Biblical Controversy Erupts Anew!

June 7, 2008

Recently a media furor involving Catholics, as well as Protestants and Jews, erupted over the inflammatory rhetoric of John Hagee, the same pudgy pastor who figures so highly (or lowly) in our previous essay.  The controversy, which would expand to absurd proportions, began late in February, when John McCain welcomed the televangelist’s endorsement of his candidacy. Indeed, the senator had even solicited this beforehand.  News of their alliance, however, sent William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights into something of a tirade.  Mincing no words, Donohue called Hagee an anti-Catholic bigot whom McCain should reject totally, just as Obama had repudiated Louis Farrakhan. 

This, though the senator would not do –– not yet.  Not simply because of any anti-Catholic insult. 

Echoing over TV and the internet, and picked up by Time magazine, Donohue’s words sounded almost feisty.  Proof for these charges came via a short but powerful video linked from an article on his website.  This shows Hagee lecturing and pointing to an illustration of the “Great Whore of Revelation 17,” who is holding a cup while reading a Beast.  The pastor says the Whore, (or as Catholic translators generally say, “Harlot”) personifies false religion, i.e. the “apostate Church.”  The cup she holds contains the “blood of the saints,” which, he says, is principally that of the Jewish people, shed during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.  Indeed, Hagee says, Hitler boasted he would only do in his lifetime what the Roman Church had been doing for the past 800 years, but on a greater scale and more efficiently. 

The Whore, Hagee notes further, was “born in Genesis 10,” progressed through Israel to become Baal worship, and developed into the false cult system of this apostate church.  Ultimately she will be devoured by the Beast, which for most commentators, including Hagee, embodies the Anti-Christ system.  Before this happens, though, true believers like him will be raptured into heaven. . . 


To be sure, Catholics reject such an interpretation of scripture.  By calling Hagee “bigoted” Donohue was right on target, and immediately the pastor went on the defensive.  In a press release he insisted he had not identified the Catholic Church with the Great Whore; by the term, he meant “the apostate church, namely those Christians who embrace the false cult system of Jew-hatred and anti-Semitism!”  Donohue, however, would not buy this.  In an article posted online early in March, he notes that “anti-Catholic Protestants have long labeled the Catholic Church ‘The Great Whore,’ and no amount of spin can change that reality.  No one who knows anything about the term would suggest otherwise.”  He also alluded to various websites which continue this old method of smearing the Catholic Church. 

As for Hagee’s charges regarding der Fuehrer, Donohue in a previous release had pointed out, as we have previously, that Pius XII saved many Jews in Rome and that Hitler actually persecuted the Church.  He also noted that Hitler “was automatically excommunicated in 1931 — two years before he assumed power — when he served as best man at Joseph Goebbels’ Protestant wedding.  Hitler even bragged about his separation from the Church.” 

When it came to John McCain, though, Donohue proved less adamant.  He did not stick to his original demand that the senator totally renounce Hagee as Obama had Farrakhan.  Instead, when McCain simply said he repudiated any comments, including Pastor Hagee’s, “if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics,” Donohue decided this was good enough.  On his website, he wrote: “Sen. McCain has done the right thing and we salute him for doing so.  As far as the Catholic League is concerned, this case is closed.” 

But it was not really, not as of March 10, when the above news release appeared—for several reasons.  First, there was that nasty video still circulating online, showing Hagee at his most irksome. Second, there was the ongoing controversy involving Barrack Obama and Pastor Wright, for which Democrats naturally tried to find a parallel in the relationship between Hagee and McCain.  Third, and most importantly, Donohue had started something that he failed to finish.  While objecting to the “Great Whore” thing, he did not expose in detail the errors of Hagee’s thinking.

