Did Walter Reed Hospital Neglect Faith Needs of Catholic Patients?
It isn’t a secret that the U.S. military is growing increasingly woke. But as it embraces progressive social values, are the services becoming concomitantly less tolerant of faith — or perhaps better stated, uncomprehending of its importance to believing members?
Here’s a possible sign: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center terminated an affiliation with a Franciscan order that supplied priests to the hospital — barring them from the facility — just before Easter. From the Military Times story:
Clergy from Holy Name College, a community of Franciscan Catholic priests and brothers — who have worked on the military campus for nearly two decades — were told earlier this month that they would no longer be permitted access for religious services. . . .
Medical center officials told Military Times the contract between the college and campus expired after military officials opted to partner with a different firm.
However, officials with the Franciscan college said in a statement that the new group — Mack Global LLC — does not have Catholic clergy under contract to provide services and sacraments, leaving Catholic troops without reasonable access for their religious needs. Mack Global did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
I doubt this was an intentional effort to deprive Catholic patients of the succor of the Sacraments. But it is an important story nonetheless because it may reflect an indifference within our military command to the importance of having sufficient clergy available to meet the religious needs of military personnel. This seems a particularly egregious failure in a military hospital.
Several senators and members of Congress want answers from the secretary of Defense. They note that Mack Global cannot provide priests — which would seem to be quite a lapse in their available scope of services — so why retain that particular company? They also ask:
– What factors led to the DoD’s decision to issue the cease and desist order with Holy Name College after two decades of providing consistent pastoral care?
– What considerations did DoD give to awarding the new contract to a for-profit secular firm given that this entity cannot provide Catholic pastoral care?
– Did a priest celebrate any of the following services during the Triduum: Holy Thursday: Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday: Service of the Lord’s Passion, Holy Saturday: Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday: Mass of Easter Day? If so, please provide confirmation.
– Are there Catholic priests currently available at Walter Reed to provide care to service members and veterans? If so, how many, and how much longer will the current active duty priest be at Walter Reed?
– What pastoral care was provided to service members and veterans at Walter Reed during Holy Week?
These are important questions. But it shouldn’t stop with this particular controversy. I would hope that the inquiry would broaden to include a general investigation into the adequacy of our military-chaplaincy services and the DOD’s competence in serving the religious needs of military members.