The impact of Obama silencing military chaplains

Enough was already enough with this administration trampling conscience rights and religious liberties protected in the Constitution. Than he clamped down on speech rights of Army chaplains, for crying out loud.

And this man wrote a book about audacity.

Obama silenced chaplains last weekend.

In Catholic churches across the country, parishioners were read letters from the pulpit this weekend from bishops in their diocese about the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services giving Catholics a year before they’ll be required to start violating their consciences on insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But not in the Army.

A statement released this afternoon — which happens to be the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Dorchester, on which four chaplains lost their lives – from the Archdiocese for Military Services explains:

On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.

The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit.  The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.

Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.
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Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

The AMS did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio’s statement from the other branches of service.

So not only were chaplains told not to read the letter, but an Obama administration official edited a pastoral letter . . . with church buy-in?

Didn’t people flee across an ocean-sized pond to be free of this kind of thing?

The news got around a bit, though not widely, that the military was telling chaplains what they could and couldn’t say about the administration.

All the bishops in the country sent out a letter to be read in their parishes promising that the Church “cannot-and will not-comply with this unjust law.”

Even Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who is in charge of Catholic military chaplains sent out the same letter. 

But after he did, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent out another communication forbidding Catholic priests to read the letter, in part because it seemed to encourage civil disobedience, and could be read as seditious against the Commander-in-Chief.

More than one Catholic chaplain who spoke to us off the record confirmed that many chaplains disobeyed this instruction and read the letter anyway. Others sought further instructions from their Archbishop.

Now after much behind-the-scenes bureaucratic wrangling, a new version of the letter will be read, one that was edited of the language about “unjust laws.”

A new statement issued this afternoon from Archbishop Broglio’s office acknowledged the interference this way:

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.

“Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

It’s an issue that Catholic chaplains are taking very seriously in private. We obtained a confidential letter sent to the chaplains that  prepares priests to contact the Military Archdiocesan lawyer in case of more interference or any punishment.

“The Archdiocese believes that any attempt to keep a chaplain from freely teaching and preaching the Catholic faith, for which you were endorsed, is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

This story reached a higher profile in the news on Tuesday.

The Obama administration has been accused of telling Catholic military chaplains what they can and cannot say from their pulpits after the Army ordered Catholic chaplains not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop.

The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.

The letter called on Catholics to resist the policy the Obama Administration’s policy that would force institutions affiliated with religious groups to provide coverage for birth control, sterilization and “abortifacients.” The Catholic Church believes the mandate represents an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion.

This is blowing up on the Obama adminsitration. It’s ‘a bridge too far.’

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants,” read a statement provided to Fox News from the Archdiocese of the Military Services.

According to the AMS, Archbishop Broglio had a telephone conversation with Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

The issue raises a question among critics: did administration official tell the Catholic Church what it could and could not say in the pulpit?

It follows suit, after telling the Catholic Church what it could no longer do in practice according to its moral beliefs.

There were late reports Tuesday that the administration was starting to think about walking this back, after the blowup. That has yet to be determined. But this is going to loom large in the elections. Obama is losing the friends he had in the Church, and he can’t afford that.

The president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that defied church bishops to provide critical support for Obama’s health care law and is now fighting the birth control requirement, said she thinks the administration is starting to feel the pressure.

“I do know many people who care about this administration and this president and the good works that Catholic organizations have done are raising this issue,” said Sister Carol Keehan. “I do know the administration is concerned. This was never done with the intent of creating a huge problem for the Catholic Church, but it certainly ended up doing that.”

Stay tuned.

‘You will know they are Christians by their love’

Actually, they’re divided. And it’s not so much a Protestant/Catholic tension but a divide within the Catholic Church itself. This is not news. And it’s not necessary or at all organic. The ‘peace and social justice crowd’ competes with the ‘pro-life crowd’ in the Church, as if it’s ‘either/or’ instead of ‘both/and’

This has been going on for decades and pervaded politics prominently when John F. Kennedy ran for president. Since then, the politics have morphed into segments of both political parties reflecting segments of the Church as either the Democratic or Republican Party at prayer.

