Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/2/2008 (6 years ago)

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

A few days ago I met with Hagee and his wife, Diana, in New York City for a three-hour conversation.Since I had been critical of Hagee myself, I thought it reasonable that I sit down with him and discuss the anti-Catholicism charge.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

4/2/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in U.S.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Inside Catholic) - Rev. John Hagee, the pastor of a San Antonio mega-church, has been a major Evangelical figure for many years. But since his endorsement of Sen. John McCain for president, the name Reverend Hagee has become synonymous with anti-Catholicism.

A few days ago I met with Hagee and his wife, Diana, in New York City for a three-hour conversation.

The meeting came at the suggestion of a mutual friend who was concerned both for Hagee's reputation and the relations between Evangelicals and Catholics. My friend, a national religious leader himself, told me, "John Hagee is my friend, and he is a good man. Also, it would be a pity if a wedge was driven between conservative Catholics and Evangelicals on the eve of the 2008 election."

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, is the man who first pointed out what he described as anti-Catholic elements in Hagee's writings and videotaped lectures. Donohue initially brought attention to Hagee in December, when Gov. Mike Huckabee announced that he would be preaching in Hagee's Cornerstone Church. The Hagee quotes Donohue collected were indeed disturbing. When Huckabee refused to cancel the speech or respond to Donohue's criticism, he was tainted by the issue of anti-Catholicism for the remainder of his candidacy.

The publicity surrounding the Hagee-Huckabee controversy made Senator McCain's enthusiastic embrace of Hagee's endorsement even more surprising. Donohue immediately admonished Senator McCain, just as he had Huckabee. I had also been critical of Huckabee's appearance at Hagee's church, and I joined Donohue in asking McCain to repudiate the anti-Catholicism of Hagee's writings.

The McCain campaign was slow to respond. Its first statement was weak, and its failure to satisfy Donohue was predictable. It was more than a week later when Senator McCain directly repudiated the anti-Catholicism attributed to Hagee, at which time Donohue announced "case closed."

The issue had only begun to die down when the furor over Sen. Barack Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, began to heat up. Comparisons were inevitable and Hagee was back in the headlines, with the likelihood that he would stay there through November. That was when I received the call asking me if I would meet with him.


Since I had been critical of Hagee myself, I thought it reasonable that I sit down with him and discuss the anti-Catholicism charge. As a young man I was also an Evangelical from Texas, and I knew I could find some common ground with him -- and maybe find out more about what appeared to be an open-and-shut case. (I called Donohue to tell him that a meeting had been proposed, and Bill said he appreciated my letting him know.)

Next, I contacted Hagee. He seemed genuinely hurt that he was being seen by the nation as anti-Catholic. He said, "Deal, how can people think I am anti-Catholic when my wife is an ex-Catholic, and a third of my congregation are former Catholics?" I bit my tongue. We really needed to talk; there were some things about Catholics he truly didn't understand.

When we met later, I told Hagee about "biting my tongue," and he looked surprised. I explained that Catholics don't like being reminded of all those who have left the Church. As he started to nod in agreement, his wife Diana said, "He's right, John." She would repeat that sentence several times during our long conversation, and each time her husband would acquiesce in agreement.

For example, she agreed when I told Hagee that his account of anti-Semitism seems aimed entirely at the Catholic Church. He explained that he had written extensively about the anti-Semitism of Martin Luther and other Protestants and had praised the statements of Pope John Paul II that were critical of anti-Semitism.

When I asked him why so many of his examples were from the Catholic Church, he said his main source was the book The Anguish of the Jews by Rev. Edward Flannery, which he had bought on his first trip to Israel in 1978. (Father Flannery was first director of Catholic-Jewish relations at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and a pioneer in Jewish-Christian relations.)

Hagee not only recognized why his account could look one-sided, but he also admitted that he knew little about the heroic efforts of many Catholics to defend the Jews, especially during World War II. I gave him a copy of the encyclical read from the pulpit of every Catholic Church in Germany in 1937, Mit Brennender Sorge, of Pius XI. I explained to him that the author was actually Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII, and how Jews welcomed his election because he was already known as their defender.


Rev. John Hagee is a powerful man. His ministry encompasses not only a congregation of over 19,000 but also a radio and television ministry on 160 television stations, 50 radio stations, and eight networks. His broadcasts are seen and heard in 99 million homes. He is one of the leading Evangelical supporters of Israel, and was leaving for the Holy Land with 1,000 people on the day after our meeting.

