The military hospital brought about a change in Catholic pastoral care

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center management has drawn criticism from the pope — and some members of Congress — for choosing not to renew a contract with Franciscan priests to provide pastoral services and instead hiring a secular organization to oversee the provision of those services. Moving forward.

For two decades, priests from Holy Name College Friary in Silver Spring, Maryland, ministered to service members and veterans at Walter Reed Hospital, a prestigious medical facility in nearby Bethesda.

Walter Reed said he informed the Franciscans in March that their contract would not be renewed and that another bidder had been selected for the new contract — secular defense contractor Mack Global LLC.

The medical center said it had issued a cease-and-desist order on April 4 — in the middle of Holy Week — as the Franciscans continue to provide pastoral services after their contracts expire on March 31.

The events shocked Timotheus Brolio, he was. President of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops He is also the archbishop for military service.

“I fear that awarding the contract to the lowest bidder ignores the bidder’s inability to provide the required services,” Broglio said in a statement. “I sincerely hope that this disrespect for patients is remedied at once and that their First Amendment rights are respected.”

In a lengthy statement to The Associated Press, Walter Reed said it “respects and supports the full spectrum of religious, spiritual and cultural interests.”

The statement said the new contract offered to MAC Global is being “reviewed to ensure that it adequately supports the religious needs of our patients and beneficiaries.”

Currently, the medical center has an active army chaplain on staff providing Catholic pastoral care, guaranteed by other chaplains in the region.

The medical center refused to say that I was in any way unhappy with the services provided by the Franciscans. He refused to offer any amount of money for the new and previous contracts.

Asked for comment, the Franciscans issued a statement Wednesday expressing pride in their service to Walter Reed.

“Although this is certainly disappointing, after 20 years of service – after building trust and many wonderful relationships and friendships – the Franciscans of the Province of the Holy Name respect the process,” the statement said. “Inviting the Franciscan Friars into the lives of these true American heroes who have sacrificed so much for our country is an incredible privilege—and a truly powerful ministry experience.”

Walter Reed is one of several U.S. military medical centers whose pastoral care is under the leadership of the Archdiocese of Military Services, led by Broglio.

A statement from Broglio’s office last week was blunt: “It is a clear violation of service delivery to contract Catholic services to a for-profit organization that does not have the means to provide Catholic priests for the medical center.” Right of members and veterans to freedom of religion.

The developments drew the attention of Republican members of Congress who were critical of Walter Reed’s actions. Among them was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, who tweeted that the decision was “incredibly shameful and wrong.”

11 other members of Congress, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Roger Marshall of Kansas; He sent a letter. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked why the contract had been awarded to a secular contractor who “couldn’t meet the job description.”

“We promise our service members and veterans that if they take care of us, we will,” the letter said. This is not only about providing quality health services in our country’s military medical institutions, but also about allowing those in these institutions to practice their religion freely.


Associated Press religion coverage by AP in partnership with The Conversation US is supported by funding from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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