What we have here is a classic example of a valuable Beltway skill -- the non-apology apology. Basically, the person in the news says, "I am very sorry that you were offended by something that you thought that I said, when I really said something else." We are, of course, talking about the letter to the Catholic League sent by the Rev. John Hagee, the televangelist/pastor who endorsed Sen. John McCain. GetReligion has been following the coverage of this story for some time now, and there isn't a lot of new material in this new variation on the them.
Still, covering this kind of after-the-media storm mini-story can be tricky, in part because it requires the mainstream reporters to briefly summarize what Hagee has been saying, as well as what his critics say that he has been saying. Here's some material from the top of the short story in the Washington Post:
... (Pastor) John Hagee, a McCain supporter whose controversial comments about Catholicism angered church leaders, issued a letter of apology to the president of the Catholic League, who heartily accepted it. In the letter, Hagee admitted that he "may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the modern-day Catholic Church. It most certainly does not."
Hagee, an evangelical who has been outspoken in his support for Israel, had enraged Catholics with statements about the "apostate church" and the "great whore." He said in his letter that he meant neither of those to apply to the Catholic Church. He continued: "I pledge to address these sensitive issues in the future with a greater level of compassion and respect for my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ."
Catholic League President William Donoghue accepted the apology.
Of course Donoghue accepted the apology, in large part because he is a leader in a certain stream of Roman Catholic life -- pro-Vatican -- that tends to produce a certain type of "Catholic voter." Remember that typology from the other day? Here are those four "Catholic vote" groups, again:
* Ex-Catholic/estranged Catholic vote.
* Cultural Catholic/several Masses a year Catholic vote.
* Sunday only, I'm OK at the American-Catholic-doctrinal-cafeteria vote.
* Catholics who sweat the details and go to confession vote.
So Donoghue embraced the apology, while many other Catholics declined to do so. Care to predict some of the doctrinal and political ties among those on one side or the other, when it comes to the status of the Hagee apology?
Meanwhile, our friends over at Beliefnet.com have plugged some new Donoghue interview material into their ongoing "God-o-Meter" feature. Check it out.
Here's a key question in that Q&A:
How far back does Hagee's record of making anti-Catholic statements go?
I wrote to him in 1997 and he never wrote back. We had somebody from our chapter go to one of his events and he had some video that was casting aspersions (on Catholics) and he never answered me.
People like Tony Perkins and Richard Land and James Dobson, we obviously have theological differences, but there has always been comity and an amicable relationship. I get involved with them occasionally on policy things, like Justice Sunday, and Hagee is not only not invited, his name is not even mentioned. He's kind of out of the loop.