Friday, June 06, 2008

The Real Lessons of the Hagee Case

Austin Ruse, president of the New York and Washington DC-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) and a member of John McCain's Catholic advisory committee, writes on the John Hagee imbroglio at a new website called The Catholic Thing (tip o' the hat to the man with the black hat):
Pastor John Hagee partly deserved what he got in the recent kafuffle over his lurid remarks about the Catholic Church. If you are going to throw punches at Catholicism in public, you can expect to get a few thrown back at you. But the actions taken against him by some Catholics went too far, and may come with a hidden cost for Catholic/Evangelical relations and for John McCain, too.

Doctrinal disagreement is old news. What's new is how harmoniously orthodox believers of all faiths, even despite our profound differences, have banded together in modern times to fight a greater threat than each other: radical secularism. The strength of this alliance lies in our common view that beliefs should not be watered down or apologized for. They are bracketed, while all sides join together against a common foe.

This did not happen by accident. Great strides have been made in the past quarter century between Evangelicals and Catholics. Where once there was open hostility -- aimed mostly at Catholics -- there is now a closeness and common purpose that can only be considered providential. Human agency has helped, of course, most notably “Catholics and Evangelicals Together,” the majestic project of Father Richard John Neuhaus, Charles Colson, and others, which meets regularly to work out common understandings or civil disagreements over doctrinal issues.

A parallel development has been the great coming together of Evangelicals and Catholics in the fight against abortion. This coalition has grown into a potent force that has changed the face of American politics and kept such issues as abortion and marriage on the hottest burner in American politics – and even encouraged similar efforts internationally. But it has done much more. It has nurtured greater friendship, understanding, and even love among Evangelicals and Catholics.

The Catholics I know who work on these and other equally important cultural questions often assume that some of their Evangelical allies believe the Church is the Whore of Babylon or that we worship Mary or other such things. And so what? They’re wrong. We know it. Following the teaching of recent popes, we work for Christian unity, knowing it will not come soon. In the meantime, we have other fish to fry.

My Comments:
Let's be clear about one thing. Those on the Catholic right who complained about the GOP candidates' associations with Hagee were concerned primarily about the lack of respect toward Catholics that his public pronouncements evinced; NOT about the doctrinal differences. And, to some extent, some of us were concerned about what smacked of hypocrisy arising from the fact that McCain would embrace Hagee after having pilloried Bush (even accusing him of holding an insensitivity toward Catholics) over merely speaking at Bob Jones University 8 years ago.

Now let's get to the Catholic left. Those folks harped on the Hagee affair primarily as an effort toward driving a wedge between Catholics and Evangelicals (so, who's being "divisive"?) who have worked together harmoniously over the years to promote the pro-life agenda that the Catholic left either opposes outright or sees as a matter of inconvenience standing in the way of electing their candidates of "choice" (pun intended). They don't like that sort of ecumenisism with those sorts of Christians.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Deal Hudson: "Are Religious Conservatives and the GOP Heading for Divorce?"

John McCain's "Profiles in Courage": A Couple of Examples of Why I Have Not Backed McCain ...

Hagee Takes Arrow Out of Obamoloch Catholic Quiver: Controversial Evangelical Apologizes to Catholics [UPDATED]

Catholic Left Beats McCain with Hagee Stick

How Significant is Hagee's McCain Endorsement?

Deal Hudson: "McCain Campaign Learns Its Lesson About Catholics"

Deal Hudson on "Mike Huckabee's Anti-Catholic Problem"

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At 6/06/2008 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to confess I have little interest in ECT. I would throw the organization under the bus in a New York minute. I can't get all excited about Haggee though. Every candidate has kooks for supporters. Some of those kooks have followers that need to be appeased. Sausage making and politics aren't for the weak of heart.

At 6/06/2008 10:54 AM, Blogger matthew archbold said...

The "outrage" against Hageee seemed feigned to me. And it was almost exclusively pushed by Obamaniacs as a way to compare it to Rev. Wright. You nailed it.

