Newt Gingrich, Medievalist
Over on Politics Daily (a site I am just now bookmarking as something I have to read, well, daily), there is a great article on how Obama is reviving progressive Catholicism. It is fascinating for a Unitarian who is a medievalist and a wannabe catholic (which I'm sure means I'll end up an Episcopalian eventually).
A couple of points it brings up are worth noting. I already knew that Sonia Sotomayor will be the sixth catholic sitting on the Supreme Court. That is primarily a result of the abortion issue, as conservative catholic justices who can supposedly be counted on to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. But Sotomayor is a Catholic in the old (though not too old) school, a progressive catholic.
Another point I found fascinating is the number of conservatives, Gingrich among them, who have converted to Catholicism as as the conservative wing of the church has come to dominate church hierarchy, and that seems to have increased witht he election of the Grand Inquisitor as pope.
But the main point of the article is how Obama, an African American protestant, is stirring up a debate among Catholics and giving voice to the Church's progressive wing.
To me it is odd. My primary attraction to Catholicism (as is Gingrich's) comes from the fact that I am a medievalist. Studying the middle ages I have to immerse myself in Catholicism, and so it's rituals have become a part of me, even as I cling to my secular faith as a Unitarian (nice thing about Unitarianism: you can believe just about anything you want to believe). But the medieval church is not the Catholic church I came to respect when I was young. That is the church that has been largely silenced since the election of John Paul II, the church of the Kennedy's, of Romero, of Moynihan and McCarthy. The church that was radicalized in the 30s and continued their progressive agenda through the 70s, and who still have a few standard bearers like Pelosi and Cuomo and Keary, and all those working-class Irish and Hispanic Catholics who believe in sticking up for those who haven't got a voice.
What I see happening right now, as the Conservative Bishops begin to lose their grip on the Church, is the same thing that is happening to the Republicans. Conservatism has been so fully discredited that conservatives are becoming marginalized themselves, both in politics and in the church. And that is an interesting development.