During our conversation Hagee never became defensive -- he seemed genuinely perplexed by the label he had acquired and wanted to understand what he was missing. There is not enough space here to relate the entire conversation. (I will be speaking to Hagee again and with his permission, will put more of our dialogue into print.) We thoroughly discussed not only his quotes concerning Catholic violence against Jews but also the "Great Whore" of the Book of Revelation.

I told him that when I Googled "Great Whore" and Revelation, the first six hits were explicitly anti-Catholic Web sites. He then explained why, in his interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the "Great Whore" cannot refer to the Catholic Church: In Hagee's eschatology, the end times begin with the Rapture, when all those who are truly in Christ will be taken up to heaven. Hagee says, "Since both Catholics and Protestants are taken up to Heaven, how could the 'Great Whore' be the Catholic Church? The apostate church is left on earth during the seven years of tribulation -- that is the 'Great Whore.'"

I asked him, "Are you saying the Catholic Church cannot be the 'Great Whore' because the 'Great Whore' exists only during the period of tribulation?" Hagee answered, "Yes, anyone who is a real Christian, Catholic or Protestant, has been taken to heaven, only those without faith, including Catholics and Protestants, are left behind."

Hagee teaches that the tribulation is followed by the 1,000-year rule of Christ, who brings perfect peace. After 1,000 years, eternity begins and time is no more. All of this Hagee diagramed for me, at my request, on two small sheets of notebook paper.

He told me several personal stories, as well, about his relationship with Catholics over the years. This one, in particular, provides a starting point for seeing another side of the man who has now become a symbol of anti-Catholicism:

The Ursuline Sisters founded the Ursuline Academy in San Antonio in 1851 -- it was the first girls' school in the city, originally located on the San Antonio River before moving to the northwest part of the city in 1965. By the early 1990s there were too few sisters, and those too old to run the Academy. The eight remaining sisters ranged in age from 63 to 94.

Consequently, they put their 40 acres of prime real estate and 90,000 square feet of buildings up for sale. The sisters tried to make a deal with the archdiocese, but it fell through several times. Having heard that Hagee was looking for property to build a school, the sisters called him. Hagee went to see the school and was met by a sister who had come from the Vatican to oversee the sale. "It was in perfect condition, there wasn't a hairline crack," he told me.

"I was shocked when I was told the price and asked why it was so low." Hagee was then told that the delay in selling the property had meant the sisters had to draw on their retirement accounts to live. Hagee then said, "I want to buy this school by the close of business tomorrow."

Hagee, the sisters, and their attorneys met the next morning. The Ursulines' attorney said, "Shall we tell Reverend Hagee the real problem?" At that point Hagee thought the whole deal would go down the drain because of some monstrous problem he hadn't been informed of.

The attorney for the sisters explained that the archdiocese had expected them to move out of the convent immediately after it was sold and asked what Hagee wanted the sisters to do.

"My plan would be to give them a five year lease to the convent, and I will charge them ten dollars a year. We will pay all utilities and up-keep." Hagee then took a 50-dollar bill from his pocket and paid the lease himself. One sister looked at the attorney and said, "Let's get this thing done."

The following Sunday, Hagee sent his church bus to the Ursuline convent, picked up the sisters, brought them to his church, and seated them in the front row for both services (5,000 attend each service). "I thanked them publicly for their lives of sacrifice and devotion to Jesus Christ. The congregation gave them standing ovations because the campus we bought was the fruit of their labor, a testimonial of their commitment to Christ."

The Ursuline sisters stayed in the convent for twelve years, free of any cost. "We were glad to bear the cost to express our appreciation for what they had done for the Kingdom of God." During that time, those sisters who were able walked around the campus and through the halls of Cornerstone Christian School.

"Our children hugged them; they would reach out and grab them by the hands. They were very precious to us for what they had done with their whole lives which had been invested in building this wonderful school. We were glad to honor them as long as they walked on this earth."


The intent of my meeting with John Hagee was to help him understand why he was considered anti-Catholic. He listened and agreed with much I had to say. In turn, I listened to him explain how he thought he was being misunderstood. We agreed to meet again after his trip to Israel, to continue our conversation about anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church and his interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

Until then, I look forward to learning more about this man who took such good care of the Ursuline Sisters of San Antonio.


