Walter Reed military hospital stops Franciscan priests from attending to patients after awarding religious care contract to secular agency

"I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected."

Joshua Young North Carolina

A community of Franciscan Catholic priests who gave pastoral care and administered religious services to veterans and service members of the US military were presented with a cease and desist order by Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland at the end of March because their religions care contract was terminated and awarded to a for-profit, secular agency.

According to the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) website, the Archbishop for the Military Services, Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., said, "It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available.  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," Archbishop Broglio added.

The contract had been held by the Holy Name College Friary for almost two decades but ended on March 31, 2023, and the Franciscans' contract was "awarded to a secular defense contracting firm that cannot fulfill the statement of work in the contract," according to the Archdiocese's website.

The consequence is that after Holy Week, including the revered Christian holidays of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, veterans and service members have not been able to receive adequate pastoral care at the hospital Defense Health Agency hospital

A single Catholic Army Chaplain whose status at the hospital is impermanent is the sole priest at the hospital.

The General Counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, Elizabeth A. Tomlin, reached out to the hospital and asked if the Franciscans’ Catholic ministry could be reimplemented at least through Easter but she received no response.


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