He thought about it a little more, chatted up some Catholic friends, and decided that no, in fact, the Church isn’t the “great whore” named in Revelation. Whew!

“Out of a desire to advance greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful,” Hagee wrote, according to an advanced copy of the letter reviewed by Washington Wire. “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.”…

Hagee met with 22 Catholic leaders in Washington, D.C. on Friday to apologize for his comments, according to a source familiar with the meeting. Despite the McCain’s condemnation of Hagee’s anti-Catholic remarks, the campaign had no role in that meeting or Tuesday’s apology, according to the source who said it was something Hagee did because he felt it was necessary…

Hagee’s letter explains some of the harsh words he has used when describing the Catholic Church. “I better understand that reference to the Roman Catholic Church as the ‘apostate church’ and the ‘great whore’ described in the book of Revelation”—both terms Hagee has employed—“is a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary,” he wrote.

Anyone at all here believe that Team Maverick didn’t use a little muscle on this? It’s not just that they want to try to put this to bed to eliminate the tu quoque when they go after Obama on Wright this summer, it’s that Hillary’s been beating Obama consistently among Catholics (by 27 points in Ohio and 40 points in Pennsylvania) and they don’t want Hagee stopping any of those disgruntled blue-collar Clintonites from becoming McCainocrats in November. McCain already admitted last month to Stephanopoulos that accepting Hagee’s endorsement was “probably” a mistake; I wonder if the campaign didn’t issue an ultimatum telling him either to repent or face the humiliation of having the endorsement formally rejected.

Exit question: Does this mean he’s rethinking his position on the End Times, too?

Update: A counterfactual to chew on: If McCain did reject Hagee’s endorsement, wouldn’t that put extra pressure on them to name Huckabee as VP in order to heal the resulting rift with evangelicals?