There's a real irony when our own Army, which fights for our freedom, censors a Bishop's message to his flock.
The archbishop who oversees global Catholic military chaplains claims the U.S. Army violated his rights by stifling a pastoral letter condemning the Obama administration's contraception mandate.
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio stands “firm in the belief, based on legal precedent,” that the Army defied his rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, according to a Feb. 3 statement from the military archdiocese.
U.S. Catholic military chaplains around the country were initially told to disobey their archbishop’s instruction to read a pastoral letter from the pulpit at all Sunday Masses on Jan. 28-29.
Although an agreement was eventually reached allowing the letter to be read, a key passage urging Catholics to avoid complying with the “unjust law” was removed.
On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new mandate that will soon require virtually all employers to purchase health insurance coverage that includes contraception, sterilization and drugs that cause abortion.
The announcement sparked protest around the country, as Catholic leaders and religious organizations argued that they were being coerced to violate their religious beliefs.
Although a religious exemption to the mandate exists, it does not apply to organizations that are willing to serve or employ members of other faiths. As the mandate stands, most Catholic schools, hospitals and charity organizations would be excluded from the exemption.
More than 150 Catholic bishops across the country have spoken out against the directive, saying that it violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Several have called for civil disobedience in response to the new regulation.
On Jan. 26, Archbishop Broglio joined many of his fellow bishops around the country in issuing a pastoral letter on the mandate to be read from the pulpit at all Sunday Masses throughout the following weekend. It was read in my Diocese, and I think that was more effective than just an insert in the bulletin.
The pastoral letter argued that the mandate violated the religious freedom protected in the U.S. Constitution and called on Catholics to resist it.
However, according to the archdiocese’s statement, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent out an email instructing that the letter “not be read from the pulpit.”