The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center says it is reviewing a Catholic chaplaincy contract granted to a secular defense contractor after the Catholic Archdiocese of Military Services accused the center of denying Catholic military personnel the right to practice their religion.
“Currently, the chaplaincy contract is being reviewed to ensure it adequately supports the religious needs of our patients and beneficiaries,” Walter Reed said in a statement Tuesday.
The Catholic archdiocese appealed last week after saying a cease and desist order had been issued against Holy Name College Friary, a Franciscan community of priests and friars who had served at the center for nearly two decades.
Catholic Archdiocese accuses Walter Reed of suppressing religious rights with cease and desist order
This happened after a contract for Catholic pastoral care expired at the end of March. And the archdiocese said the contract was exchanged for a contract with a secular defense contractor, which the archbishop says could not provide adequate supplies.
“It is incomprehensible that the sick and elderly should be deprived of vital pastoral care when it was so readily available,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio said in a statement.
“This is a classic case of the adage, ‘don’t fix what ain’t broke’ applies. I am afraid that when the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder, the fact that the bidder cannot provide the required service was overlooked,” he added. “I sincerely hope that this contempt for the sick will be remedied immediately and their First Amendment rights respected.”
Two dozen Republican lawmakers this week sent Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a letter denouncing what they saw as an “attack on the Christian faith.”
WALTER REED ‘REPEAL AND ENTERTAINMENT’ FOR CATHOLIC PRIESTS VIOLATE FIRST AMENDMENT, GOP LEGISLATORS SAY
However, Walter Reed has emphasized that it is able to offer Catholic chaplaincy without a contract, saying that Holy Week and Easter services were conducted by a Catholic priest and that three priests in the area are able to offer services as well Access to be given to Red Cross volunteers and active chaplains.
The center also said it has an active-duty ordained Catholic priest on staff and that the contract it has awarded provides for coverage in the event staff are unable to do so. It also said that as part of the National Capital Region Health Market, it can hire priests assigned to other defense organizations in the region.
“With the assigned staff and regional support, WRNMMC is well resourced to meet the religious needs of our Catholic beneficiaries,” the statement said.
The Defense Health Agency also emphasized that there has been “no cancellation of Catholic services at Walter Reed, particularly during Holy Week.”
Both the agency and the center also stressed that the contract was not terminated but expired on March 31 and the contract is pending renewal and re-tendering. This contract is now being reviewed, the center said.
However, it confirmed that it had issued the cease-and-desist order on April 4 after Holy Name College continued to provide services beyond the expiration of the contract. Catholic liturgies for Holy Week were offered at the center by the priest on staff.
Separately, senior defense officials told Fox News that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley was in no way involved in the decision or consulted, as suggested by the social media posts and the troubles in the Army’s channels were treated.
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“Thanks in large part to excellent coverage on Fox News Channel, Fox Digital and other media outlets, as well as attention in Congress, the administration is now working hard behind the scenes to resolve the matter,” the archdiocese’s director of public affairs told Fox News .
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Jennifer Johnson and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.
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