Not that there is anything new in this.  For centuries Catholics in Anglo-Saxon lands have endured such calumnies, mostly in silence.  Where now are all the Concilliarist clerics speaking out in defense of their Church?  Are they such cowards — or don’t they care?  So much for the so-called “marketplace of ideas” and “freedom of speech” when it comes to religion.  Moreover, with Hagee the problem is compounded by the Jewish dimension to the controversy.  From the beginning Donohue himself was extremely solicitous in this regard, making it clear that he did not object to him because he was pro-Israel, that many other evangelical leaders were such without also being anti-Catholic. 

As head of the lobby known as CUFI, i.e., Christians United for Israel, Hagee, of course, is pro-Zionist to the hilt.  Also head of a San Antonio “megachurch” and televangelist to millions, he is a force to be reckoned with among gullible gentiles.  By speaking out against Iran, however, he has, despite the support of fellow zealots, alienated more moderate Jews who fear the impact on Israel — and the rest of the world  –– of a major blow-up in the Middle East.  Ironically it is this dissension among those to whom he defers that would prove his undoing with McCain.  Eventually the senator would renounce Hagee not for anti-Catholic bigotry but for –– yes, anti-Jewish remarks. 

The poor guy can’t win for losing. . .

But back to the Great Whore and Hagee’s faulty analysis of Revelation to which we will henceforth, in the Catholic manner, call the Apocalypse.  Let us turn to Chapter 17 and see how the pastor interprets it.  Herein we find a woman, i.e. Harlot, or Whore, who is “drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”  By identifying this blood as being “principally” that of the Jewish people, Hagee moves way beyond the boundaries set by even rabid Protestants of past centuries and gives the text a uniquely Jewish twist.  For not only does he identify the Harlot with the Roman Church, he also has the gall to suggest that the Apocalypse “principally” concerns the travails, past, present and future, not of the Lamb, i.e., Christ and His Mystical Body, but of the unconverted Jews.  They are the martyrs, i.e., saints and heroes, of the past two thousand years as foretold by St. John, not Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant.  Talk about absurd!  No college student would dare misinterpret an ordinary piece of literature so flagrantly and expect to pass the course. 

Yet, in a display of apocalyptic hubris, Pastor Hagee does much worse by superimposing his own interpretation on events depicted in, of all books, the New Testament.  You would think the scenario was his own work of fiction, that he was not supposedly commenting on the divinely inspired work of St. John the Evangelist.  The latter’s final book, written towards the end of the first century A.D., according to Catholic tradition, depicts the joys and sufferings of Christians throughout the ages, past, present, and future.  A Jew himself by race and nationality, as were most of the earliest Christians, John can hardly be called “anti-Semitic”.  Yet he himself, in Chapter 2 of the Apocalypse, warns his followers about the machinations of those who “say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”  For at the time this entity was indeed persecuting John’s followers, the Christians.  Even St. Paul had done so at first, remember? 

Pastor Hagee would do well to heed the evangelist’s words.

As the infamous video continued to circulate, Zionist devotee, movie critic, and radio host Michael Medved could be heard defending Hagee on his talk show, which runs up to three hours a day during the week.  The self-acclaimed “cultural crusader” tends to target the simple-minded, and now he was in his element.  Not one to be phased by niceties of biblical criticism, he insisted, during his broadcast of April 28, that the charge that Hagee had ever called the Catholic Church a Great Whore was “phony,” indeed a “big lie.”  The pastor, Medved added, had never attacked that Church.  His only criticism of the institution was one he also attributed to Protestant churches, that they had a history of anti-Semitism. 

Come on, Michael!  Assuming you watched the video, did you listen carefully to the part during which, in one breath, Hagee says the blood drunk by the Whore was “principally” that of the Jewish people, from the Crusades, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the Holocaust, and that Adolph Hitler said he wouldn’t do anything that hadn’t been done by the Roman Church for the past 800 years?  It’s there, Michael.  What do you think “the Roman Church” is? 

