Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Terence P. Jeffrey

10/31/2013 (1 year ago)

Cybercast News Service (cnsnews.com)

The administration's decision to prohibit civilian priests from administering the sacraments at military bases was more than just an inconvenience

In China, says Father Leonard, "We expected the Communist Party to interfere and block religious services. They were very clear that they despised religion and they would do that. There was no question. But the great surprise is to be here and be standing in front of my chapel where I am the pastor and told that you can't have services here by decree of the government." Represented by the Thomas More Law Center, this heroic priest is now suing the U.S. Department of Defense for violating the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. He says he will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if he must.

Terence P. Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey

Highlights

By Terence P. Jeffrey

Cybercast News Service (cnsnews.com)

10/31/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Shutdown, priests forbidden, Obama Administration, anti-Catholic, Shut down, contract priests, Terence P. Jeffrey


WASHINGTON,DC (CNSNEWS.COM) - "I had to say Mass in my room," says Father Ray Leonard, recalling the years he served in the Tibetan region of the People's Republic of China.

In that country, where the Communist government has created a state-sanctioned facsimile of the Catholic Church and driven faithful Catholics underground, Father Leonard saw firsthand how totalitarians approach religion.

"Everything is controlled," he told me in an interview. "If you are part of the public church, what is known as the Patriotic Church, the church which is for the most part governed by the Communist Party, they restrict everything. They restrict the times that you are open. They restrict the messages that you can preach about. They prohibit certain individuals that they would not want in public ministries."

"The interference is widespread and constant," he said.

Father Leonard returned to the United State about a year ago and soon applied for a job as a civilian chaplain with the Department of Defense. He was hired and assigned to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, which serves as home port to six ballistic missile submarines, two guided missile submarines--and 300 Catholic families.

His contract started Oct. 1, the same day as the partial government shutdown.

Shortly before that, however, Congress approved-and President Barack Obama signed--the Pay Our Military Act. It appropriated "such sums as are necessary to provide pay and allowances to contractors of the Department of Defense.whom the secretary concerned determines are providing support to members of the Armed Forces."

As the partial shutdown started, Father Leonard commenced his own duties "providing support" to the families at Kings Bay. "No one even said anything," he said. "I was there during the week and having the Mass."

Then, that Friday, four days after Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act, and three days after the partial shutdown started, Father Leonard's office was informed: "There will be no services this weekend."

CNSNews.com managing editor Michael Chapman wrote a story about what was happening to the civilian chaplains, citing an op-ed published by Archdiocese for the Military Services General Counsel John Schlageter, noting that if the shutdown continued through the weekend civilian priests could risk arrest if they tried to carry out their ministries on military bases.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, the House responded. It voted 400-to-1 for a resolution stating it was the intention of Congress "that the Secretary of Defense permit military chaplains and other personnel, including contract personnel, hired to perform duties of a military chaplain to perform religious services and ministry, during any lapse in appropriations."

That same day, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum explaining the administration's interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act. Its key passage said: "Under our current reading of the law, the standard of 'support members of the Armed Forces' requires a focus on those employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of covered military members during the lapse of appropriations."

So the governing question appeared to be: Did civilian Catholic chaplains contribute to "morale" and "well-being?" The Obama administration's answer: No.

Further, because the administration decided that civilian priests did not contribute to "morale" and "well-being" and thus could not return to work under the terms of their contracts, those priests were barred by the Anti-Deficiency Act from even volunteering their services.

This affected Catholics at about 50 military bases around the world that are served by civilian priests.  At some of those bases, Catholic personnel and their families and other U.S. government employees had no daily or Sunday masses they could attend--and no access to a priest who would be permitted by the Defense Department to administer other sacraments.

The administration's decision to prohibit civilian priests from administering the sacraments at military bases was more than just an inconvenience to some of the Catholic sailors and their families who serve at Kings Bay.

"Well, we do have a church within a 10-mile radius here," said Father Leonard. "But the problem is that a lot of our enlisted active people, they may be on duty on the weekend. They may only have one hour set aside where they can leave their work and come to Mass, and they would never be able to make the driving out into town and then coming back."

"There's other people that might be on a security job and they cannot leave the base," he said. "So, there are people telling me that they had to miss Mass. They didn't have any other option--even here at Kings Bay."

On Monday, Oct. 7, after he had been prohibited from saying Mass on base the day before, Father Leonard learned he was prohibited from engaging in any priestly activities on the base. He could not even go to his office.

On Thursday, Oct. 10, the Senate followed up on the House in unanimously passing a resolution to address the matter.  In telling Hagel that Congress believed the civilian chaplains should be permitted to return to work under the terms of the Pay Our Military Act, this resolution pointedly echoed the language Hagel had used in his own memorandum explaining his interpretation of the act.

The resolution said Congress "finds that the provision and availability of religious services and clergy is important to the morale and wellbeing of many members of the Armed Forces and their families" and thus "hoped" Hagel would find that contract clergy "would therefore be covered under the appropriations made available under the Pay Our Military Act."