At 6/06/2008 1:36 PM, Blogger James H said...

I would also elements of the Catholic right used it because it was a good political thing to do inthe primaries. It is a good gotcha that is not easy to refute in 30 second soundbites.

In the end we are also political animals and our motives are not always so pure lol

At 6/06/2008 1:44 PM, Blogger Tito Edwards said...

The 'Catholic' Left deliberately push this issue to drive a wedge between Evangelicals and Catholics without much success. If anything, it only proved their lack of catechesis overall as alleged Catholics (not all, but many).

I don't think, or rather hope, that there is no short nor long term damage done between relations amongst Evangelicals and Catholics. My only thought is that it has done much to show the slight poor judgement on McCain's part to embrace and then leave Hagee--both for the wrong reasons. McCain is doing absolutely nothing to assure the religious right.

Yesterday McCain went out of his way to pander to moderates and independents. Independents are important, though not as important as the GOP base, ie, the Religious Right. And moderates are basically fence-sitters that are afraid to stand up for what they believe. And with McCain inspiring me to watch my grass grow ins't exacly what 'fence-sitters' need to grab their attention. They certainly are paying attention to Obama's hollow yet eloquantly said rhetoric.


At 6/07/2008 1:07 AM, Blogger Bender said...

Just as we have overly-politicized Evangelicals, so too does it appear that we have the political-Catholic, who has so merged politics with Catholicism as to see them go hand-in-hand.

It seems to me, though, that we should be just plain Catholics, that is, we should put Catholicism before politics, Catholicism before conservative or liberal, and not make excuses for anti-Catholic bigots simply because they are associated with some (incredibly weak) candidate for public office that we (foolishly) support.

At 6/07/2008 9:35 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"... and not make excuses for anti-Catholic bigots simply because they are associated with some (incredibly weak) candidate for public office that we (foolishly) support."

Just so long as we're not including ME in that "we". I have bashed both McCain and Huckabee for seeking the support of the bigot Hagee. And I certainly DO NOT support John McCain.

At 6/07/2008 12:14 PM, Blogger Bender said...

No, Jay -- I'm not even including myself in that rhetorical "we." But I do include some somewhat prominent Catholic(s) who made a big noise and sent out press releases announcing their support of John McCain, assuring us common folk that he was the answer to all our problems and a slam-dunk winner (i.e., the author of that Catholic Thing article).

Me? I'm still waiting for McCain to give me even one tiny little reason to vote for him beyond some variation of "I'm not Obama." Instead, it seems that everyday McCain says something that makes me cringe and gives me reason to NOT vote for him.

In any event, McCain's people keep telling folks how McCain is going to clean up in November. Sounds like insanely foolish spin to me (Clintonesque even), but if that's what they think, then they really don't need my vote to win. Good, that will just free my conscience to write-in some other name because I sure as hell ain't voting for McCain.

At 6/08/2008 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Ruse is suggesting that McCain should have ignored the political consequences of pandering to an Evangelist who had called the Catholic Church the great whore without reversing the injustice?

Try that logic out with Obama and the Klu Klux Klan.

Politics aside, how about The Catholic Thing? You know...the one that's based upon our sound theology that we admit our sins and errors and we seek forgiveness? The Catholic Thing that not only carries us in our relationship with God, it carries us in healthy personal and working relationships?

Haggee was an albatross. The fact that an error was made in accepting his endorsement - dealing with the albatross was imperative. Being able to work alongside somebody who has admitted their injustice and apologized for it is the only path to unity that Catholics understand.

Sour grapes.

Carol McKinley

At 6/08/2008 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


For the record...

I'm not committed to McCain either. Until he puts his money where his mouth is and engages a pro-life vp with a record we can all put out fingers on, I'll not be convinced that his appointments to the Supreme Court would be of our ilk - which I believe absolves me of the sinfulness of staying home or throwing my vote down the toilet with a third party candidate.

Carol McKinley


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