RHODE ISLAND CATHOLIC EDITORIAL

We forgive his bigotry

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Forgiveness and reconciliation are the hallmarks of Catholic life and faith. They are freely offered in response to repentance for the offenses committed against God and neighbor.

For Pastor John Hagee, the Texas televangelist who has had a history of making public anti-Catholic statements, such forgiveness and reconciliation are offered in response to his contrite apology to Catholics.

The pastor’s offensive remarks about the Catholic Church came to light when he entered the national stage in endorsing Senator John McCain for president. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the Democratic National Committee both criticized Hagee’s comments that the Catholic Church was an “apostate church" and the "great whore." He was swiftly condemned for his offensive remarks and quickly became a national news story.

In a recent two-and-a-half page letter to Dr. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, that expressed in detail his contrition for his offensive comments about the Catholic Church, Pastor Hagee wrote: “Out of a desire to advance a greater unity among Catholics and evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.” Donohue, who has stirred the sharp criticism of Hagee’s anti-Catholicism, stated he accepted the apology and suggested that “the tone of Hagee’s letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it."

We commend Pastor Hagee’s contrite and heartfelt response to his offensive remarks and suggestions about Catholics and the Catholic Church. His sincere attempt to seek forgiveness and reconciliation should be accepted by the many Catholics hurt and offended by such comments. We must, after all, practice what we preach.

However, Anti-Catholicism is too often an acceptable practice in the United States and we hope that Pastor Hagee’s actions once his prejudice was exposed are a lesson for our many evangelical brothers and sisters who may hold similar views. Such prejudice is nothing new for American Catholics. During Pope Benedict's recent Apostolic Visit to the U.S., anti-Catholic attacks were routinely heard on radio and tv. Anti-Catholic bigotry is commonly found among the elites of the media and entertainment world, who openly disdain the Church and Her teachings. While we are certainly happy that Pastor Hagee acted with sincere regret for his prejudice, we still await a similar act of contrition from the Bill Mahers, Jay Lenos and Christopher Hitchens of the world, who take up their anti-Catholic prejudice on the airwaves with frequency. Contrition begets forgiveness, a lesson Pastor Hagee now knows well. We hope that others might follow his example.