The endorsement of Senator John McCain by a Catholic-bashing Texas minister won swift rebuke from the president of the Catholic League and a Jewish leader concerned about his “vicious and inflammatory” anti-Catholicism.
Both compared the minister to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
On Wednesday Pastor John Hagee endorsed Senator John McCain’s bid to become the Republican presidential candidate in the 2008 election.
Senator McCain responded to the endorsement by calling Hagee “the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement,” praising Hagee’s pro-Israel stance.
President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue harshly criticized the endorsement.
“There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them,” Donohue said on Thursday. “Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system’.”
Donohue said that in Pastor Hagee’s latest book the minister claimed Hitler was a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. “The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,” wrote Hagee, according to Bill Donohue.
Donohue criticized the remarks, saying, “For the record, Hitler persecuted the Catholic Church and was automatically excommunicated in 1931—two years before he assumed power—when he acted as best man at Joseph Goebbel’s Protestant wedding. Hitler even bragged about his separation from the Church. As for doing nothing about the Holocaust, Sir Martin Gilbert reminds us that Goebbel denounced Pope Pius XII for his 1942 Christmas message criticizing the Nazis (the New York Times lauded the pope for doing so in an editorial for two years in a row). Much to Hagee’s chagrin, Gilbert also says that Pius XII saved three quarters of the Jews in Rome, and that more Jews were saved proportionately in Catholic countries than Protestant countries.”
Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, echoed Donohue’s criticisms. In a Friday statement, Rabbi Kula said, “Just as Jews and other people of good will have appropriately demanded that Barack Obama unambiguously renounce and reject the endorsement of Minister Louis Farrakhan because of his bigotry and rabid anti-Semitism so Jews and other people of good will should demand that John McCain renounce and reject the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee because of his vicious and inflammatory anti-Catholicism.”
Rabbi Kula said Pastor Hagee’s position on Israel “does not mean he should be given carte blanche to denigrate and malign another religion.” He continued, saying, “Barack Obama showed his integrity when he rejected Minister Farrakhan’s hate whatever the political costs and sensitivities. John McCain is also a man of integrity. He needs to similarly reject Pastor Hagee’s hate whatever the political calculations and consequences.”
In a Friday statement Bill Donohue said Senator McCain’s opponent for the nomination, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, had expressed “disappointment and surprise” that Hagee had not chosen him. Donohue also compared Hagee to Louis Farrakhan, wondering why the candidates were fighting over the endorsement of such a figure.
Donohue also called on McCain to shun Hagee’s endorsement.
“Just this week, McCain repudiated the remarks of talk radio host Bill Cunningham,” Donohue said. “He should now repudiate Hagee’s long record of bashing Catholicism. After all, George W. Bush apologized for speaking at Bob Jones University, and Hagee makes Jones look like a lightweight in the ring of bigotry."