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It started when Lawrence O’Donnell posted on his MSNBC blog that Gov. Perry was “married” to the notion that Catholicism was a “cult.”  His argument, if you can call it that, was based upon the presence of Pastor John Hagee at Perry’s prayer service, “The Response” on August 6.  John McCain was criticized by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, during the 2008 presidential campaign for accepting the endorsement of Hagee who Donohue considered anti-Catholic.

If the story had stopped there, O’Donnell and his imitators would not be guilty of ignoring the subsequent reconciliation between Hagee and Donohue and, most importantly, the May 13, 2008 statement issued by the Catholic League where Donohue said, “The case is closed.”

Here is all of what Donohue said:

“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.

“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.”

As Wayne Slater reports in the Dallas Morning News, I had a role in bringing Hagee and Donohue together, as well as introducing Hagee to another group of Catholic leaders over lunch in Washington, DC.  The meeting that took place at the Catholic League’s office in New York City was reported by Slater as well as a number of other major media outlets.

I wrote of my relationship with Pastor Hagee and the meeting with Bill Donohue in a column entitled, “Taking Time to Act Like Christians.”

I said of media attempts to spin the meeting as a pure political ploy:

“When the reporters called later to ask about the meeting, they wanted to know if it had been arranged to help the McCain campaign. When I responded that it was arranged for personal reasons and out of a concern for relations between Catholics and Evangelicals, I met with skepticism. The media either assumes that every event has a political cause, or that there’s no story unless it is political. The fact is, what I witnessed that day was one of the most remarkable moments of Christian reconciliation I am likely to ever see. There was nothing political or partisan about it.”

Perhaps O’Donnell didn’t follow the Hagee/McCain/Donohue story to its conclusion. If so, let me reiterate, Pastor Hagee is not anti-Catholic.  In the weeks prior to his meeting with Bill Donohue, I talked with Pastor Hagee on several occasions about the Catholic Church, about his published works, as well as various videos to be found on the Internet.  We specifically discussed his interpretation of the Book of Revelation and his view of the presence of antisemitism in the Catholic Church. These issues were also brought up to Hagee at the DC lunch with a dozen Catholic leaders.

The political Left would like nothing better than to divide pro-life/marriage Catholics from Evangelicals as we head toward the 2012 election.  No doubt, the energy being generated among the grassroots by the prospect of Perry entering the race is bad news for those who pray that Obama can hold onto the White House.  Let’s hope this attempt dies a quick death, given it is another attempt to besmirch the reputation of a good man who walked the extra mile to make friends with his Catholic brethren.

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