Deal W. Hudson is the director of InsideCatholic.com and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster, March 2008).

---

The mission of InsideCatholic.com is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square.We believe that truth is both attractive and compelling and that in the marketplace of ideas, it will invariably win out.



Comments


More U.S.

Fr. Randy Sly on Thanksgiving and Our Roots of Faith

Image of Ceremonies and periods of thanksgiving are woven through the entire tapestry of history. We find them in the Jewish Calendar of Feasts, in other world religions, in European cultures and native practices of North America, South America, Asia and Africa.

By Fr. Randy Sly

Thanksgiving Day has become a time when we watch parades and then take in large amounts of food and football. According to some calculations, 46 million turkeys-around 550 million pounds-will be consumed during Thanksgiving this year. But that's not how it began! ... continue reading


Thanksgiving Day: We are Still One Nation - Under God Watch

Image of The sincere sentiments expressed by this extraordinary leader, George Washington, should inform our response to all of the challenges we face today in the United States of America. We are still one Nation - under God. They should also inspire us to pray for great leaders to emerge in this our great hour of need. Leaders who can help us see this as an hour of opportunity and an invitation to reaffirm our reliance on God.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This week the people of the United States of America struggle to find a way through the trauma we are experiencing in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Too many self-appointed "experts" seem all too eager to tell us what divides us. However, even in ... continue reading


Following Ferguson shooting, police departments rush to adopt body cameras Watch

Image of The purchasing of body cameras by police departments nationwide has increased dramatically following the shooting of Michael Brown.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Whether you believe the story told by Ferguson police officer Daren Wilson, or by the family of Michael Brown, it is certain that the case has changed the face of law enforcement in America. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The use of body cameras by police ... continue reading


Catholic Shopping .com is about to have its biggest sale ever for Black Friday weekend!

Image of Sign up so you don't miss any deals during this special Black Friday weekend sale!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This weekend, Catholic Shopping .com is having an amazing sale with up to 70% off of selected items. These deep discounts will help you finish your shopping early, but be prepared, many of these sales will last just an hour or two and then the specials will be gone! ... continue reading


A Boston man has something new to be thankful for after he received a double arm transplant Watch

Image of Will Lautzenheiser, a professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University had to undergo surgery to remove his arms and legs in 2011 after he came down with a life-threatening streptococcal infection.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Boston man who received a double arm transplant in October is making remarkable recovery, just in time for Thanksgiving. The best part, he says, is that he is able to hug his loved ones again. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Will Lautzenheiser became infected ... continue reading


Dreaded cartel overlord Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez sentenced to 22 years in prison in U.S. Watch

Image of Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine. Some of the damning evidence against him was provided by twin brothers Pedro and Margarito ... continue reading


Here's 3,000 reasons why Obama just made illegal immigrants more attractive to your employer Watch

Image of Due to a loophole in Obamacare, the president's new amnesty plans mean that employers who hire illegals don't have to cover them with insurance, and won't be fined for doing so.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama's new amnesty plan is going to have some drastic effects that most American's aren't aware of, one that may just get you kicked out of a job because of all things, Obamacare. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Under the Affordable Care Act, ... continue reading


Acknowledging Unknown Soldier over known soldiers: Over 1.2 million veterans lack health insurance Watch

Image of As a culture, many of us feel more comfortable honoring the tomb of the Unknown Soldier --

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As many leave laurels at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the United States refuses to acknowledge the health and benefits of known soldiers. While most people assume that veterans automatically receive health care coverage through the Veterans Health ... continue reading


Ferguson in flames as policeman who shot, killed teenager found not guilty Watch

Image of Police claimed they came under heavy automatic weapon fire. Some buildings were left to burn because of the danger.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

People have responded to violence - with violence. After Police Officer Darren Wilson was been cleared of all charges in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in August. His surrounding community of Ferguson, Missouri has responded with widespread ... continue reading


Priest in Ferguson reports deep mistrust between groups fueling tension Watch

Image of Police in Ferguson move detain a protester.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Catholic priest assigned to Ferguson, MO, spoke with Vatican Radio about the "festering" mistrust between the populace and police. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican Radio shared an interview with Fr. Arthur Cavitt, a parish priest who was asked about the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
1 After this, I saw another angel come down from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
20 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2014 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter