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.

Mexican drug cartels fueling U.S. heroin epidemic Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The insidious Mexican drug cartels are having a massively detrimental effect on U.S. communities. The cartels have flooded the cities and suburbs with far more potent, less expensive heroin, sending overdose deaths skyrocketing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


African-American churches frequently targeted by arsonists Watch

Image of African American churches are targeted by arsons more than any other houses of worship. The ATF's results have been reported to a national database of church fires.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There have been 29 cases of churches being torched by arsonists in the United States this year alone. Frequently, African-American churches are set alight by arsonists because of racism, religious intolerance, or vandalism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Anytime ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood threatened to be exposed with EIGHT MORE undercover videos Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The series of unfortunate events will keep on rolling for Planned Parenthood as the founder of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), David Daleiden, shared with conservative radio host Sean Hannity that there are eight more undercover videos that will reveal Planned ... continue reading


Remains of four early leaders of America uncovered in Jamestown with Catholic artifacts Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Under the floor of a Jamestown church, four body remains of the earliest English colonial leaders in America were unearthed. One was identified as Captain John Smith's rival, who researchers speculate to be part of a secret Catholic cell because of some artifacts ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood caught in FOURTH VIDEO showing the horrific practices of selling aborted baby organs

Image of Dr. Savita Ginde, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains' Vice President and Medical Director, standing in the harvesting lab.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Another new Planned Parenthood expose video has been released, making this the second video this week and the fourth revealing hidden camera video in total. The Center for Medical Progress claims to have hours upon hours of footage exposing Planned Parenthood of ... continue reading


AMC movie theaters issue warning to moviegoers urging them to stay vigilant during visit Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A unusual video message is being played at AMC Theaters in Central Florida, urging the audience to keep their eyes open to any bad agendas and malicious or suspicious actions within the establishment. The short film came to be after violent incidents inside movie ... continue reading


A massive 30,000 more immigrants expected to arrive to U.S. before year's end Watch

Image of Illegal immigrants continues to cross the U.S. border.q

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The number of illegal immigrant children and teens in the United States continues to increase. The United Nations and other humanitarian groups predict that a total of 30,000 more are expected to reach the U.S. before the year ends. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic ... continue reading


The youngest convicted murders released from jail after 15 years Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

At just 12 and 13-years-old, two siblings confessed to killing their father's girlfriend and both were charged with first-degree murder as adults, despite evidence they were sexually abused by a family member. Yesterday, the two first faced the world they once knew. ... continue reading


Satanic statue secretly unveiled in Detroit, drawing Christian protest Watch

Image of Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend. This has spurred on heavy protest from the city's Christian community. Hundreds gathered at Detroit's ... continue reading


Will Pope Francis be warmly welcomed in the United States? Watch

Image of Pope Francis will be in the United States in September.

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will visit the United States for the first time ever in his lifetime during September. However, amid the excitement, the American populace may have lost some warmth towards the pontiff, who they once believed revived the Catholic Church in the country. ... 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, Leviticus 25:1, 8-17
1 Yahweh spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 7-8
2 Then the earth will acknowledge your ways, and all ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 14:1-12
1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 1st, 2015 Image

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
August 1: Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of 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