In a fundraising letter with his signature on it, Sen. Sam Brownback appears to allege that Sen. Ted Kennedy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are not "real Catholics" for their stance on "values" issues and questions the Catholicism of five other Senators for their position on abortion rights.
The letter, distributed by the conservative group Catholic Advocate, included an envelope that had the Senator's signature as well as a seemingly-official, though unprofessional-looking, letterhead bearing Brownback's name. (See the full letter here.)
The tone of the three pages of text is unusually personal and direct.
"Real Catholics need a new voice -- not the likes of Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi who have campaigned as Catholics while voting to undermine the values that we hold most dear," the letter reads. "The same can be said for the five 'Catholic' senators sponsoring the Freedom of Choice Act, namely: Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).
"It is with Christian charity -- and in fraternal correction that we say to them: You can't be both Catholic and Pro-Abortion."
Neither the Senator's office nor the Catholic Advocate returned request for comment. A spokeswoman for Catholic Advocate told the National Catholic Reporter that "approval came from the senator's office" though a spokesman for Brownback said the Senator's chief of staff had "never seen, heard of, or approved of it."
Whoever is responsible for the content, he or she did not hold back many punches. The letter goes directly after the president as well, calling Barack Obama a "pro-abortion radical."
"As I write," the letter reads, "Congress is considering a bill -- called the Freedom of Choice Act -- to reverse the ban on the gruesome Partial Birth Abortion procedure. And to make matters worse, Barack Obama made this chilling vow: 'the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act."
From there, the letter details the "evil that is Partial-Birth Abortion," a procedure which, it should be noted, Obama has said states can properly restrict except when the mother's health is in jeopardy.
UPDATE: Brownback spokesman Brian Hart tells the National Catholic Reporter that the Senator's staff has "reached out to both the organization responsible and the mail house [responsible for printing and distributing the letter] and directed them not to use Sam Brownback's name, signature, likeness or representation in any way moving forward and expressed that we are not pleased with the content of the letter."
LATER UPDATE: The Brownback letter is, in fact, legitimate. As Brenda Steele, a spokesperson for the Catholic Advocate tells the Huffington Post:
"I'm happy to provide you with the confirmation that the letter we sent out bearing Senator Brownback's name is legitimate. Glen Chambers, Chief of Staff for Senator Brownback, sent the following e-mail to Dr. Deal Hudson yesterday morning:"
As I mentioned to you on the phone, I think we've gotten to the bottom of the confusion over the mail piece. Neither the Senator nor I had seen the letter or were aware of it. I figured out that you did get permission to use his name on the piece from a former campaign staffer in February of last year.
However, as I mentioned, we'd like to stop any future mailings you have planned using the Senator's name.
Sorry about the confusion.