The Rev. John Hagee -- who in some eyes threatened to become to John McCain what the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. became to Barack Obama -- has apologized for remarks that offended many Catholics.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement today that he accepted the apology and any dispute is over.
"After weeks of meeting with various Catholic leaders, and accessing scholarly literature on Catholic-Jewish relations, Pastor John Hagee has demonstrated an improved understanding of the Catholic Church and its history. In his letter to me, Hagee says, 'I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.' He specifically cites his emphasis of 'the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews,' and has pledged to provide a more complete and balanced portrayal going forward that will not reinforce mischaracterizations of the Catholic Church. And while he stresses that his invocation of terms like 'apostate church' and the ‘great whore’ were never meant by him to describe the Catholic Church, he acknowledges that anti-Catholics have long employed such language," Donohue said in his statement.
"The tone of Hagee’s letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it. Indeed, the Catholic League welcomes his apology. What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns. But he has done just that. Now Catholics, along with Jews, can work with Pastor Hagee in making interfaith relations stronger than ever. Whatever problems we had before are now history. This case is closed."
Ever since the Texas televangelist endorsed McCain for president, the presumptive Republican nominee, has sought to distance himself from the controversial comments, arguing that just because he accepts an endorsement doesn't mean he agrees with all that person's views.
UPDATE: The Democratic National Committee called on McCain to distance himself further from Hagee.
"Now that Reverend Hagee is apologizing for his anti-Catholic comments, does John McCain think that Hagee should also apologize for his other comments? If so will he have the courage to say so publicly?" asked DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney "Unless John McCain's idea of being a new kind of Republican includes cozying up to radicals who compare women to dogs, hold racially insensitive fundraisers and call one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history God's punishment, he should renounce John Hagee's endorsement immediately. Given John McCain's history of putting political calculations ahead of his principles, we're not holding our breath."
UPDATE: Campaigning in North Bend, Wash., McCain today said Hagee's apology was "very helpful," the Associated Press reported.
"Whenever somebody apologizes for something they did wrong, then I think that that's a laudable thing to do," he said. Asked if he or his campaign played a role in brokering Hagee's letter, McCain simply said: "I certainly wasn't."
Obama repudiated Wright, his former pastor, earlier this month after controversy rebubbled over his remarks about US culpability for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and other incendiary comments.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.