The Archdiocese for the Military Services has accused Walter Reed National Medical Center of committing a “glaring violation” of hospitalized Catholics’ rights after the medical center terminated its contract with a community of Franciscan priests, and ordered them to stop their hospital ministry ahead of Holy Week.
According to the Archdiocese of Washington, Walter Reed issued a “cease and desist order” to Holy Name College, a community of Fransican priests who have long provided pastoral care to service members and veterans at the hospital. The order follows the priests’ contract being terminated by the medical center on March 31.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, called the move “incomprehensible,” adding that he hopes that “this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected.
“It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available,” Archbishop Broglio said. “This is the classic case where the adage ‘if it is not broken, do not fix it’ applies.”
The reason behind Walter Reed’s decision isn’t clear. However, Archbishop Broglio alluded to the price of the priests’ contract being a factor. Walter Reed awarded the priests’ contract to a secular defense contracting firm, according to the archdiocese.
“I fear that giving the contract to the lowest bidder overlooked the fact that the bidder cannot provide the necessary service,” Archbishop Broglio said.
Walter Reed did not immediately respond to The Tablet with a comment.
With the ouster of the community of Franciscan priests, the Archdiocese for the Military Services said there is only one Catholic Army chaplain assigned to Walter Reed, but he is in the process of separating from the Army.