Those Crusades, by the way, began after the Turks refused to allow Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land.  While the Christian cause was backed by popes, they did not lead armies.  If errant knights or peasants abused civilians, whether Moslem, Jew or Orthodox, the Church did not condone it.  Indeed, those who sacked Constantinople were excommunicated.  Wars do result in atrocities, to this very day.  Indeed, with “weapons of mass destruction,” even more so today.  Does Pastor Hagee worry about innocents who have suffered during recent wars in the Middle East, including that for Palestine, i.e. Israel?  What about the “collateral damage” incurred in Iraq — or in Iran, if the U.S. should attack as he suggests might be feasible? 

Some Israelis only recently held a public burning of New Testaments. 

As for the Spanish Inquisition, English Protestants have long demonized that, ignoring the fact that, starting with Henry VIII, a far greater number of Catholics died under British rule than did “heretics”, Marranos or otherwise,  by the hand of any tribunal in Spain.  Genocidal wars followed by the onset of harsh penal laws reduced Irish Catholics to such a state that even in times of plenty they died of induced “famines” by the thousands — ultimately, over hundreds of years, millions.  From 1641 to 1652 alone the population was reduced by more than one-half.  Those sold into slavery suffered worse than did their black brethren, since, costing little, they were valued less. 

No, Michael, despite what you said on a recent show, not all white people in bondage were merely “indentured servants” freed after seven years.  Thousands of Irish captives endured slavery for life: men, women and children, even priests and school teachers.  During the 17th century the Irish outnumbered their black counterparts in the plantations of the West Indies.  Worse yet, as papists, i.e. followers of the Great Whore, they were feared and despised more than African pagans.  Distorted by clever propagandists, the imagery of Revelation served to justify such treatment of Catholics in particular.

A well-documented article by Robert E. West published by The Catholic Weekly, and posted online by EWTN, states: 

The English government variously referred to Irish to be transported as rogues, vagabonds, rebels, neutrals, felons, military prisoners, teachers, priests, maidens, etc.  All historians call them servants, bondsmen, indentured servants, slaves, etc., and agree that they were all political victims.  The plain facts are that most were treated as slaves.  After their land was confiscated by England, which drove them from their ancestral homes to forage for roots like animals, they were kidnapped, rounded up and driven like cattle to waiting ships and transported to English colonies in America, never to see their country again.  They were the victims of what many called the immense “Irish Slave Trade.”


All writers on the 17th century American colonies are in agreement that the treatment of white servants or white slaves in English colonies was cruel to the extreme, worse than that of black slaves; that inhuman treatment was the norm, that torture . . . was the punishment for attempted escape. 

It’s possible, of course, that by identifying the Whore in the video specifically with the “Roman Church,” Hagee was playing a game of theological semantics.  Significantly, Anglicans who continue to say the Nicene Creed do have to profess a belief in the “Holy Catholic Church.”  They have rationalized this by calling their own sect a branch of a universal tree, in contrast to the “Roman Church,” which is not.  Though more tolerant moderns may concede the latter to be a kind of twig, depending on how “High Anglican” their beliefs are.  Hagee, however, far from being “High Anglican,” is about a low as you can get.  He hearkens back to a time when tolerance was not the norm, especially not in England. 

The irony is that British leaders like Cromwell and William of Orange, while happy to welcome the Jews back into England, did their damndest to rid the land of Irish Catholics.  Could there be a connection?  Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal via Amsterdam did help fund William’s campaign for the throne.  They did quite well for themselves in their new abode, too, especially in fields like banking.  But why did their regimes of choice have to be so cruel to Catholics?  Why take the past out on the Irish?  What had they ever done to Protestants, or Jews — except refuse to abandon the Great Whore? 

Aha!  That has to be it!  Jews exiled from Iberia harbored no love for the Catholic Church, and the British elite had enriched themselves by confiscating vast tracts of Church land.  Fiscally committed to Protestantism, with its regard for Old Testament rigor, and scorn for the unholy doctrine of “good works,” they could find common ground with the Jews.  Catholics who refused to face the new reality with its changes in doctrine suffered accordingly. 

