WASHINGTON – John Hagee, an influential Texas televangelist who endorsed John McCain, apologized to Catholics on Tuesday for his stinging criticism of the Roman Catholic Church and for having “emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews.”
Hagee’s support for McCain has drawn cries of outrage from some Catholic leaders who have called on McCain to reject the endorsement. The likely Republican nominee has said he does not agree with some of Hagee’s comments, but did not reject his support.
In a letter to William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, Hagee wrote: “Out of a desire to advance a greater unity among Catholics and evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.”
Donohue, one of Hagee’s sharpest critics, said he accepted the apology and planned to meet with Hagee Thursday in New York. “I got what I wanted,” Donohue said. “He’s seen the light, as they like to say. So for me it’s over.”
The controversy had threatened to pursue McCain throughout the campaign, potentially hurting his standing with Catholic voters. A narrow majority of Roman Catholics voted for President Bush in 2004 and for Al Gore in 2000, critical votes in close elections.
Campaigning in North Bend, Wash., McCain on Tuesday said Hagee’s apology was “very helpful.”
Hagee has cited the Inquisition and Crusades as evidence of anti-Semitism within the Catholic church and suggested that Catholic anti-Semitism shaped Adolf Hitler’s views of Jews.