The Magnanimous Bill Donohue

As Catholics for a Free Choice recently explained in their report [PDF] on the Catholic League, the organization’s head, Bill Donohue, has more or less made a name for himself by attacking popular culture, complaining incessantly, manufacturing controversy, trying to intimidate his perceived enemies, and bullying and silencing the opposition.

As we noted yesterday, Donohue had been one of the most vocal critics of John Hagee, ranting loudly about Hagee’s perceived anti-Catholic views while saying nothing about Hagee’s other controversial positions, such as the idea that God used Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its tolerance of homosexuality.   But after weeks of railing against Hagee, Donohue finally got what he wanted – a public letter of apology – and abruptly declared the mission accomplished and the feud over:

The tone of Hagee’s letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it. Indeed, the Catholic League welcomes his apology. What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns. But he has done just that. Now Catholics, along with Jews, can work with Pastor Hagee in making interfaith relations stronger than ever. Whatever problems we had before are now history. This case is closed.

While Donohue maintained a measured tone in his Catholic League press release, his sense of self-satisfaction at forcing Hagee to publicly grovel for his forgiveness came shining through in this exchange with Beliefnet’s Dan Gilgoff:

In your statement today, you said that Hagee’s apology was born of weeks of meetings with Catholic leaders. Do you have a window into what that process was like?

It’s been going on for weeks. A lot of Catholic activist friends of mine and some evangelicals have been powwowing with [Hagee] in Washington. They asked me to meet with Hagee and I said no several times. I’m not interested in meeting with him until I get what I want, a public statement and apology that’s complete and speaks specifically to these black legends about Catholics-Jewish relations, and the Holocaust in particular. And once that’s accomplished, I’ll be glad to meet with him. Now that’s going to happen on Thursday.

Quite frankly, I didn’t think that I would get something this complete. What I did not want to get was this “If you’ve been offended, I’m sorry.” I wanted something more specific. There’s no substitute for personal interaction, when you have people sitting down with you and explaining how you’ve been hurtful. Now we can bury this hatchet. It’s rather dramatic….

What really got me offended was the idea of “I’m the purist Christian on the block” when he’s talking to Jews—“I’m not out there persecuting the Jews like all these Catholics.” I’m sure we’ve seen the last of that.

Donohue went on to recall that he had first written to Hagee eleven years ago about his anti-Catholic views, but that “he never wrote back” and “blew me off” until he suddenly found himself under “enormous pressure because I went after him after he endorsed McCain … He got rapped all over the place” and had to beg Donohue’s forgiveness; a development one senses that Donohue couldn’t be more pleased about.

But if Hagee thinks this apology is going to get him invited to the cool kid’s parties, Donohue wants it known that he’s sadly mistaken:

People like Tony Perkins and Richard Land and James Dobson, we obviously have theological differences, but there has always been comity and an amicable relationship. I get involved with them occasionally on policy things, like Justice Sunday, and Hagee is not only not invited, his name is not even mentioned. He’s kind of out of the loop.