And so it went.  For non-Catholics the Church –– and the Pope –– conveniently embodied the Great Whore.  Until recently, that is, when, following the changes initiated by Roncalli, “popes” like Paul VI started coming over here to extol the United Nations and other elite entities.  On his recent trip, Benedict first had to schmooze with President George Bush, whose religious status is questionable.  (Can a member of Skull and Bones truly be a “Christian”?)  Papal spectacles also included a huge circus in Yankee Stadium; and an ecumenical confab with Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, etc.  The Honored Guest also made a special trip to a New York synagogue, no doubt to assure rabbis that he was still on their side, despite any cosmetic concessions made to traditionalists. 

As far as we know, Benedict met with none of the latter, though he possibly conferred with admirers like Fr. Joseph Fessio and Robert Moynihan.  As presented by the media, the visit was politically correct — and dull.  Reportedly he did say something nice to the “conservative” head of Christendom College as he filed through a reception line, but there was, to our knowledge, no special meeting with him; nor with Remnant or SSPX types, much less sedevacantists. 

Whereas these groups may be deemed as being outside the Novus Ordo mainstream, are they any more so than the Jews he did visit in their own synagogue?  Considering this, it should come as no surprise to hear that recently on his show Michael Medved called Benedict “righteous” and “wonderful” –– and, in the same breath, gushed over “John Paul the Great!” 

If you think this sounds weird, though, it gets weirder. 

For over two months, after their initial blow-up, Bill Donohue never actually made peace with Hagee himself, only McCain.  On May 13, however, Hagee issued a letter to the Catholic League that oozed sincerity.  He professed to be writing “in a spirit of mutual respect and reconciliation to clarify my views.”  He said that “after engaging in constructive dialogue with Catholic friends and leaders, I now have an improved understanding of the Catholic Church, its relation to the Jewish faith, and the history of anti-Catholicism.”  Not that he has ever been anti-Catholic!  As proof he tells us how, after purchasing property from nuns in San Antonio, he did not evict the poor old things, but let them live there free of charge for 12 years. 

This was kind of him, indeed, but do you suppose he still got a good deal in real estate?  To be sure, this reflects the sorry state of a Church which is selling out big time, as thousands desert to join Holy Roller, i.e. rolling-in-dough, “megachurches” like Hagee’s.  Nor does the matter of how well the pastor treats modern nuns have any direct bearing on the question of how he interprets the Catholic role in the Apocalypse

But on with his letter.  Zealous “to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry,” he had, admittedly, “often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews.”  He may also have “contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the Catholic Church.”  But he tells us now that it “most certainly does not.” 

How nice to know our Church isn’t defined by anti-Semitic violence after all!  For a second or two we wondered, considering how Hagee talks — and writes.  If at first reading, his words sound — well, sorta sincere but a bit odd, however, just wait until you read the following. 

I hope you recognize that I have repeatedly stated that my interpretation of Revelation leads me to conclude that the “apostate church” and the “great whore” appear only during the seven years of tribulation after all true believers –– Catholic and Protestant –– have been taken up to heaven.  Therefore, neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church. 

 Now, how can he say that he has said all along that the Great Whore will show up only in the future after the “seven years of tribulation” –– and the rapture?  Having watched the video, we can testify that we saw, and heard him say, that she was drinking blood shed over the past 800 years.  In case Hagee does not understand, this represents the future for St. John, writing towards the end of the first century, but the past for us.  Not that the Whore is actually a real woman, alive and well in the flesh.  It’s a metaphor, stupid, one described quite clearly by Pastor Hagee on tape.  If he wants to change his interpretation, fine, but how dare he deny what he actually did say previously! 

Did he think Catholics would be taken in because he now says we get to be raptured too?  This indeed is a switch — but who would be foolish enough to take the bait?  Would Bill Donohue?  On May 13 he posted Hagee’s letter on his website and in his own commentary called its tone “sincere.”  Hagee, he said, “wants reconciliation and he has achieved it.  Indeed the Catholic League welcomes his apology.  What Hagee has done takes courage. . .” 

Donohue concludes 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.  The case is closed.” 

