Catholic priests banned from military by shutdown; could be arrested

Military chaplain

Catholic priests are being restricted from military bases under threat of arrest because of the federal shutdown, thus denying service men and women their First Amendment right to practice the religion of their choice.

In an op-ed published Thursday in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, John Schlageter, its general counsel, wrote:

“There is a chronic shortage of active duty Catholic chaplains. While roughly 25% of the military is Catholic, Catholic priests make up only about 8% of the chaplain corps. That means approximately 275,000 men and women in uniform, and their families, are served by only 234 active-duty priests.”

The slack is taken up by civilian priests from local parishes, who serve as government service and contract priests. However, they have been informed that they will not be welcome on military bases during the shutdown.

“With the government shutdown, many [government service] and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work — not even to volunteer,” Schlageter wrote. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.” (emphasis mine)

Banning contract priests from U.S. military bases is the Obama administration’s latest attempt to make the public feel the pain of a shutdown. The most visible example was the closure of parks, memorials and exhibits — even those funded with private money but on government land.

In an act of overkill, the National Park Service on Thursday barricaded George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon. When it was pointed out to Park Service officials that it was a private exhibit on private land, employees had to return, red-faced, to remove the barricades.

With the shutdown still in play and Sunday approaching, the priest situation is becoming more troublesome.

“If the government shutdown continues through the weekend, there will be no Catholic priest to celebrate Mass this Sunday in the chapels at some U.S. military installations where non-active-duty priests serve as government contractors,” Schlageter wrote.

A Republican lawmaker, West Point graduate and Army veteran told The Daily Caller that the administration’s action “crosses a constitutional line.”

“The constitutional rights of those who put their lives on the line for this nation do not end with a government slowdown,” U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., told The Caller. “It is completely irresponsible for the president to turn his back on every American’s First Amendment rights by furloughing military contract clergy.”

The whole purpose of people joining together to form a government is to provide protections and services the individual is incapable of providing on his own — to make it easier to live a constructive life.

Our president is doing the exact opposite. He seems intent on making the American people suffer until he finally gets his way, and as syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News’ “Special Report” Friday, it’s “disgraceful, deplorable and entirely unnecessary.”

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