After my last post on the purported anti-Catholicism of John Hagee, I spoke with Mary Navarro Farr, a San Antonio woman who spent seven years at Hagee’s church a quarter-century ago. While she never formally joined the church, she sang in its choir, went on a trip to Israel led by Hagee, and generally functioned as a member. She loved the fellowship the church provided but ultimately its anti-Catholic ideology proved too much for her.
Navarro Farr emphasized that while she was not part of Hagee’s “inner circle,” she had no doubt that the anti-Catholic ideology came from the top. “You cannot not fault the leadership,” she said. The preaching was filled with “hellfire and brimstone,” with much talk about the role of “the City of the Seven Hills” in the coming Tribulation. The need to get right with God in order to be among the Saints raptured to heaven was a constant theme. When she would go off to church, her husband would warn her “not to drink the Kool-Aid.”
“Someone would say I have a friend who is Catholic and we need to pray for their deliverance from that cult,” she said. “I couldn’t pray that prayer.” One time, another Hispanic woman who had left Catholicism accosted her for wearing a holy medal with the image of the Virgin Mary. “I said, ‘Why you’re looking at me like I dropped my clothes.’ She said, ‘It’s a graven image.’ I said, “You’re frightening me into leaving this place.’ Not long after that I decided to leave. It was time for me to go.” She returned to worship at San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral, where she remains to this day.
So let us stipulate that John Hagee has, for decades, offered up a strong version of premillenial dispensationalism, in which hostility to Catholicism figures prominently. And that the view that Catholicism is a cult allied with diabolic forces plays out on the ground among the members of his church. Does this mean that a presidential candidate should reject his endorsement?
On Friday, John McCain told the AP:
We’ve had a dignified campaign, and I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee’s, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics,” McCain said.
“I sent two of my children to Catholic school. I categorically reject and repudiate any statement that was made that was anti-Catholic, both in intent and nature. I categorically reject it, and I repudiate it.
If Mike Huckabee were the GOP nominee, and had said that, I doubt that it would suffice. But who thinks that McCain is guilty of anything more serious than wanting, needing to suck up to the evangelicals?
On Friday, prior to the AP story, the Catholic League posted a notice of disapproval, with the redoubtable Bill Donohue quoted as saying:
Fortunately for McCain, he did not shut the door and say this matter is over. But time is running out. We expect to hear a more definitive statement that explicitly rejects Hagee’s anti-Catholicism. If we don’t, criticism from many quarters will only escalate. It is one thing for a candidate to disagree with the Catholic position on certain public policy issues, quite another to break bread with an anti-Catholic bigot.
Meanwhile, on Friday evening Bill Moyers devoted his show to an exploration of Hagee and his views. Who knows what the coming week will bring?