BOTH SENATOR TOM DASCHLE and Bishop Robert Carlson responded to yesterday's article after its publication with prepared statements. Neither denied the existence of the letter, but both refused to discuss the contents of what one Catholic official in Sioux Falls angrily described as "private correspondence" that was not intended to be made public at this time.
Daschle's Washington office emailed The Weekly Standard a note from the senator that read, "I am not going to participate in a debate that is intended to politicize anyone's religious beliefs, especially during Holy Week. . . . I will not discuss our private conversations in the media."
Bishop Carlson has not contacted The Weekly Standard, but David Kranz, a well-known South Dakota political commentator at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, reports the bishop has written that "other than inviting people to pray for the senator's conversion, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to discuss my pastoral relationship with the senator."
In the statement quoted by Kranz, Carlson went on to say, "I would never break off dialogue or a pastoral relationship with anyone," while Daschle added, "I have been a Catholic all my life, and I will remain one"--both suggesting The Weekly Standard's report of the bishop's letter is overstated. Daschle's spokesman, however, refused to answer when asked directly by a reporter whether the senator had received such a letter, and sources in Washington and Sioux Falls tell The Weekly Standard that the offices of both the bishop and the senator are making determined efforts to discover who leaked the fact of the bishop's letter.
A native of South Dakota, J. Bottum is Books & Arts editor of the Weekly Standard.