Catholics angry as Huckabee woos Hagee

December 21, 2007

Republican contender Mike Huckabee holds a childThe Catholic League is angered at Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s scheduled appearance this Sunday at the Cornerstone “mega-church” of fiery preacher John Hagee in San Antonio.

Hagee is better known for his staunch support of Israel and his reading of Middle East events as unfolding Biblical prophecy. But the New York-based Catholic League, which is America’s largest Catholic civil rights group, says the hefty pastor is also viciously anti-Catholic.

“He’s one of the biggest anti-Catholic bigots in the U.S.  and he commands a huge audience. Hagee has reached out to the Jewish community quite well but he does o almost always by bashing the Catholic Church,” the League’s president Bill Donohue told Reuters.

“So I have no idea why someone like Huckabee or anyone running for president would associate himself with somelike like Hagee,” he said. 

The Catholic League says Hagee has, among other things, compared the Catholic Church to Hitler in its persecution of the Jews.

In response, Hagee reiterated in a brief statement that “We are not now nor have we ever been anti-Catholic.”

The stakes for Huckabee, himself a Baptist minister, could be high as the evangelical base that he is trying to woo in the Republican Party has over the past two decades found much common political ground — theological differences aside — with Catholics on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

The two groups have come a long way since John F. Kennedy felt compelled to address his Catholic faith in 1960 in a speech to Southern Baptists in Houston, assuring them among other things that he would not take policy direction from the Pope.

But there are still evangelical pockets in the American south where historical animosities toward the Catholic Church and Vatican remain.

— Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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