From NBC's Bethany Thomas and Domenico Montanaro
Controversial McCain endorser Pastor John Hagee, who has come under fire for comments he's made about victims of Katrina as well as the Catholic Church, today apologized to the Catholic Church with "deep regret."
Hagee sent this letter to the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, a controversial figure himself, apologizing to the Catholic Church for insinuating the Catholic Church was or had been anti-Semitic and referring to it as the "great whore."
He says, "I am writing in a spirit of mutual respect and reconciliation to clarify my views.
"Out of a desire to advance greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful. After engaging in constructive dialogue with Catholic friends and leaders, I now have an improved understanding of the Catholic Church, its relation to the Jewish faith, and the history of anti-Catholicism."
He goes on to say that his comments were, in part, out of "...my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms.... In the process, I may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the Catholic Church. It most certainly does not."
He goes on to note that "there were thousands of righteous Catholic - both clergy and laymen -- who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust," including Pope Pius XII.
In reference to his "great whore" comment, he writes, "...I better understand that reference to the Roman Catholic Church as the 'apostate church' and the 'great whore' described in the Book of Revelation is a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary."
He adds later, in his defense, that his ministry has done some pro-Catholic works, like buying the property where the home of the Ursuline Sisters of San Antonio was for his ministry's school when the sisters "were on the verge of losing their home ... and allowed them to continue living in their home free of charge for twelve years."
He makes this closing appeal, "It is this sense of Christian fellowship I hope to reestablish with Catholics with whom I and all Evangelicals must unite to be a voice for life, the family, marriage, and Christian values to our nation and the world."
*** UPDATE *** The Democratic National Committee responds and is unimpressed with how McCain has dealt with Hagee.
"Reverend John Hagee today apologized for his offensive comments about Catholics. Despite spending a year courting Hagee's endorsement and refusing to distance himself from the controversial pastor, John McCain reportedly played no role in the apology. McCain has repeatedly refused to publicly denounce Hagee's discriminatory comments about women, African-Americans, America Muslims or LGBT Americans or renounce Hagee's endorsement."
DNC Communications Director Karen Finney writes, "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? 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."