow Catholics: Since he has been absolved of his sins in the process of conversion, hasn’t the slate been wiped clean? Aren’t we obligated to forgive him for any past transgressions?

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