Over the radio the next day Michael Medved rejoiced.  Such a beautiful thing had happened:  Hagee had made peace with Catholic leaders.  How wonderful!  Despite everything, he had reached out to bring Christians and Jews together.  Quoting Donohue, Medved said the pastor’s achievement enabled Catholics, along with Jews, to work with him.  Moreover, Medved insisted more than once, Hagee had never called the Catholic Church of today the Great Whore.  No, by that term he had meant only an “apostate Church” of the future that would emerge during the seven years tribulation. 

Extolling the pastor, our talk show host fairly gushed: “This is a good man.  And a decent man.  And a loving man.”  And since Bill Donohue says the case should be closed, it should be.  Though, sounding very serious, Medved also had to ask: “Will it be closed?” 

Thanks to that nasty video it was not.  For it continued to be viewed, and if Medved interpreted Hagee’s words benignly, others did not, including Frank Rich, a liberal Jewish columnist for the New York Times.  In an op-ed piece dated May 4, he describes the video in detail, noting that for Hagee “the Great Whore represents ‘The Roman Church’, which in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.” 

This could not go unchallenged.  Dennis Prager, another Jewish talk show host with views similar to Medved’s and who, like him, contributes to, responded on May 6 with a piece that took Rich to task.  Among other things, he says the Times columnist “got his facts wrong”.  To quote him further: 

Hagee was not calling the Catholic Church “The Great Whore.”  That is an eschatological New Testament term in the Book of Revelation.  Hagee teaches that the “Great Whore” will be an “apostate church” and a “false cult system” made up of all those who claim Christianity yet reject the gospel, whether Catholic or Protestant.  He has stated explicitly and publicly — and should continue to reassure Catholics — that he does not believe that the “Great Whore” of Revelation is the Catholic Church.  For Hagee, the sure sign that a Christian has rejected the gospel is an embrace of anti-Semitism.  In the video referenced by Rich, Hagee chooses his examples of “apostate” behavior — the Crusades, the Inquisition and a Hitler quote referencing the Catholic Church — not because they are Catholic, but because they are anti-Semitic. 

Talk about confused and confusing!  Sure is nice that we have guys like Prager to interpret the gospel according to Hagee, so he can tell us exactly what constitutes apostasy for Christians.  In case you didn’t know, it’s “anti-Semitism.”  That’s the all-encompassing, age-old sin, the deadliest one around –– the one that will send you to hell, even if you don’t believe in the need for good works.  How ever did Dante miss it?  Though exactly where in the catechism this sin, with all its degrees and ramifications, is defined, he doesn’t say.  Guess we have to listen up.  According to Prager, Hagee says it is also “the sure sign that a Christian has rejected the gospel.”  Examples of this can be found in “the Crusades, the Inquisition and a Hitler quote referencing the Catholic Church.”  These, to repeat, are bad “not because they are Catholic, but because they are anti-Semitic.” 

But is the reverse also true?  Does following the gospel of Christ, or being a good Christian, mean being pro-Semitic, i.e. heeding the words of theologically adept Jews like Prager?  He seems to think he knows it all.  But if, according to Hagee as interpreted by Prager, the Catholic Church is not, after all, the Great Whore, what does that make all those sinners who are, by their definition “anti-Semitic?”  Lesser, or perhaps, wee whores?  If not part of the Great One might not the wee ones still be individually, to use Catholic terminology, heretical little harlots; or, in modern parlance, hideous “’hos’”, whether they know it or not?  The prospect is frightening — indeed, WHOREABLE! 

Call back the Inquisition!  Or is it here already, without our realizing it? 

Enough, you say?  But it wasn’t enough.  On May 15 yet another article criticizing Frank Rich appeared in the Washington Times.  Entitled “Throwing Stones at John Hagee”, it was written by Joel Mowbray, a friend of Michael Medved’s.  Indeed the latter may have known about it in advance, since he promoted it on his show that very same day.  Fairly gloating, our host said the piece “nails Frank Rich,” who had written “outright lies” about Hagee.  The “big lie,” Medved said for the umpteenth time, was to assert that the pastor had called the Catholic Church the Great Whore.  On the contrary, he insisted, “John Hagee never attacked the Catholic Church in this way.”  If Rich had wanted to get the true story, he added, he could have watched the video. 

