McCain Backer Apologizes For Anti-Catholic Remarks

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

While Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has struggled with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., GOP foe John McCain's own pastor problem has festered.

But yesterday, pastor John Hagee, a McCain supporter whose controversial comments about Catholicism angered church leaders, issued a letter of apology to the president of the Catholic League, who heartily accepted it.

In the letter, Hagee admitted that he "may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the modern-day Catholic Church. It most certainly does not."

Hagee, an evangelical who has been outspoken in his support for Israel, had enraged Catholics with statements about the "apostate church" and the "great whore." He said in his letter that he meant neither of those to apply to the Catholic Church.

He continued: "I pledge to address these sensitive issues in the future with a greater level of compassion and respect for my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ."

Catholic League President William Donoghue accepted the apology. In a statement, he wrote that "the tone of Hagee's letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it. Indeed, the Catholic League welcomes his apology. . . . Whatever problems we had before are now history. This case is closed."

McCain sought out Hagee's endorsement earlier in the primary season while competing for evangelical voters with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Not all Catholics were mollified by the letter. Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, said that "it would be nice if McCain apologized," and called the candidate's previous efforts to distance himself from Hagee's comments "somewhat conditional."

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