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Catholic archdiocese accuses Walter Reed of stifling religious rights with ‘cease and desist’ order

The Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services says Walter Reed has denied Catholic service members their constitutional to practice their religion at the center.

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 a “cease and desist” order to a community of Catholic priests just days before Holy Week.

The Catholic archdiocese says in a statement that Walter Reed issued the order against Holy Name College Friary, a Franciscan community of priests and brothers that has served at the center for nearly 20 years.

Instead, it says 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 says will not be able to provide the adequate care needed.


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The archdiocese condemned the move as an encroachment upon the right of free exercise of religion under the First Amendment and said its requests to have the ministry reinstated through Easter have not received a response. Walter Reed did respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.

“It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio said in a statement.

“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.”

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While the Archdiocese acknowledged that the chaplain’s office said Catholic care is being provided during Holy Week, it said that without Catholic priests, service members and veterans are being denied their right to practice their religion. Certain central Catholic practices — such as the celebration of the Mass and the administration of Confession — can only be carried out by an ordained Catholic priest.

The AMS was created by St. Pope John Paul II to provide the Church’s services to veterans and service members in the U.S. and overseas. The archdiocese, which does not have geographical boundaries, is responsible for the care of 1.8 million Catholics across the globe. 

Walter Reed was most recently in the headlines after Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., checked into the center on Feb 15 for clinical depression. He was released at the of March, and his office said that he is now in remission after his treatment.
 

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