Army Told Chaplains Not to Read Catholic Letter

Monday, 06 Feb 2012 11:50 PM

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Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the head of the military's arm of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, criticized the Obama administration's mandate requiring religious institutions to provide contraceptive services to employees in a letter meant to be read at all military Masses.

In the letter, that was to be read on Sunday, he said  the mandate was a "blow” to a freedom that U.S. troops have not only fought to defend but for which some have recently died in battle.

“It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle,” the archbishop wrote.

Another line in his letter said: “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”

The message ingnited so much controversy that the Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains told the service's senior chaplains not to read the archbishop's letter at Mass, CNS news reports.

Catholic chaplains say it is a violation of the First Amendment.

Services covered by the mandate include drugs that cause abortion. The Catholic Church forbids the use of contraception to prevent the beginning of life.

"On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels,” the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military said in a statement.

“The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution,” said the statement by the archdiocese.

“The Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop's letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit,” said the archdiocese’s statement. “The Chief's office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.”

Ultimately, the archbishop's letter was read on Sunday after he agreed to remove some language that the military felt implied a call to civil disobedience.

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