Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) has induced seizures in theocon watchdogs for claiming in a letter to Catholic parishioners that five Catholic members of the Senate who are pro-choice are not really Catholic.
"These liberals siphon off huge chunks of 'values voters' who are tricked into sending, 'abortion-on-demand' politicians to represent them in Washington, DC.," writes Brownback. "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."
"It is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented in modern times, for one senator to question the religious practices of another," writes Joe Feuerherd, of the National Catholic Reporter, who broke the news.
The NCR also reports that Brownback's office denies he has anything to do with the letter. "Our chief of staff ... had never seen, heard of, or approved it," said Brownback spokesperson, Brian Hart.
But the Damon Linker of the New Republic is skeptical. "[T]he fact is that given Brownback's longstanding support for the theocon approach to waging the culture war, there is no way for him to reject the contents of the letter on principle. He simply wants the inquisition to be conducted on someone else's letterhead."
Linker believes this is the fulfillment of a theocon dream:
Now it isn't just theocon writers (and the occasional bishop) who will act as inquisitors of Catholic Democrats but also their colleagues on Capitol Hill. That's what happens when political ideology and theological orthodoxy are brought into perfect alignment, which is what the theocons have been after for years.Politicians as arbitrators of orthodoxy. This isn't new, is it?