John Hagee and Hitler's pope

Let's face it, Republican GetReligion readers. You are out there, bracing for the moment when the Rev. Pat Robertson (a) speaks his mind on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, (b) endorses Sen. John McCain, (c) begins his pre-hurricane-season Bible commentaries or (d) all of the above. Right?

You just know that the mainstream reporters are, after the Wright firestorm, going to be all over the wild fringe of the Republican clergy (as they should be). This brings us, of course, to the Rev. John Hagee and his colorful views of the Roman Catholic Church, which is big news in a national election year because Catholics are the swing voters who matter the most.

For those behind in this game, here's the top of an Associated Press report on Hagee and the aftermath of his controversial endorsement of McCain:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain ... repudiated any views of a prominent televangelist who endorsed him last month "if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics."

McCain has come under fire since televangelist John Hagee endorsed him on Feb. 27, but until Friday his response had been tepid. The Arizona senator merely said he doesn't agree with everyone who endorses him. He said Friday he had been hearing from Catholics who find Hagee's comments offensive.

Hagee, leader of a San Antonio megachurch, has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore" and called it a "false cult system" and "the apostate church" -- "apostate" means someone who has forsaken his religion.

Thus, McCain tried to distance himself from Hagee and his beliefs. The problem, however, is that it was hard to know what Hagee actually said -- beyond a few wild and very offensive phrases. As you would expect, conservative Catholics were very interested in this issue. They were upset, to say the least.

And so was Hagee, who quickly put out a statement. This is one of those cases where it helps to read the whole document (please do so), but here is a crucial section:

The truth is I am not now nor have I ever been anti-Catholic. That has been demonstrated in a life time of ministry that has assisted Catholics and the Catholic Church. I have given thousands of dollars to the Catholic Church for disaster relief and have personally supported a local convent for many years. Cornerstone Church has operated a social services center that gives food and clothing daily to people who in the majority are Catholic. My wife comes from a Catholic family and millions of my viewers are Catholics.

Many in the media have mistakenly accepted characterizations of my statements which simply are not true. I never called the Catholic Church the "anti-Christ" a "false cult system" "the apostate church" or the "great whore" of Revelations. This is a serious misinterpretation of my words. When I use these terms, I am referring to those Christians who ignore the Gospels and embrace the false doctrines of Jew-hatred and anti-Semitism.

Now the crucial statement is this: "This is a serious misinterpretation of my words."

In other words, Hagee said the words that he is being accused of saying. Yet he believes that he is being quoted accurately, but out of context. So what does Hagee believe?

It seems to me that his views contain many of the classic anti-Catholic interpretations of scripture that are embraced by some Protestant fundamentalists. Yet Hagee claims that he is not applying these views to all Catholics, but only to those who are -- in his view -- guilty of anti-Semitism. His views of Rome's actions in World War II are as radical as, well, any left-wing critic of Pope Pius XII.

That's rather ironic, don't you think? There are times when people go so far to the right that they end up on the far left. Can you say "Hitler's Pope"?

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