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Franciscan priests banned from providing pastoral care at Walter Reed Military Medical Center

It happened just before Holy Week: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the nation’s preeminent medical provider for veterans, issued a “cease and desist order” to Holy Name College, an order of Franciscan Catholic priests and brothers.

The cease and desist order says the priests cannot provide any religious services on the medical campus, and it was issued March 31, on the eve of the most sacred week of the Christian faith, when many Catholics attend services throughout the week to remember and pay tribute to the last days of Jesus as a mortal human. The week leads up to Easter Sunday.

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The Franciscan brothers have provided pastoral care to service members and veterans at Walter Reed for nearly 20 years, according to the Archdiocese for Military Services.

The Franciscans’ contract for Catholic Pastoral Care was instead awarded to a secular defense contracting firm that cannot fulfill the statement of work in the contract, the Archdiocese reported. The Archdiocese did not name the secular agency.

“As a result, adequate pastoral care is not available for service members and veterans in the United States’ largest Defense Health Agency medical center either during Holy Week or beyond. There is one Catholic Army chaplain assigned to Walter Reed Medical Center, but he is in the process of separating from the Army,” the Archdiocese said.

“It is incomprehensible that essential pastoral care is taken away from the sick and the aged when it was so readily available.  This is a classic case where the adage ‘if it is not broken, do not fix it’ applies.  I fear that giving a contract to the lowest bidder overlooked the fact that the bidder cannot provide the necessary service.  I earnestly hope that this disdain for the sick will be remedied at once and their First Amendment rights will be respected,” said His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services.

Walter Reed issued a statement on Saturday that skirted the issue of why the relationship was ended:

“Tomorrow, Catholic Easter Services will be provided to those who wish to attend. Services will include a celebration of Mass and the administration of Confession by an ordained Catholic Priest,” the hospital statement said. “For many years, a Catholic ordained priest has been on staff at WRNMMC providing religious sacraments to service members, veterans and their loved ones. There has also been a pastoral care contract in place to supplement those services provided.

“Currently a review of the pastoral care contract is under review to ensure it adequately supports the religious needs of our patients and beneficiaries,” the hospital statement continued. “Although at this time the Franciscan Diocese will not be hosting services on Sunday parishioners of the Diocese while patients at our facilities may still seek their services.”

Elizabeth A. Tomlin, Esq., General Counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), has reached out to the contracting officers at Walter Reed numerous times throughout Holy Week asking for the Franciscans’ Catholic ministry to be reinstated at least through Easter. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has not responded to these requests from the Archdiocese, she said.

“While Walter Reed’s chaplain office claims Catholic care is being provided during Holy Week, the AMS maintains that without Catholic priests present at the medical center, service members and veterans are being denied the constitutional right to practice their religion,” the organization said.

“Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is one of many medical centers within the Department of Defense and Defense Health Agency whose pastoral care lies within AMS jurisdiction. The refusal to provide adequate pastoral care while awarding a contract for Catholic ministry to a for-profit company that has no way of providing Catholic priests to the medical center is a glaring violation of service members’ and veterans’ Right to the Free Exercise of Religion. Especially, during Holy Week, the lack of adequate Catholic pastoral care causes untold and irreparable harm to Catholics who are hospitalized and therefore a captive population whose religious rights the government has a constitutional duty to provide for and protect,” the Franciscan order said.

The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province is the largest of the seven provinces belonging to the worldwide Order of Friars Minor in the United States. Since their founding in 1901, they continue the vocationally oriented St. Francis’s mission to make the Gospel message alive in the contemporary world. The Franciscans as a group of orders for both men and women were founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi.

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center is located in Washington, D.C., and served more than 150,000 active and retired personnel from all branches of the United States, plus members of Congress and presidents.

Photo credit: Archdiocese of the Military. Archbishop Timothy Broglio (center) celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, on March 2, 2022.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. JBER was one of the earliest Bases to allow Wiccans to hold services in its facility. Wicca, the largest of the modern Pagan, or Neo-Pagan, religions. Its followers, who are called Wiccans, typically identify as witches and draw inspiration largely from the pre-Christian religions of Europe.

    • Ft Wainwright has its very own Satan worshippers club. Many of us in the interior hope they are the first in line to try to take our guns.

  2. Joe Biden is national herpes. An infection that we will have to deal with the rest of our lives.

    And the military goes woker and woker. China must be peeing themselves laughing at us.

    Maybe if the Franciscans cut “the Big Guy” 15% of the diocese Easter offerings this mess will be fixed.

    • Woke isn’t confined to the United States. It’s a sign of the times and it’s all over the planet. No one country is “laughing” at another country over their “wokeness”.. seeing as how people are immigrating here faster than ever now in the history of “ever” I think other countries still hold us at pretty high regards. You on the other hand don’t seem to. Maybe you should move to China and get a better idea of who is laughing at who for awhile.