Catholic World Report focused on this, and that’s good because the more light shed on the false dichotomy…the better. 

The phrase “social justice,” when invoked by members of the Catholic left, is a euphemism for the agenda of the Democratic Party. “Social justice” refers not to objective principles of justice but to specific policies of Democrats on health care, labor, welfare, and other matters…

Always late to an awareness that its trendy enthusiasms are no longer trendy, the Catholic left simply hadn’t anticipated the wave of anti-Obama feeling that swept over the country in 2010. Particularly galling to members of the Catholic left is that the Catholic vote contributed to the backlash and appears to be slipping away from the Democrats. In 2008, 55 percent of Catholics voted for the Democratic ticket. In 2010, 54 percent of Catholics voted for Republicans.

So look at how that change played out in terms of Congress…

The US House of Representatives has passed from a pro-abortion Catholic speaker in Nancy Pelosi to a pro-life Catholic speaker in John Boehner. The House added many new pro-lifers and supporters of traditional marriage to its ranks while dropping numerous supporters of abortion rights and the “gay” agenda.

“Pro-choice” Catholic Democrats suffered heavy losses, as did many of the self-styled “pro-life” Democrats who compromised on Obama’s morally dubious health care bill.

The so-called Stupak Democrats didn’t even gain a single election, let alone the world, from their compromise. By choosing party power over principle, they put themselves into a position to lose both.

“Pro-choice” Democrats tried hard to retain the Catholic vote through the usual claim that the Democratic Party, despite its support for abortion rights and other violations of the natural law, is “better” on the Church’s “social justice concerns” than the Republicans. But this year that “seamless garment” unraveled.

Ah, there it is again. I bring this up at most of my speaking engagements, because so few Catholics – and even religion reporters who should know their material – understand this oft-cited but little understood principle. Originated by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago, it was a teaching he intended as the ‘consistent ethic of life.’

It’s time for a re-read:

The case being made here is not a condemnation of either politics or technology, but a recognition with the Pope that, on a range of key issues, “it is only through a conscious choice and through a deliberate policy that humanity can be saved.” That quote from the Holy Father has unique relevance to nuclear war, but it can be used creatively to address other threats to life.

The range of application is all too evident: nuclear war threatens life on a previously unimaginable scale; abortion takes life daily on a horrendous scale; public executions are fast becoming weekly events in the most advanced technological society in history; and euthanasia is now openly discussed and even advocated. Each of these assaults on life has its own meaning and morality; they cannot be collapsed into one problem, but they must be confronted as pieces of a larger pattern.

The reason I have placed such stress on the idea of a consistent ethic of life from the beginning of my term as chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops is twofold: I am persuaded by the interrelatedness of these diverse problems, and I am convinced that the Catholic moral vision has the scope, the strength and the subtlety to address this wide range of issues in an effective fashion. It is precisely the potential of our moral vision that is often not recognized even within the community of the Church. The case for a consistent ethic of life—one which stands for the protection of the right to life and the promotion of the rights which enhance life from womb to tomb—manifests the positive potential of the Catholic moral and social tradition.

It is both a complex and a demanding tradition; it joins the humanity of the unborn infant and the humanity of the hungry; it calls for positive legal action to prevent the killing of the unborn or the aged and positive societal action to provide shelter for the homeless and education for the illiterate. The potential of the moral and social vision is appreciated in a new way when the systemic vision of Catholic ethics is seen as the background for the specific positions we take on a range of issues.

In response to those who fear otherwise, I contend that the systemic vision of a consistent ethic of life will not erode our crucial public opposition to the direction of the arms race; neither will it smother our persistent and necessary public opposition to abortion. The systemic vision is rooted in the conviction that our opposition to these distinct problems has a common foundation and that both Church and society are served by making it evident.

Time and time again.