Was he suggesting Frank Rich had not viewed it, that the New York Times columnist was some kind of negligent dimwit to write as he had?  That indeed was the gist of young Mowbray’s piece –– and Medved’s commentary.  Funny that other media lights, including Wolf Blitzer for CNN and Brit Hume of Fox News had come to the same conclusion as Rich.  On the Situation Room for May 13, Blitzer said Hagee “has referred to the Roman Catholic Church, and I’m quoting now, as the Great Whore.”  An online video featuring Hume begins: “Televangelist John Hagee has apologized to Catholics for referring to the Roman Catholic Church as, quote, the “Great Whore” and calling it the “apostate church.” 

Isn’t it obvious?  Can they –– can we –– be so dense as not to see and hear the basic message? 

Apparently Joel Mowbray does not.  To be sure, his article reveals a mindset similar to that of Michael Medved and Dennis Prager, with his own added new touch.  After relating the basic scenario for the video, including Rich’s assertion that Hagee identified the Great Whore with the Catholic Church, Mowbray reveals his own insight into the matter.  Rich, he says, neglected to note that “‘the Great Whore’ is not Mr. Hagee’s term, but rather the Bible’s.” 

You don’t say!  Or, as the younger crowd would say: Duh!  Of course the term is used in the biblical text!  Rich never said otherwise; it’s understood.  The controversial part is identifying the Whore with a specific entity, such as the Catholic Church –– or making some goal of fighting anti-Semitism so important that it supersedes all other considerations in interpreting scripture.  Echoing Prager, Mowbray does just this.  Turning the charge against Hagee around, he says the pastor, in “combating anti-Semitism” was “actually doing what he has done for decades.”  In other words, “Mr. Rich branded Mr. Hagee a bigot when, in fact, he was actually fighting bigotry.” 

Notice how the original charge of anti-Catholicism, is fast fading away, leaving that of anti-Semitism to monopolize the stage — and Hagee to play the hero.  That is because, as Mowbray puts it: “For decades, Mr. Hagee has easily been one of the most prominent Christian leaders fighting anti-Semitism.  To him, loving Jews as much as one’s Christian neighbors is a core tenet of his faith.” 

Thus the gospel according to Joel.  Would Rich offer a rebuttal?  If he did, we saw none.  But others were busy.  Things were simmering below the surface.  A week later these erupted into the limelight, and John McCain announced that he had finally renounced Hagee’s endorsement –– but because of the Catholic thing?  Heavens, no!  Bill Donohue, in fact, actually issued a press release defending Hagee!  By now, though, most of both the pastor’s detractors and his defenders — in the media, at least –– were visibly Jewish, as were the issues. 

Thus on May 21 columnist Sam Stein came out with a story in The Huffington Post that proved devastating for Hagee and his allies.  It also probably sent his enemies into throes of laughter, because Stein had managed to paint the pastor, of all people, as a backer of Hitler — an anti-Semite!  Fair or not, this forced McCain the politician to act.  Charges of anti-Catholicism were one thing, but anti-Semitism?  That was the unforgivable sin.  Indeed, as the senator had said repeatedly, one of the reasons he had valued Hagee’s support in the first place was his known friendship with Israel.  The skeleton in the closet that Stein had exposed made all the difference. 

This came in the form of a decade-old video of Hagee giving a sermon, wherein, Stein reports, the pastor said “the Nazis had operated on God’s behalf to chase the Jews from Europe and shepherd them to Palestine.  According to the Reverend, Adolph Hitler was a ‘hunter’ sent by God, who was tasked with expediting God’s will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel.” 

