Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was charged by the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services of denying Catholic service members and veterans their right to practice their faith.
The charges come from the Holy Name College Friary, a Franciscan community of priests and brothers who have worked at the facility for 20 years, being given a cease-and-desist order and the cancellation of a contract for pastoral care. This order was issued days before the Holy Week started, and the contract for Catholic Pastoral Care ended at the end of March.
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Chared With Religious Discrimination
According to New York Post, the archdiocese has released a statement replying to the actions that Walter Reed made. They criticized their actions and labeled them an infringement upon the First Amendment's right to exercise one's religion freely. The archdiocese was so disappointed that their appeal to reinstate the ministry through Easter has gone unanswered.
Archbishop Timothy Bergolio said they do not understand why they must take the essential pastoral care away from the sick and the old when it was readily available. He also expressed his concern that by giving the contract to the lowest bidder may have forgotten and overlooked the importance of the necessary services.
Another report source, Fox News, states that the service members and the veterans are hardly being denied their right to practice their faith since Catholic priests are banned in Walter Reed. The absence of these priests prevents important events in Catholicism, such as Mass celebrations and religious confessions.
Walter Reed responded to these criticisms by saying that they have always provided religious sacraments, which include those that an ordained priest of the Catholic offered. The response also states that currently, there is a review of the pastoral care contract that is happening in order to ensure enough support for the religious needs of the beneficiaries, most importantly the patients.
Furthermore, Walter Reed announced that there would be Catholic Easter Services, which would include the performance of Mass and the giving of confession by a priest who has been consecrated in the Catholic Church. The patients at the facility may still seek their assistance even if the Franciscan Diocese won't be holding services on Sunday.
History of the Archdiocese for Military Services
The Catholic Archdiocese for Military Services was founded by the late St. Pope John Paul II to serve the Catholics serving the military in the United States and worldwide. According to Vigour Times, the care of about 1.8 million Catholics worldwide is within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese, which has responsibilities that transcend geographical limits. This includes over 220 installations in 29 countries, 153 V.A. Medical Centers, and federal employees stationed in 134 countries.
According to their website, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, the history of the organization starts with Archbishop Joseph T. Ryan becoming the first common of the Archdiocese of Military Services in March 1985. In the vicinity of Washington, DC, he constructed the administrative center in January 1986. The Most Reverend Joseph T. Dimino was chosen to serve as the second ordinary for the Military Services upon the retirement of Archbishop Ryan in 1991. The Most Reverend Edwin F. O'Brien, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, succeeded Archbishop Dimino after he retired in 1997. On October 1, 2007, Archbishop O'Brien assumed his position as Baltimore's archbishop.