CV NEWS FEED // The archbishop of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services (AMS) has sharply criticized a military hospital’s decision to remove Franciscan priests during Holy Week 2023.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio condemned the move and its motives, saying it was “incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available… I fear that giving a contract to the lowest bidder overlooked the fact that the bidder cannot provide the necessary service.”
Part of the “necessary service” of Catholic pastoral care is access to the sacraments, including the Holy Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick. As the Archbishop for Military Services, Broglio alone governs the distribution of the sacraments at all U.S. military hospitals. His stewardship includes granting faculties to all priests serving in those facilities, a responsibility that cannot be delegated under canon law.
According to the AMS’s statement, issued on Good Friday, April 7, the contract for Catholic Pastoral Care was “awarded to a secular defense contracting firm that cannot fulfill the statement of work in the contract.”
Especially during Holy Week, the lack of adequate Catholic pastoral care causes untold and irreparable harm to Catholics who are hospitalized and therefore a captive population whose religious rights the government has a constitutional duty to provide for and protect.
Mack Global, LLC, a for-profit secular corporation that provides religious ministry staffing and other services to all five branches of the U.S. military, took over the contract from the Roman Catholic archdiocese.
CatholicVote President Brian Burch said, “This story is bigger than we realize – it showcases the Department of Veterans Affairs’ stunning ignorance of and lack of care for the Catholic sacramental life.”
He added, “Mack Global, LLC, which beat out the Archdiocese for the Military for the contract, claims to be able to provide specific ‘Catholic ministries.’ This is a direct affront to the teaching authority of the church that a for-profit company could staff these positions.”
According to Catholic News Agency:
The archdiocese said its general counsel, Elizabeth A. Tomlin, tried numerous times to contact officers at Walter Reed throughout Holy Week asking for the Franciscans’ Catholic ministry to be reinstated at least through Easter. No response was received, the archdiocese said.
In a statement Saturday to CNA, Walter Reed said the pastoral care contract “is under review to ensure it adequately supports the religious needs of our patients and beneficiaries.”
A Violation of Constitutional Rights
The archdiocese maintains that:
While Walter Reed’s chaplain office claims Catholic care is being provided during Holy Week, … without Catholic priests present at the medical center, service members and veterans are being denied the constitutional right to practice their religion…
The refusal to provide adequate pastoral care while awarding a contract for Catholic ministry to a for-profit company that has no way of providing Catholic priests to the medical center is a glaring violation of service members’ and veterans’ Right to the Free Exercise of Religion.
Archbishop Broglio added, “I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected.”