      • “seeing as how people are immigrating here faster than ever now in the history of “ever” I think other countries still hold us at pretty high regards.”
        That is more proof that the US is giving out the best handouts. Not proof that the entire world looks at us in high regard.
        I remember when England was being overwhelmed by migrants from the middle east. Riots would break out in Calais because they were not getting across the channel fast enough to get the freebies.
        It has ZERO to do with worldwide esteem.

  3. Roman Catholic Dioceses, and Priests prefer childrens hospitals anyway where they can combine abuse with religeon

        • That would be heard, not herd, and amazingly enough I have.

          I’ve also seen the ongoing lengths we’ve been taking to deal with it.

          Problem for you is most Priests are normal people who don’t abuse children.

          Let’s spin this: have you heard (not herd) of the Democratic obsession with killing, mutilating, and sexualizing children on an industrial scale?

          • Spelling corrections and redirects aside, there is no other group with a greater propensity toward sexual abuse of children than the Jesuits and Catholics which for the purposes of this post are the same. The first step toward correcting a problem is addressing it head on and not trying to soft pedal the issue as you clearly are with 3rdGen.

            In 2007 the Jesuits settled (only) their Alaska abuse claims for fifty million dollars. Remind us, how many times do you have to pass the dish (or whatever they call it) to collect $50mm? After reading several of your posts I feel comfortable guessing that you’re probably not so good at math so I’ll help you…

            If every time you pass the Sunday collection dish you make $1000, you’d need to pass the dish for 50,000 Sundays. There are 52 Sundays in a year, Mask. That’s passing the dish once every Sunday for 961 years. Fifty thousand is a big number and the revolting appetite that Jesuit and Catholic clerics have displayed in their hunger for depraved sexual acts with children is outrageous by any standard. Do not indirectly condone a legacy of filth. Apologize to 3rd Gen for your disgusting remark.

          • Perhaps, too, look at the apparent rampant pedophilia in the Southern Baptist Convention. Especially Youth Ministers. NO ONE talks about that here. But the plank in everyone else’s eye…

            It’s no wonder they blame others to get the justice view off themselves.

          • Maureen… you support peppering schools w/homosexual picture books and then shriek in abhorrence when over-revved young people have regular sex in other settings. How are we to misunderstand your post? Is it that it would be ok if the Southern Baptist youth ministers were having homosexual relations? Lead us to a proper and wholesome understanding, Maureen.

        • Have you not heard of sexual predators like Jeffery Epstein or Harvey Weinstein? THEY represent the sexual assault problem in the democrat party.

      • Every time you turn over a rock out crawls some sort of nasty bug…AND a child molesting Catholic Priest……

        • “Every time you turn over a rock out crawls some sort of nasty bug…AND a child molesting Catholic Priest……” Gee, I wonder if it had anything to to with rampant gay sex in seminaries?

    • Only the Catholic Church has systematically rooted out the pedophiles among their ranks. Every other church and public school has only enboldened the pedophiles among them. Crawl back under your rock.

  4. Since they’re service members and adults, they should be safe. If they were children, I’d be more concerned, given the large number of calcified sadists and child rapists in the catholic priesthood.

  5. Recently when I showed my retired military ID card at the entrance of JBER, the uniformed military member tasked with checking IDs had a very large dark brown beard. When I inquired about his appearance in uniform, he told me he was allowed this beard due to a “religious exemption”. I asked about his religion and he told me he is a “Norse Pagan”. He said his affiliation as a Norse Pagan allows him to grow and wear a long, full beard while in uniform and performing his assigned duties. Wikipedia has a brief entry describing this group, but I see no evidence of any Norse Pagan observations, demonstrations, gatherings, or practices in Anchorage or Alaska. Also, among other concerns, I wonder how can he properly wear an NBC mask when required?

    • He’ll be pushed to the front lines in combat and find out why soldiers must shave – that hair makes a great grip for someone to cut his throat…

      • What a disgusting thing to say about a member of our military. He has a right to his mythology just like you do. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • His “mythology” could get his team mates killed or worse. I suppose molly coddling every whim is more important to you than mission accomplishment though.

        • Of course, the cman has not example of how the Catholics, or any other religion for that matter, could get him and his teammates killed. Just a hatred for a religion.

  6. I feel sorry for all the Christian Vets in the hospital that actually were looking forward to the priests visit.
    There is always pastoral care in most hospitals. Those who are clearly embracing Satan are the ones without it. Absolutely despicable for a military hospital to do this!

  7. Sorry, but if you have not been in the military or at least had an immediate family member in the military, you need to sit this one out.

    This is about as low as it gets. ‘Command’ has conspired to deprive sick and wounded service members, specific spiritual services. They are flat out lying when they say that the problem is with a contract. If the old contract was not in force, they could have simply made some phone calls and found priests willing to come to the hospital. Maybe even for free, due to the Easter season.

