Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is being accused of denying Catholic veterans the right to practice their religion after reportedly cancelling a contract for pastoral care and issuing a “cease and desist” order to a community of Catholic priests just days before Holy Week, according to the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
Only days before Holy Week, Walter Reed terminated a contract for Catholic Pastoral Care with the Holy Name College Friary, a community of priests who have served at the medical center for the past two decades, the Archdiocese revealed in a press release.
@WRBethesda has issued a cease and desist order directing Catholic priests to cease any religious services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, during Holy Week, the most sacred of days in the Christian faith. https://t.co/sS7279MTTm
— Military Archdiocese (@MilArchUSA) April 7, 2023
“The Franciscans’ contract for Catholic Pastoral Care was terminated on March 31, 2023, and awarded to a secular defense contracting firm that cannot fulfill the statement of work in the contract. As a result, adequate pastoral care is not available for service members and veterans in the United States’ largest Defense Health Agency medical center either during Holy Week or beyond,” the statement read.
The Archdiocese went on to explain there is only one Catholic chaplain assigned to the medical center campus, but that chaplain is currently in the process of separating from the Army. The Archdiocese argued in its statement that certain practices, such as the administration of the sacrament of Penance and the celebration of Holy Mass, can only be offered by an ordained Catholic priest. (RELATED: ‘This Must End’: Lawmakers Warn Of ‘Attacks’ To Service Members’ Religious Liberty)
“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. I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected,” Broglio added.
The Archdiocese has reportedly reached out to contracting officials at Walter Reed multiple times throughout Holy Week requesting a reconsideration of their decision, at least allowing the Franciscans’ Catholic ministry to be reinstated through Easter. Though Walter Reed officials have not responded to these requests, its chaplain’s office claims Catholic care is being provided during Holy Week, the statement read.
In a statement Saturday, Walter Reed said the center is a “welcoming and healing environment that honors and supports a full range of religious, spiritual, and cultural needs,” as reported by Fox News.