During the shutdown of the federal government, dozens of Catholic priests under contract with the United States military remain on furlough, denied access to the bases and military populations they serve. The General Counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS), Mr. John Schlageter, said that if the shutdown continues through the weekend, as now seems likely, furloughed priests will not be able to celebrate Sunday Mass -- they have already been denied mass last Sunday. Confessions, Baptisms and any other sacraments would be denied for the second week in a row. As many as 50 U.S. military installations around the world are affected.
“This sad state of affairs is contrary to our nation’s most basic principles," Mr. Schlageter said. "Military personnel enjoy, like all Americans, the First Amendment guarantee of the ‘Free Exercise’ of their particular religious faith. That right continues to be denied for Catholics.”
Active-duty Catholic Chaplains, are still providing pastoral services. Other priests who serve the military in a civilian capacity as “General Schedule” (GS) employees of the Department of Defense were brought back to work this week after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a recall of all DoD personnel. Furloughed contract priests, however, remain in a version of government purgatory.
His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, called on the nation’s leaders for immediate action to resolve the impasse. "It seems beyond the pale of belief that elected officials are taking so long to resolve this denial of constitutional rights to the men and women in uniform."