BETHESDA, Md. (OSV News) — Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services has called a decision by a U.S. military hospital to end its Catholic pastoral care contract with Franciscan priests and brothers “incomprehensible,” and a violation of service members’ religious freedom.
On March 31, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland issued a “cease and desist” order to Holy Name College Friary, a community of Franciscan priests and brothers based in Silver Spring, Maryland, according to the military archdiocese’s April 7 news release.
The Franciscan friars served the center’s service members and veterans for close to two decades, according to the military archdiocese. Walter Reed is one of several major medical facilities operated within the U.S. Department of Defense and the Defense Health Agency, and so falls within the pastoral jurisdiction of the military archdiocese.
According to the archdiocese, the March 31 order directed Catholic priests to halt religious services on the center’s grounds, ahead of the church’s commemorations of the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday.
The archdiocese said the contract for pastoral care was “awarded to a secular defense contracting firm that cannot fulfill the statement of the work” required.
In comments to OSV News late April 7, Archbishop Broglio faulted those overseeing contracting at Walter Reed “for not doing their homework on what it takes to ensure Catholic coverage.” The archdiocese has not received a response from the medical center to inquiries placed by its legal counsel.
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