Beltway Confidential

Government decision to block priests 'does not make sense,' says military archbishop

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Beltway Confidential,Charlie Spiering,The Pentagon,Freedom of Religion,Government Shutdown,Religion,Catholicism

Catholic Military Archbishop Timothy Broglio doesn't understand why the government would block volunteer priests from saying mass or administrating the sacraments to members of the military.

“It does not make sense at all,” the archbishop said during an interview about the issue with Vatican Radio.

Broglio said between 50-75 civilian priests administer the sacraments to servicemembers on a contract basis. With the government shutdown, priests who do not have renewed contracts were not allowed even to volunteer their services.

"All of the priests would have been willing to come and celebrate mass whether they were paid or not," Broglio said. "None of us really think about that in terms of fulfilling what is not only a duty but as a privilege."

Military personnel who had scheduled weddings, baptisms or any of the other sacraments, Broglio said, would have to find a uniformed priest — a difficult task in some areas as there are only 234 active-duty priests in the U.S. military.

Broglio added that the government decision "left us chagrined."

John Schlageter, general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, expressed concern that priests could be arrested.

“During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base, and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so,” Schlageter said.

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