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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

‘Devout Catholic’ Biden’s shocking attack on priests for vets

The men and women serving in our military face daily challenges that can be terrifyingly intense. It is our armed forces’ solemn duty to provide them with any spiritual care they require. For Catholics in the military, such care includes access to the sacraments on base, while deployed and when receiving medical treatment.  

Catholic service men and women have, in the past, been able to count on this access to priestly ministry – and you might imagine that they could be especially confident of it while they are serving this nation’s second Catholic commander-in-chief. Yet, not for the first time, President Joe Biden appears to be happy to see his co-religionists singled out for unfair treatment.   

A scandal is unfolding at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Operated by the U.S. Army, this is one of the world’s largest military hospitals, with bed capacity for 5,500 patients spread out over 100 acres. Yet it has only one full-time Catholic chaplain, who is about to leave his post. For more than 20 years, most of the spiritual needs of its Catholic patients have been met by the Franciscan friars of Holy Name College in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland.  

WALTER REED SAYS CATHOLIC PASTORAL CARE CONTRACT UNDER REVIEW AMID ARCHDIOCESE CRITICISM

Just before Holy Week, Walter Reed ended its contract with the friars, issuing a “cease and desist order.” In the future, pastoral needs will be met by a secular government contractor. 

Pope Saint John Paul II founded the Archdiocese for the Military Services which has to supply the military with around 200 priests.

Pope Saint John Paul II founded the Archdiocese for the Military Services which has to supply the military with around 200 priests. (Chuck Fishman/Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? No wonder Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, has expressed his fury at the decision. “It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available,” he said. “I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected.”  

In fact, it’s not immediately clear whether this brutal development qualifies as a violation of the First Amendment. But Broglio is absolutely right to describe it as “incomprehensible” and a manifestation of “disdain for the sick” – many of whom are elderly veterans and members of their families.  

Catholics should be proud of the fact that we are disproportionately represented in our armed forces. Yet this places a heavy burden on the Archdiocese for the Military Services, founded by Pope Saint John Paul II, which has to supply the military with around 200 priests, on loan from their diocese and orders.  

The archdiocese provides the full range of pastoral ministries and spiritual services to Catholic members of the armed forces and their families at more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 Veterans’ Affairs medical centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the United States in 134 countries.  

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In total, nearly 2 million men, women, and children rely on its good work. Unlike its equivalents in other countries, it receives no government funding. This explains why there is only one Catholic chaplain at Walter Reed, and why the ministry of the Franciscans of Holy Name has been so indispensable at the medical center.  

While a growing number of lay Catholics offer spiritual support in hospitals, there are some things that only a Catholic priest can do: celebrate Mass, hear confessions and anoint the sick.   

The explanation for the friars’ expulsion from Walter Reed officials is lame, to put it politely. They claim that the pastoral care contract “is under review to ensure it adequately supports the religious needs of our patients and beneficiaries.” They were quick to add that “Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is a welcoming and healing environment that honors and supports a full range of religious, spiritual, and cultural needs.”  

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Except, it would appear, Catholic ones.   

While a growing number of lay Catholics offer spiritual support in hospitals, there are some things that only a Catholic priest can do: celebrate Mass, hear confessions and anoint the sick.   

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, along with a group of Republican lawmakers, wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this week demanding an explanation. “We have made promises to our service members and veterans that if they take care of us, we will take care of them,” they wrote. “This extends to not just providing quality healthcare at our nation’s military facilities, but by also providing the ability to freely practice their religion to those under the care at these facilities.”   

Biden, who often speaks of the importance of his faith, is maintaining what is becoming his trademark silence where the rights of Catholics are threatened, arousing suspicions that – as in the case of other Catholic voluntary bodies attacked by secularists – he approves of what is happening.   

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Why? We don’t know.   

But on this occasion he may be forced to explain, for Archbishop Timothy Broglio is no longer just the bishop with jurisdiction over the military archdiocese. Last year, he was also elected President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in recognition of the eloquence and tenacity with which he defends the Catholic Church and its faithful. It is safe to say that he will not let this matter rest.   

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM ANDREA PICCIOTTI-BAYER

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