Bill Donohue, whose religious indignation as the head of the Catholic League might seem to the cynical to be more informed by his loyalty to the benificence of The Heritage Foundation than by his loyalty to his catholicism, has unilaterally forgiven Senator McCain’s great and good friend Rev. Hagee on behalf of the Roman Catholic church (or, as Rev. Hagee refers to it, the Great Whore)

In an attempt to solidify his backing among evangelicals, McCain actively sought the support of Pastor John Hagee, who heads the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, when he launched his presidential bid last year. McCain’s campaign was caught off guard by the uproar over Hagee’s comments after the pastor’s February endorsement.

In his letter to the Catholic League today, Hagee said he now understands that other terms he used to describe the church – "the great whore" and the "apostate church" – are "rhetorical devices long employed in anti-Catholic literature." He said he had gained a better understanding in recent weeks of the Catholic Church’s relationship to the Jewish faith. Hagee wrote of his "profound respect for the Catholic people" in the letter and said he hoped to advance "greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals."

So what’s our old buddy Bill forgiving Hagee for?

Evangelical leader John Hagee, one of John McCain’s highest-profile supporters from the religious right, has apologized for comments he made that were offensive to Catholics.

In a letter Monday to Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, Hagee wrote, “I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.”

Pastor Hagee, leader of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church, has often made references to “the apostate church” and the “great whore,” terms that Catholics say are slurs aimed at the Roman Catholic Church.

In his letter, Hagee said he now better understands that the Book of Revelation’s reference to the Catholic Church by those two terms are “a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary.”

“Neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church,” he wrote.

Donohue, accepting the apology, said on FOX News Radio: “I’m absolutely delighted … I haven’t seen such a quick turnaround in the 15 years that I have been president of the Catholic League.” He said he plans to meet with Hagee on Thursday.

Likening Hagee to two New York shock jocks who encouraged a pair of listeners to attempt to have sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2002, Donohue added that he is receptive to honest apologies.

“We’re not in the business of rejecting apologies whether it’s from Opie and Anthony or Pastor Hagee so now when we meet we can understand that this issue is moot and behind us and I think it’s a great moment that we can have some degree of reconciliation.”

Honest apologies (and quick turnaround)

Donohue had been noodging Hagee to apologize for more than a decade. He finally succeeded, largely because Hagee was becoming an embarrassment to his political favorite son, Senator John McCain. “I got pretty much what I wanted,” Donohue told me, “but only because this was a presidential year.”

None of that messy moral relativity there.

So who set up this meeting of the moral giants?

Key to the effort was Deal Hudson, a former Southern Baptist turned Catholic from Fort Worth who in 2000 was tapped by political guru Karl Rove to help win Catholics for George W. Bush. This year, Mr. Hudson is on Mr. McCain’s Catholic outreach team.

Deal Hudson, one-time point man for Catholic outreach for Our Fearless Leader.

Until

An 18-year-old Fordham freshman in 1994, Poppas had been in-and-out of foster homes from the age of seven. The fourth of nine children, her mother an alcoholic and her father a troubled and disabled Vietnam veteran, Poppas had survived poverty and traumas.

In early February 1994, she approached Hudson with a question. He suggested, she said, that they go to his office and discuss it. "I told him everything about me," Poppas recalled in a four-page document she provided to Fordham administrators in May 1994. "He knew I was … without parents, severely depressed, and even suicidal. I discussed with him why I had lost my faith in God, in humanity, and in myself. He was extremely attentive and genuinely concerned."

On Feb. 15, "Fat Tuesday," Poppas again visited Hudson at his office. Hudson invited her, she said, to join him and a group of NYU students at a bar in the West Village. Later that night, Hudson and Poppas engaged in a sexual encounter that is recounted graphically in a four-page description she provided Fordham University. Her memo is reported on in detail in the story elsewhere on this Web site.

"Sexual harassment is not tolerated at Fordham University," the school’s assistant vice president for public affairs, Elizabeth Schmalz, said in a July 2004 statement provided to NCR. "It subverts the mission of the University and threatens the well-being, educational experiences and careers of students, faculty and staff. It is especially disturbing in the context of a teacher-student relationship."

Continued Schmalz: "Fordham followed its policy rigorously in this case and initiated an investigation into the matter upon receipt of the student’s complaint. The professor later surrendered his tenure at Fordham."

Fordham is, so you know, a Jesuit institution. They feel strongly about that sort of thing.

Hudson is now on John McCain’s Catholic steering committee, and so, apparently, is Bill Donohue.

From Hudson’s account of the meeting he brokered between Donohue and Hagee

We went into Donohue’s office for our chat, but first he showed the Hagees the window through which he saw the World Trade Center Towers fall to the ground in 9/11. He told the story of taking his staff to a local pizza restaurant where they prayed together, with the result that some Jews seated nearby asked if they could join in.

The conversation lasted about 45 minutes — Hagee had to get back to the UN for his evening speech. During that time Hagee and Donohue affirmed their not only the reconciliation but also their future partnership on matters of importance to both them: life, marriage, family, and support for Israel.

Donohue said, "Pastor, you are my friend from this point forward and nothing’s going to change that. We have our theological differences but we Catholics and Evangelicals need to work together — that is the liberals [sic] worse nightmare."

Yeah. Because we’re all conflicted about opposing this sort of thing

On the September 18, 2006, edition of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air Hagee asserted of Hurricane Katrina: "I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are — were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades." He later added: "Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans."

As the blog Think Progress noted, Hagee made similar comments on the April 22 edition of Dennis Prager’s syndicated radio talk show. On April 25, Hagee released a statement asserting that "ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise." But in a May 7 post to the Dallas Morning News blog Trail Blazers, senior political writer Wayne Slater reported that during "a conference call with religious supporters" that day, "[w]hen a woman on the call asked why he seemed to have backed away from his Katrina comments in face of criticism, Hagee said he hadn’t. As for the Katrina, he said, God controls hurricanes and ‘God always punishes unconfessed sin.’** You do the math."

Go ahead. Do the math.

*Donohue has been remarkably silent on the subject of Mr. Giuliani’s little lapse of taste during the Pope’s visit. He’s got a fair amount of experience in that area.

**Hagee also has some fascinating theories about jews and the holocaust