The Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services is accusing Walter Reed National Military Medical Center of denying Catholic service members and veterans their right to practice their religion after it canceled a contract for pastoral care and issued an order “cease and desist” in a community of Catholic priests a few days before Holy Week.
The Catholic archdiocese said in a statement that Walter Reed issued the order against Holy Name College Friary, a Franciscan community of priests and brothers who served at the center for nearly 20 years.
Instead, it said the contract for Catholic Pastoral Care was terminated at the end of March, just as Holy Week was about to begin. Walter Reed replaced the contract with a secular defense contracting firm that the archdiocese said could not provide the adequate care needed.
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The archdiocese condemned the move as an intrusion on the right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment and said its requests to restore the ministry by Easter had not received a response. Walter Reed responded to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.
“It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and elderly when it is readily available,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio said in a statement.
“This is a classic case where the saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applies. I’m afraid that awarding the contract to the lowest bidder overlooks the fact that the bidder cannot provide the required service,” he says. “I sincerely hope that this disdain for the sick will be resolved soon and that their First Amendment rights will be respected.”
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Although the Archdiocese acknowledged that the chaplain’s office said Catholic care is provided during Holy Week, it said that without Catholic priests, service members and veterans are denied their right to practice of their religion. Some central Catholic functions — such as the celebration of Mass and the administration of Confession — can only be performed by an ordained Catholic priest.
AMS was created by St. Pope John Paul II to provide Church services to veterans and service members in the US and abroad. The archdiocese, which has no geographical boundaries, is responsible for the care of 1.8 million Catholics worldwide.
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Walter Reed was most recently in the headlines after Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., at the center on Feb. 15 for clinical depression. He was released in March, and his office said he was in remission after his treatment.