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Walter Reed ends 2-decade contract with military archdiocese

Veteran in wheelchair holding rosary beads

Olena Yakobchuk | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 04/11/23

The Catholic Archdiocese for the US Military is decrying the move, which will prevent its work with the more than 1.8 million active service persons it serves.

The Archdiocese for the US Military Services is speaking out over a recent decision by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Clinic (WRNMMC) to cancel its contract with the archdiocese for pastoral care. The WRNMMC went as far as to issue a “cease and desist” order to the archdiocese, which came just days before Holy Week began. 

According to New York Post, the order was issued to the Franciscan community of Holy Name College Friary, which has worked with the WRNMMC for nearly two decades. The archdiocese called out the action as “encroachment upon the rights of free exercise of religion,” which is protected under the First Amendment. 

The report notes that the WRNMMC intends on replacing the arrangement with the Church with a contracted secular defense firm, but the Archdiocese for the Military voiced its skepticism that a secular firm could provide Catholic services and sacraments that require a priest. The Archdiocese for the US Military is responsible for tending to an estimated 1.8 million Catholics in the US armed forces.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the archbishop of the military archdiocese who recently was elected as president of the USCCB, commented: 

“It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available.”

The archbishop continued, “This is a classic case where the adage ‘If it is not broken, do not fix it’ applies. I fear that giving a contract to the lowest bidder overlooked the fact that the bidder cannot provide the necessary service,” he said. “I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected.”

While Archbishop Broglio noted that the archdiocese’s requests to have their ministry reinstated have gone unanswered as of Easter Sunday, Walter Reed has released a statement that the clinic “supports a full range of religious, cultural, and spiritual needs.” The clinic’s organizers wrote: 

“Currently a review of the pastoral care contract is under review to ensure it adequately supports the religious needs of our patients and beneficiaries,” the statement said. “Although at this time the Franciscan Diocese will not be hosting services on Sunday, parishioners of the Diocese while patients at our facilities may still seek their services.”

While the future of the archdiocese’s relationship with WRNMMC is uncertain, the report noted that Catholic services were provided to the clinic’s veteran patients during Holy Week. Still, the archdiocese warns that Catholic services will be unable to proceed in the future if the required priests are not allowed to pursue their ministry.

Read more at the New York Post.

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