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"Catholic Advocate" has Brownback support, organization confirms

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The new initiative "Catholic Advocate," whose goal is to expose politicians "who hide their pro-abortion record behind a smokescreen of faith," confirmed to CNA that they do have the support of Senator Sam Brownback for their initiative.

Last week, “Catholic Advocate” sent a fundraising letter signed by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback questioning whether his Democratic colleagues, including the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were genuine Catholics.

"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," Brownback said in the letter, asking for support against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and in favor of "Catholic Advocate," a nonprofit created by the Catholic activist Deal Hudson.

But on Friday, Joe Feuerherd, a staff writer of the National Catholic Reporter, questioned the authenticity of the letter, quoting Brownback's spokesman Brian Hart, who said that "our chief of staff ... had never seen, heard of, or approved it."

Feuerherd's main concern, nevertheless, was the fact that letter is the first public criticism of a pro-life Catholic politician against pro-abortion colleagues.  "It is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented in modern times, for one senator to question the religious practices of another," Feuerherd wrote.

The National Catholic Reporter quoted Stephen Schneck, director of Life Cycle Institute and a board member of the self-described non-partisan organization Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, saying that "regardless that FOCA is horrible and — for me — immoral legislation, an affront like this between senators is unfathomable."

Feuerherd also quoted Whitney Smith, press secretary for Senator John Kerry, who said it was “disappointing to see incendiary political fundraising rather than good faith efforts to promote the common good and work together to reduce the number of abortions."

On Monday, Catholic Advocate sent CNA a copy of the email approving the letter from Senator Brownback. The email, which involves the names of other individuals not relevant to the story, was dated February 29, 2008 to Matt Schenk, of HSP Direct, clearly stating that "the Brownback/Catholic Advocate appeal" was "ok, approved."

Regarding the statements of Brian Hart quoted by the Reporter, Glen Chambers, chief of staff for Senator Brownback, explained that "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." Chambers also said there would not be future mailings using the Senator's name.


In the his story, Feuerherd takes special aim at Deal Hudson, whom he describes as a "conservative Catholic activist and Republican political operative."  Feuerherd dedicates part of his article to focusing attention on his own controversial report from 2004 that detailed an inappropriate sexual encounter Hudson had revealed and apologized for several years ago.

In 2004, Feuerherd deflected criticism that his intention was character assassination by saying that he just followed "where the story led me."

Nevertheless, earlier this year, Catholic blogs called attention to the Hudson story by saying that the coverage the National Catholic Reporter gave to the scandal surrounding Eric McFadden was insufficient in comparison.

McFadden was the former head of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Democratic Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland, and was previously closely associated with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. McFadden was more recently active in supporting Obama as a "pro-life" candidate.  He even went so far as to request the resignation of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson for calling to task then Vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden on his Catholic faith and his pro-abortion position.

McFadden was arrested on January 14, and now faces charges that include two counts of promoting prostitution, two counts of pandering obscenity involving a minor, two counts of pandering obscenity involving a nude minor and one count of compelling prostitution.

Catholic blogs complained that Feuerherd and the National Catholic Reporter never felt compelled to follow the story despite the importance of McFadden among the ranks of Catholic Democrats and the severity of his misconduct.

"In spite of the misunderstanding, we are not intimidated and will continue with the mission of Catholic Advocate to oppose pro-abortion Catholics in politics as exemplified by the late Fr. Robert Drinan, S.J., Sen. Ted Kennedy, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Vice President Joseph Biden,” Hudson told CNA.


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