Military priests are facing arrest if they celebrate mass or practice their faith on military bases during the federal government shutdown.
No point in adding any additional comments to what is self-evident in terms of Dictator Obama’s Tyranny and Petulance.
BY STEVE SKOJEC
Our government is out of control.
First, it was the World War II veterans who had to break down barriers to see the open air, un-attended memorial erected in their honor. A memorial which is on public land but is supported – including the National Park Service fee – with private funds. This week there was more security surrounding this memorial — just to keep elderly veterans out — than there was at our embassy in Benghazi the night it was attacked.
And for what? To inflict as much pain as possible through this government shutdown. It’s called Washington Monument Syndrome, and it’s pure political theater.
But now there’s a story just coming to light that takes things even further. According the Archdiocese for Military Services, GS and contract priests (who are paid by the federal government as independent contractors in places where there aren’t enough active-duty priests to meet the needs of Catholics in military service) are being forbidden from celebrating Mass, even on a volunteer basis.
If they violate this restriction, they face possible arrest. FOR CELEBRATING MASS.
In a stunning development, some military priests are facing arrest if they celebrate mass or practice their faith on military bases during the federal government shutdown.
“With the government shutdown, many [government service] and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work – not even to volunteer,” wrote John Schlageter, the general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA, in an op-ed this week. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.”
According to its website, the Archdiocese for the Military Services “provides the Catholic Church’s full range of pastoral ministries and spiritual services to those in the United States Armed Forces.”
In his piece, Schlageter worries about this restriction as Sunday nears. “If the government shutdown continues through the weekend, there will be no Catholic priest to celebrate Mass this Sunday in the chapels at some U.S. military installations where non-active-duty priests serve as government contractors,” he wrote.
Because of the lack of active-duty Catholic chaplains, the military relies on hiring civilian priests to serve as government service and contract ministers. Those civilian priests are not allowed on the bases during a shutdown, Schlageter wrote.
One Republican lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee told The Daily Caller on Friday that this “crosses a constitutional line.”
“The constitutional rights of those who put their lives on the line for this nation do not end with a government slowdown,” Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, a graduate of West Point and an Army veteran, said in a Friday statement. ”It is completely irresponsible for the president to turn his back on every American’s First Amendment rights by furloughing military contract clergy.”
Added Pompeo: “The President’s strategy during the slowdown, just as during the sequestration, is to create as much pain as possible. However, this action crosses a constitutional line of obstructing every U.S. service member’s ability to practice his or her religion.”
By John SchlageterIf the government shutdown continues through the weekend, there will be no Catholic priest to celebrate Mass this Sunday in the chapels at some U.S. military installations where non-active-duty priests serve as government contractors.
Military personnel enjoy, like all Americans, the First Amendment guarantee of the “Free Exercise” of their particular religious faith. But because military personnel are considered a “captive audience,” the laws of our country require the government to provide access to that faith. This is why we have a military chaplaincy. This all becomes very clear when one thinks of a military family stationed in Bahrain or Japan. They cannot walk down the street to the local synagogue, church, mosque, etc.
There is a chronic shortage of active duty Catholic chaplains. While roughly 25% of the military is Catholic, Catholic priests make up only about 8% of the chaplain corps. That means approximately 275,000 men and women in uniform, and their families, are served by only 234 active-duty priests. The temporary solution to this shortage is to provide GS and contract priests. These men are employed by the government to ensure that a priest is available when an active duty Catholic Chaplain is not present. With the government shutdown, many GS and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work – not even to volunteer. During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.
As an example, if a Catholic family has a Baptism scheduled this weekend at an Air Force base that is staffed by a GS or contract priest, unless they can locate a priest who is not a GS or contract priest, the Baptism is most likely cancelled. If you are a Catholic stationed in Japan or Korea and are served by a Contract or GS priest, unless you speak Korean or Japanese and can find a church nearby, then you have no choice but to go without Mass this weekend. Until the Federal Government resumes normal operations, or an exemption is granted to contract or GS priests, Catholic services are indefinitely suspended at many of those worldwide installations served by contract and GS priests.
At a time when the military is considering alternative sources of funding for sporting events at the service academies, no one seems to be looking for funding to ensure the Free Exercise rights of Catholics in uniform. Why not?
*John Schlageter is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.