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.

Some conservative Catholics view Pope Francis' positions on some 'liberal' issues with increasing alarm Watch

Image of Among conservative Catholics in the United States, Pope Francis' favorable ratings fell from 72 percent last year to 45 percent in July. His favorable rating among all Catholics dropped from 89 percent to 71 percent.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis currently enjoys a very high approval rating among catholic in the United States. A Pew Research Poll reported an 86 percent approval rating. However, there are misgivings among more conservative Catholics that the Pope is straying into economic ... continue reading


Hurricane Katrina: Ten Years Later Watch

Image of Hurricane Katrina tore communities apart.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hurricane Katrina left nearly 2,000 people dead and thousands more were homeless and wounded. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused America's most expensive natural disaster, with a repair bill of $150 billion. Entire roads were washed ... continue reading


PASTORPOCALYPSE - At least 400 church leaders to RESIGN Sunday after Ashley Madison accounts revealed Watch

Image of At least 400 pastors are expected to resign this Sunday.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This Sunday could be a distressing day for millions of churchgoers across the country. As many as 400 pastors, some of them leading megachurch congregations, may resign following the Ashley Madison leak. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Hypocrisy can be found in ... continue reading


Christian man beaten to death by Muslim refugees in Maine Watch

Image of Freddy Akoa, the victim of a savage beating by three men.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An assumed Christian man was found dead in his apartment with a bloody Bible near his head. The murder is believed to have been committed by three Muslim refugees who attended a party at the dead man's home in Portland, Maine. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


St Augustine on a Personal Relationship with Jesus Watch

Image of St Augustine

By Deacon Keith Fournier

But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we ... continue reading


'We're going to get through this together': WDBJ stands together the day after the tragic live-shooting of reporter and cameraman Watch

Image of Colleagues hug during the moment of silence for their fallen team members.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

WDBJ-TV station grieves the loss of Alison Parker and Adam Ward the morning after their on-air murders.  Los Angeles, California (Catholic Online) - Thursday morning was emotional, as WDBJ-TV anchor Kim McBroom joined hands with anchor Steve Grand, who came in ... continue reading


Colorado movie theater assassin James Holmes will never step outside of a prison - ever Watch

Image of Obsessed with killing people since he was a teenager, James Holmes said he studied neuroscience in part to fix his own

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

On July 20, 2012, James Eagan Holmes, now 27, walked into an Aurora, Colorado movie theater during a late-night showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." He opened fire, killing 12 people and wounded 70. Holmes will never step outside a prison ever again - he was sentenced ... continue reading


Bizarre, twisted story trails behind Virginia TV reporter killer Vester Flanagan Watch

Image of Failed TV news anchor Vester Flanagan was notorious for his

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Stories have come forward regarding 41-year-old former TV news reporter Vester Flanagan, accused in the on-air shooting deaths of 24-year-old WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old camera operator Adam Ward. Flanagan, who committed suicide after the ... continue reading


Vatican did not consent to sponsor Palestinian flag initiative at United Nations Watch

Image of Only member states' flags are currently eligible to fly at U.N. headquarters.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It seems that certain parties leapt to conclusions too readily... The Vatican has requested that the Palestinian U.N. mission to remove all references to the Holy See from a draft resolution. The Palestinians have put forth a formal request to the U.N. General Assembly ... continue reading


Now legal for police to fly drones armed with weapons in North Dakota Watch

Image of Police drone illustrating abilities to release tear gas from above.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With the last-minute push of pro-police lobbyists, it is now legal for the North Dakora law enforcers to fly drones equipped with "less than lethal" weapons such as tasers, pepper spray and tear gas. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - During a hearing in ... 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, First Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 96:1, 3, 4-5, 11-12, 13
1 Sing a new song to Yahweh! Sing to Yahweh, all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:16-30
16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 31st, 2015 Image

St. Raymond Nonnatus
August 31: Raymond was born at Portella, Catalonia, Spain. He was delivered ... 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