The Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, has accused Walter Reed National Military Medical Center of violating the religious freedom of Catholic veterans by terminating a contract and issuing a “cease and desist” order to a group of priests right before Holy Week.
The contract for Catholic Pastoral Care between Walter Reed and the Holy Name College Friary, a community of priests who have worked at the hospital institution for the last two decades, was canceled just days before Holy Week, as the Archdiocese announced in a press statement.
Taking away “necessary pastoral care” from the ill and elderly “is unfathomable,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio declared.
A secular military contracting business that cannot complete the contract’s stated tasks was granted the Franciscans’ Catholic Pastoral Care contract on March 31, 2023.
According to the statement, as a consequence, proper pastoral care is not accessible for service personnel and veterans at the biggest Defense Health Agency medical hospital in the United States throughout Holy Week or beyond.
The Archdiocese said that the medical center campus has just one Catholic chaplain and that priest is in the process of leaving the Army. In its statement, the Archdiocese stressed that only a duly ordained Catholic priest might administer the sacrament of Penance and celebrate Holy Mass.
Broglio says if something isn’t broken, there’s no need to try to repair it. If the lowest bidder is chosen, there is a risk that the required service will not be provided.
He added that he hoped this contempt for the sick would be immediately addressed and their First Amendment rights would be protected.
The Archdiocese has contacted Walter Reed contracting authorities many times during Holy Week, pleading with them to reverse their earlier decision and resume the Franciscans’ Catholic service at least until Easter. Walter Reed’s chaplain’s office says Catholic care is being given throughout Holy Week, but hospital administration has not replied to these requests.
Earlier this week, Walter Reed issued a statement praising the facility, calling it a “welcoming and therapeutic environment that acknowledges and supports a complete spectrum of religious, spiritual, and cultural requirements.”