Noting how Hagee moves “in and out” of biblical verse, specifically that of Jeremiah, Stein quotes the pastor as follows: “‘And they the hunters should hunt them,’ that will be the Jews.  ‘From every mountain and every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.’  If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the holocaust you can’t see that.”  According to Stein, Hagee goes on to say that Herzl, the father of Zionism, warned the Jews that God wanted them back in the promised land, but those in Europe were too comfortable to move.  So God sent Hitler the hunter to force them out. 

Hence the Holocaust. 

This was strong stuff.  Or as McCain called it, “crazy.”  For once we almost have to agree with him.  Though, if we dare, we might also interject here a Catholic interpretation of the same verses of Jeremiah, as given in the original Douay-Rheims Bible.  According to this reading of the prophet Jeremiah, God will punish the people of Israel for their sins by sending them into exile.  After they return, He will send “many fishers” who will fish them and hunters who will hunt them.  Unlike Hagee’s version, our Catholic commentary identifies the “fishers” with the future apostles, some of whom were actual fishermen, and who henceforth would be, in Christ’s words, “fishers of men.”  In the forefront, of course, was Peter, the first pope.  His successors would wear the Shoes of the Fisherman and the Fisherman’s Ring, while steering the barque of Peter.  As for “hunters,” the Douay-Rheims says this word refers to “other apostolic men” — whose job is obviously to convert the same people the prophet is addressing: the Jews. 

By highlighting early Christian apostles and suggesting God wants the Jews to convert to Christianity, this reading of the text contradicts Hagee’s own message big time.  Furthermore, as is noted in our previous essay, the pastor’s most recent book says Jesus did not intend for the Chosen Ones to accept Him as their Messiah — not yet!  Echoing Catholic doctrine, the Douay-Rheims commentary, in contrast, suggests the opposite.  Of course this edition, dating to 1609, precedes Hitler by just a few years.  Had the translators lived closer to our day, would they have thought like Hagee and replaced the apostles with Nazis?  Would they too have read the plight of unconverted modern Jews into virtually every biblical verse? 

Somehow we think not.  But that poses another consideration: the risks taken by those English translators of the Douay-Rheims.  Were not the very lives of such priestly scholars at stake?  Did not Protestant rulers exile, or hunt them down like animals — like the early apostles, who ended up martyrs?  Can not, in a sense, the passage in Jeremiah apply to them too?  Though here the situation is reversed, the hunted being the saints, not the hunters.  If we extend the metaphor yet further, can it also be seen to include our own time?  Or have things not regressed to that point?  Surely we are not being hunted down — not yet.  But is the flip side of the image true either?  Are we truly ready to take the offensive, to enter the line of fire like those biblical hunters — and fishers — of yore?  If so, where are they, the modern counterparts of valiant saints and heroes seeking the salvation of souls? 

What — or who — is stopping them? 

Meanwhile, by implying that the Holocaust was in any way the Jews’ own fault, that they could have brought it on themselves through sin, Hagee had put himself beyond the pale.  Beyond the beyond, in fact.  Sam Stein and friends said so.  Bill Donohue might come to the defense of his former enemy, calling him “the strongest Christian defender of Israel I have ever met,” but it was no use.  Hagee was now a pariah — a sorry state of affairs that Michael Medved bemoaned the next day on his radio show.  While not agreeing with Hagee’s old sermon, he thought McCain had over-reacted by renouncing him.  Indeed, he said, it “bothers me deeply — it enrages me, in fact” that people should try to discredit the guy’s life work — and to draw some kind of “moral equivalence” between him and Jeremiah Wright.” 

Trying to compare a patriot like Hagee with a “crumb-bum” like Wright, Medved went on, is like comparing “apples and dog poop.”  Waxing lyrical, he gave us the reasons why: “John Hagee loves America and loves Israel;  Jeremiah Wright hates America and hates Israel.  That makes all the difference in the world.” 

