During Holy Week, Walter Reed National Military Center issued a “cease and desist order” to Franciscan priests at Holy Name College, who had been providing religious services and ministering to the spiritual needs of the hospital’s Catholic patients.
The move “violates First Amendment Right to Free Exercise of Religion,” the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA (AMS) says in an announcement of Walter Reed’s cancelation of its contract with the Franciscan group.
AMS was replaced by a secular defense contractor, which cannot provide the Catholic services required by the contract, AMS explains:
“The Franciscans’ contract for Catholic Pastoral Care was terminated on March 31, 2023, and awarded to a secular defense contracting firm that cannot fulfill the statement of work in the contract. As a result, adequate pastoral care is not available for service members and veterans in the United States’ largest Defense Health Agency medical center either during Holy Week or beyond. There is one Catholic Army chaplain assigned to Walter Reed Medical Center, but he is in the process of separating from the Army.”
What’s more, Walter Reed did not respond to numerous efforts by the archdiocese’s general to contact the hospital, AMS reports.
“It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available,” AMS Archbiship Timothy P. Broglio said in a statement:
“I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected.”
In a series of tweets on Saturday, Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) condemned the Biden administration’s decision and promised to investigate the decision to oust the Catholic friars:
“Priests and pastors guided our troops through the darkest days of our toughest battles. The Biden Admin chose Easter weekend to kick Catholic priests out of Walter Reed, violating their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
“The House will not allow this to stand.,,,,” (https://twitter.com/RepMaryMiller/status/1644764043377254401?s=20)
“Saturday On Easter weekend, the Biden Defense Department kicked Catholic priests out of Walter Reed, denying Christian service members their First Amendment right to exercise their faith. I will investigate, but Biden’s actions are a clear attack on religious liberty during Holy Week.” (https://twitter.com/Miller_Congress/status/1644764452577845249?s=20)
“Saturday The Biden Defense Department kicked Catholic priests out of Walter Reed on Easter weekend. This is an unconscionable attack on Christian service members and the First Amendment by Biden, Austin, and Milley. The House must investigate why DOD did this, especially on Holy Week!” (https://twitter.com/RepMaryMiller/status/1644757712905945088?s=20)
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