But Hagel and the administration paid no attention to the congressional resolutions. They continued to prohibit civilian priests from administering the sacraments on military bases-through the following Sunday and into the next week, as the impasse over funding the government was being resolved.

"We were not brought back," said Father Leonard, speaking of the civilian Catholic chaplains. It was a move he describes as "an open slap in the face to Catholics."

"People like family counselors, and even people who were working in the gym, were brought back before I was," he said.

In China, says Father Leonard, "We expected the Communist Party to interfere and block religious services. They were very clear that they despised religion and they would do that. There was no question. But the great surprise is to be here and be standing in front of my chapel where I am the pastor and told that you can't have services here by decree of the government."

Represented by the Thomas More Law Center, this heroic priest is now suing the U.S. Department of Defense for violating the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. He says he will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if he must.

---

Study after study by the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, clearly demonstrate a liberal bias in many news outlets bias by commission and bias by omission that results in a frequent double-standard in editorial decisions on what constitutes "news." In response to these shortcomings, MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell III founded CNSNews.com in an effort to provide an alternative news source that would cover stories that are subject to the bias of omission and report on other news subject to bias by commission.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

Extending the Lie: Ken Blackwell Asks, Which Black Lives Matter? Watch

Image of J. Kenneth Blackwell

By J. Kenneth Blackwell

Almost seven months after the fateful, fatal encounter between Michael Brown and former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, Attorney General Eric Holder officially announced a truth he had been holding close for months - that the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" mantra ... continue reading


Is the U.S. under Invasion? In nine U.S. States, troops to 'operate undetected amongst civilian population' Watch

Image of Despite assurances that the training is to prepare troops for overseas missions, Army documents in the past have made clear that plans for martial law are in place for within the Continental United States, or CONUS.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The military exercise is both mysterious and just a little bit threatening. The controversial Jade Helm military exercise, scheduled to take part in nine U.S. states this summer will involve soldiers operating "undetected amongst civilian populations." The ... continue reading


OPEN BORDERS: Children without guardians continue to stream into the United States Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Children without adult guardians, from the southern border that the United States shares with Mexico, continue to stream into the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, speaking to Congress last week, says that these child immigrants number in the ... continue reading


Bella's Gift: The Santorum Book that Keeps on Giving Watch

Image of The book, Bella's Gift, has shaken me. On more than one occasion, it has forced me to my knees in tears. That is because, in a candid, honest, profoundly spiritual way, this splendidly written book puts the reader in the presence of unconditional love. then, through its deep spiritual truths, it unleashes the dynamic power of amazing grace.

By Keith A Fournier

I was with Rick Santorum at the Awakening Conference in Orlando, Florida. Rick and Karen Santorum are personal friends. Their whole family is a source of inspiration to me. But most especially, that little Princess named Bella Santorum. She is the center, the ... continue reading


Play-doh Christianity and the Vanishing Cross

Image of Bell can have his happy-clappy, navel-centered religion and his wimpy god. He just can't call it Christianity, and he can't claim it's the Church.

By Jennifer Hartline

There is no Christianity without Christ, and no Christ without the cross. There was no need for the cross except for our Redemption, and no need for that except for our sin. To preach Christianity without preaching repentance from sin and taking up your cross is ... continue reading


McDonald's does the unthinkable - Big Mac Shop launches McFashion clothing line Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fast food conglomerate McDonald's had released its own fashion and lifestyle line, with the clothes full of Big Mac prints on them. The McFashion debuted on Tuesday in Sweden, in celebration of their most recent campaign, "I'm Lovin' It 24." Profit generated from the ... continue reading


Top Stories of the Week You Can't Miss Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

From a tragic airplane crash that killed 150 people to the blood of St. Januarius liquifying, this week in news has been quite a roller coaster. We saw nuns mob Pope Francis, a father lose seven of his eight children in a horrifying fire and the first announced ... continue reading


Majority of Latinos in United States speak English Watch

Image of  Latinos who only speak English are often ostracized by Latinos who only speak Spanish or are bilingual. Many Latinos, upon being hired for positions, are presumed to know and speak Spanish.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While it would appear to some to be contrary, the majority of Latinos within the continental United States, 62 percent, speak English. A new analysis of the Pew Research Center's 2013 National Survey of Latinos has found that the current demographics will ... continue reading


The Christian Feast of the Annunciation is About More than Mary Watch

Image of The Annunciation: The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. (Luke 1:26,27)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Walking along this Way of Yes, leads us into a dialogue, a conversation, a communion, a new Way of life, the Christian Way. By saying Yes, offering our own Fiat, we become consecrated and enlisted in the ongoing mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary shows us that ... continue reading


Where's the most hate in the United States? A look into the top states with the highest amount of hate groups may shock you Watch

Image of There is hope. According to the center,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While California is typically known for laidback attitudes and acceptance of diversity - it comes as a shock to learn that the Golden State has the largest amount of "hate groups" across the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 49:1-6
1 Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, John 13:21-33, 36-38
21 Having said this, Jesus was deeply disturbed and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 31st, 2015 Image

St. Benjamin
March 31: St. Benjamin, Martyr (Feast Day - March 31) The Christians in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter