The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, predictably, has called on Rick Perry to repudiate Pastor Robert Jeffress over the latter’s comments that Catholicism is “a Babylonian mystery religion spread like a cult,” and it was “the genius of Satan” to make a “fake” religion look real. Donohue tells the Daily Beast’s Wayne Barrett that Perry should make a “full break” with Jeffress.
Barrett, I think, overstates Donohue’s clout; he can draw a lot of media attention with his rants, but let’s note he’s single-mindedly focused on Jeffress’ anti-Catholicsm while perpetuating bigotry of his own. Donohue only cares about anything he perceives as anti-Catholic (and this includes reasonable criticisms of the political advocacy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example), yet finds it competely acceptable to demand that gay people “apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done” or to say that Hollywood “is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, okay?”
Barrett gives Donohue too much credit for prompting John McCain’s repudiation of John Hagee in 2008. Here’s how 2008 really went down: Donohue was satisfied after a mere McCain statement, made in early March, “I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee’s, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics,” which was followed by McCain’s assertion that Hagee’s remarks were “taken out of context.” At the time, Donohue considered the case “closed.” It wasn’t until more two months later, in May, after the cumulative effect of a lot of Hagee blather on other matters that McCain finally severed ties. But Donohue, already satisfied, had nothing to say about any of Hagee’s other controversial statements if they had nothing to do with Catholicism. And evangelicals viewed McCain’s rejection of Hagee as ridicule of them.
Barrett opines that Donohue must matter to evangelicals because Tony Perkins invited him to a meeting before the Values Voters Summit. I don’t remember Donohue being at the Values Voters Summit, but indeed there were plenty of Catholics, including Bill Bennett, who denounced Jeffress’ anti-Mormon comments as “stepp[ing] on” all the candidates present; candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich; and the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher. Evangelical-land knows its skeletons: the anti-Mormonism, of course, and the assertion, dating of course back to Luther, that the Catholic Church is Antichrist. But these are all political animals who understand that co-belligerency (even with Mormons!) in the culture wars against gays and feminists requires tamping down their own theological differences.
To sum up: we have a presidential candidate who hosts a Christians-only prayer rally a week before he announces his candidacy; he’s endorsed by a pastor who believes that only Christians, as he defines them, should serve in the White House; the pastor, in turn, is condemned as anti-Catholic by a Catholic who has said a vote for (Catholic) John Kerry was “cooperation with evil” and who thinks Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Catholics.