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.



Comments


More U.S.

What is 'vape?' The Oxford Dictionary proclaims it the new word for 2014 Watch

Image of Even while media outlets, health organizations and scientific studies continue to debate the benefits and pitfalls of e-cigarettes,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What does the word "vape" mean? Before anyone jumps to negative conclusions and think that it means something untoward - rest assured: vape is both a noun and verb, according to the Oxford Dictionary. They've gone as far as to proclaim vape as their new word of ... continue reading


Meet the doll that's flipping the world upside down! Watch

Image of Lammily, is a new doll that is proportioned just like the average American 19-year old woman.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A simple art project by a graphic designer has become the most coveted toy for the 2014 Christmas season following its November 19 release. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nickolay Lamm made a doll he named Lammily, who is what Barbie would look like if she was ... continue reading


The Bloody Battle of Tarawa in 20 extraordinary photos Watch

Image of U.S. Marines advance while under fire from Japanese defensive positions.

By Robert Mullen (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Battle of Tarawa was one of the bloodiest and costliest battles to the U.S. in WWII in terms of men lost per time spent in combat. During the 76 hour battle from November 20-23, 1943, on that small Pacific Island, about 1,700 U.S. personnel were killed, and ... continue reading


What's the biggest danger to America? It's not nukes and it isn't terrorism Watch

Image of China is well known to have an extensive cyberwarfare program, and often utilizes civilian hackers as well as its own military personnel.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The head of the National Security Agency revealed to a Congressional panel that China and "probably one or two other" countries have the ability to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructures through cyberwarfare. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Massive collection of Catholic artifacts leave Italy for the first time in 700 years: Their destination? The Big Apple! Watch

Image of For the first time in 700 years, artifacts of St. Francis of Assisi will be removed from Italy. They will be put on display in New York during November, December and January.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An exhibit of medieval manuscripts and papal documents that have close ties with St. Francis of Assisi will be held at the United Nations in New York from November 17 to the 28. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The exhibition is titled "Friar Francis: Traces, ... continue reading


Obama gives amnesty while bracing for next 'surge' of illegals in 2015 Watch

Image of Children in holding facilities during 2014, a year where the surge of illegal children occurred.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While President Obama has revealed his plans to shield about five million illegal immigrants from deportation, he has federal agencies getting ready for another mass surge of illegal immigrants during the spring of 2015. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As ... continue reading


Obama declares all out war on Republicans over immigration reform Watch

Image of President Obama is expected to give a speech on November 20, outlining his plans to execute immigration reform via executive action.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Even after warnings from sitting and incoming House and Senate Republicans that unilateral action on immigration reform from President Barack Obama would not be tolerated, the president has gone ahead and outlined a plan to relax the rules and regulations of U.S. ... continue reading


The Marriage Meme of Francis: What Did the Pope Just Say about Marriage and Family? Watch

Image of Pope Francis presiding at a marriage Liturgy at St Peters.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Pope Francis embraces the unchangeable truth about marriage as solely between one man and one woman, intended for life, open to life and formative of family as the sole Meme - using the word properly.  That is why you will not read much about the crystal ... continue reading


Another black eye for Democrats: Obamacare architect makes off with $6 million in taxpayer money Watch

Image of New videos released in November show that the architect behind the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, holds nothing but contempt for the American people.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The architect of the fiasco that has been the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Jonathan Gruber, was paid about $6 million in taxpayer money between 2009 and 2014. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This is about 24 times what an average, full-time American worker would ... continue reading


See the list of MOST FREE countries in the world, the results will surprise you! Watch

Image of Land of the Free no more, Americans report a significant decline in personal freedom under the Obama administration.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

America is supposed to be the land of the free, so Americans themselves might be surprised to see that the United States actually ranks fairly low on the index of personal freedom when compared to other nations. Instead of occupying the number 1 spot, the USA has ... 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, Revelation 11:4-12
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 20:27-40
27 Some Sadducees -- those who argue that there is no ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Cecilia
November 22: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the ... 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