Rubio demands answers after Walter Reed terminates contract with Catholic priests

Marco Rubio
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to reporters following a classified briefing on China, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Rubio demands answers after Walter Reed terminates contract with Catholic priests

EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and a group of Republican lawmakers are demanding the Department of Defense explain why it terminated a decades-old pastoral care contract with a group of Catholic priests at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

In the letter provided exclusively to the Washington Examiner, the senators requested Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin explain why Walter Reed abruptly canceled a pastoral care contract with the Franciscan priests from Holy Name College Friary at the beginning of Holy Week. The Catholic Archdiocese of Military Services said last week that the priests had ministered to the hospital for decades.

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ARCHDIOCESE BLASTS WALTER REED AFTER ‘CEASE AND DESIST’ TO PRIESTS AHEAD OF HOLY WEEK

“Holy Week is an important time for all Christians, but for Catholics, the sacred liturgies during this holy time require the presence of validly ordained priests,” the Republican lawmakers from both chambers of Congress wrote. “Depriving service members and veterans, who are receiving care, of the ability to enter into the Paschal Mystery with priests is utterly unconscionable.”

Rubio and his colleagues added that the hospital’s doctors were focusing on advocating for transgender procedures for children rather than the religious rights of service members.

“Defense Health Agency doctors are advocating for minors to receive experimental gender transition procedures, but no one seems to be advocating for the right of our service members and veterans to receive the most important sacraments during this most sacred time of year,” they wrote.

The terminated pastoral care contract was instead awarded to a secular for-profit contractor that Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of Military Services said could not hope to provide the pastoral services Catholic service members required.

“It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available,” Broglio said in a statement last week. “This is a classic case where the adage ‘if it is not broken, do not fix it’ applies. I fear that giving a contract to the lowest bidder overlooked the fact that the bidder cannot provide the necessary service. I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected.”

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The archbishop’s sentiment was echoed by the senators, who asked Austin what considerations were made in awarding the contract to the secular contractor and revoking the contract with the Holy Name College friars. The group of lawmakers also asked the secretary to disclose what Catholic religious services were available at Walter Reed during Holy Week.

“We have made promises to our service members and veterans that if they take care of us, we will take care of them,” the lawmakers wrote. “This extends to not just providing quality healthcare at our nation’s military medical facilities, but by also providing the ability to freely practice their religion to those under the care at these facilities. … The DoD’s actions to deny Catholic Pastoral Care from service members and veterans at Walter Reed goes against the morals, way of life, and rights that make up the fabric of our great nation.”

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