In defending Hagee, Medved also broached a thorny issue that delves into the realm of theology as well as politics and history.  “If you believe that God controls human affairs, you have to believe that He allowed the Holocaust to happen,” he said.  No doubt not all secular Jews can understand or accept this.  Furthermore, it poses other difficult questions that have divided Jews since the World War II era, when some Zionists, it seems, tried to deal with the Nazis in order to transfer Jews from Europe to Palestine.  Understandably this posed problems.  Such matters reach far beyond the scope of this essay, however.  Suffice it to say that behind the scenes similar issues apparently continue to divide modern Jews into various factions. 

Or so it would seem. 

In the World Net Daily of May 27, Dennis Prager addressed the problem by calling the idea that God willed the Holocaust “neither anti-Jewish nor even un-Jewish”.  For him there are only “two possible explanations regarding God and the Holocaust,” one being that God allowed it but did not will it.  The other is that God willed it.  He cites a “long tradition in Judaism that collective Jewish suffering is often God-willed.”  On holy days, in fact, their central prayer goes, “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” 

Prager also quotes Rabbi Jakob Petuchowski, “one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the 20th century, who wrote: ‘Much of the national suffering of the people of Israel was explained by the biblical Prophets in terms of punishment meted out by God to a sinful people.’ ” 

Be that as it may, our main concern as Catholics is with another citation of Prager’s “regarding the Holocaust.”  For this he quotes 20th century Jewish theologian Ignaz Maybaum, “who identified ‘the Holocaust victims as vicarious sacrificial offerings for the redemption of humanity.’”  This is indeed hot stuff — more so, in a certain sense, than the idea, attributed to Baruch Levy in a letter to Karl Marx, that the Jewish people as a whole would become their own messiah.  For not only does Maybaum imply this; he also seems to see his own people as fulfilling the same role for those of every race and religion.  According to his scenario, all of humanity, even baptized Christians, are redeemed not through the sufferings of Jesus Christ but through those of the modern Jews! 

Do they, as opposed to Him, comprise, as a bodily whole, the true sacrificial victim? 

And, we might ask, if these sacrifices were indeed made, was it all done, as the term implies, willingly?  If so, who decided what?  Was there any particular rite, or act, or “offering” of a religious nature?  That is what such a sacrifice, one resulting in the “redemption of humanity” requires.  The Hebrew word holocaust, signifying the ancient form of ritual, or “burnt offering”, is in fact used in the Douay-Rheims edition of the Old Testament.  Catholics see these as foreshadowing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Modern Jews do not.  For his part, Benedict seems to be doing his damndest to assure them we are not praying for their conversion — especially not on Good Friday.  But...  If you schmooze you lose, right?  Or do some schmoozers end up winning?  Also, we should ask: who’s schmoozing whom, and for what end?  To put it in terms reminiscent of Jeremiah, are Christians sticking to their guns, or are the Jews, seemingly so defensive, really calling the shots?  Could they be trying to make us reject our beliefs and accept theirs instead? 

Who’s converting whom, in other words? 

Certainly their allegations demand a reply, if not a rebuttal, from a priest, a bishop — a true pope?  So where are the shepherds?  Where have they fled?  Have those biblical hunters got to them?  Shades of Jeremiah!  However alive they might be physically, what about spiritually?  Did any of them dare take aim at Hagee when he bashed the Faith?  Not that we know of.  And what about the forthcoming CUFI bash in July, when Hagee will be joined by friends and allies like Joe Lieberman?  Perhaps our so-called bishops will be around in spirit, if not in a body, to do their apologetic thing.  Though there will probably be no more Catholic bashing, since Hagee has surely had enough of that.  No, it’s all likely to be warm and fuzzy, if also a bit creepy.  Lieberman, of course, recently escorted John McCain on a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where, if you will recall, the late great John Paul II also paid his respects.  It makes us wonder: will Benedict follow in their footsteps? 

Meanwhile, don’t we tired old members of the flock deserve a few answers?  Can we ever get them?  Is there any hope of that?  We know they are out there.  Or were all those crooks and miters seen parading in front of the TV cameras during Benedict’s visit merely props for actors playing shepherds –– but who are, underneath, wolves in sheep’s clothing?

Click here for part I

Copyright by Judith M. Gordon 2008