    No mistake, this was a targeted strike against traditional religion in the military.

  8. We expect our Senator Dan Sullivan, to announce loudly, clearly and quickly that: (a) those responsible for this will be summarily fired and (b) the “contract” will be invalidated and defunded.

  9. More welfare for lawyers… Typical dimrat move to try to take away religious rights and crowd the court system with cases that should not have occurred to start with. We are either free or we’re not – and the dims keep trying to push the definition of that to enslave us.

  10. Lisa Murkowski and Joe Biden were probably smiling my ear to ear. We know that most liberals love when our faith is attacked by the federal government. ?

  11. Leftists. They want everyone’s primary and most important relationship to be with the all powerful State. Therefore, destroying/inhibiting the ability of servicemembers to get religious services on base is just another step in that process.

  12. I suspect that the Catholic Church may be all that is left to stand between these atheists and what’s left of Western Civilization. I know Biden can’t stand the fact that most Catholics think he’s in league with Satan; that’s why he has to lie about being a Catholic. That’s why ol’ Nan keeps claiming to be a nice old Catholic grandma, which she is not, either. And by the way, Catholics do not have “services,” that’s Protestant. Catholics pray the Mass.

    • Honestly after years of Pope Woke, I’m counting on the Mormons to hold the fort for awhile.

      We got housecleaning to do.

    • Given the large numbers of sins committed by the Catholic church in the past and the present, I seriously doubt they’re standing between us and Satan. The Church IS Satan. Remember that antisemitism was an official doctrine of the Catholic church until 1964, almost 20 years after the perpetrators of the holocaust were held to account in secular court. They have trouble keeping up with ordinary morality, much less some kind of divine form of it.

      • The Catholic Church has committed no sins. However, people who were to serve the Church did. I guess we should have just folded it up when Judas betrayed Jesus…right?

        • I’d say that all those decades of actively hiding the guilty priests amounts to a SIN and it was certainly condoned by the Catholic church.

        • Yeah North, you sound like a guy that’s ready to argue an incorrect perspective without having learned the opposing view. Consider how wrong you are, here:


      • How very obnoxious. You have no sense of history or civilization, or you would know better. The Church is not the various members, all of whom are sinners just like you are, and acknowledge that. The Church was founded by Jesus Christ, and the gates of Hell will not prevail over it. But you go on benefitting from Western Civilization all while degrading the source of said benefit. Makes about as much sense as most of your comments, after all.

        • Modern science is the source of our standard of living, not religion, and certainly not the catholic church. Again, its worth noting that it wasn’t until 1964 that the Jews, all Jews, were excused from being guilty of the crime of deicide, in the murder of Jesus. Don’t you think the institutionalized antisemitism that was spread by the catholic church might have had something to do with the deep well of hatred of Jews in places like Bavaria, Poland, etc. in the 20th century leading up to WWII? How dare you credit a Jew-hating, child raping crime organization like the catholic church with “Western Civilization.” The Church didn’t even bother correcting itself and admitting that Galileo was right until 1992. You don’t get o be wrong and be that amoral for centuries and then claim to be infallible.

          • Modern science says that Galileo could be wrong.
            Perhaps you never heard about relativity? And, if you had, I bet you think it has something to do with the speed of light.

        • Are you saying that the Catholic church is responsible for western civilization?

          You may find the following quote interesting and I’d be curious to hear how these priest’s proclivities benefited western civilization in Baltimore. Fill us in. Here’s your quote:

          “More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused over 600 children and often escaped accountability, according to a long-awaited state report”

  13. Hey cman, et al.

    This article is about denying religious services to military members, not pro or anti religion. Since you in the group of anti religion have never been in the military, let alone in a place like Walter Reed (hospital for only the most seriously sick and injured military members) you have no standing in this fight. That’s right, none.

    I have been deployed and I have had sick and injured soldiers sent back to higher med facilities (one even to
    Walter Reed itself). When an individual has placed themselves in service to our country and find themselves in a medical facility for long term care, absolutely NO ONE has the standing to deny them religious counseling or worship. ESPECIALLY anyone that has not ‘been there done that’.

    • Paul you are wasting your time, and valuable bandwidth.
      c(ommie)man and the rest of the atheists/leftists on this board do not care whether they have standing or not. They do not like religion, and like the children they really are, that means no one else should be religious. They do not like it, so neither can you. Defending your faith will only increase their determination that you are wrong and must be corrected.
      The proper response to children who are throwing a tantrum is a spanking. Because this is a website with comments, the spanking should come as ridicule, not reason. It is all they really deserve in the long run.

      • Understood on maybe wasting my breath. But I am and will always be an NCO. I will always protect my joes and support them. Especially when it comes to attacks on them from people who have never served or the ones that claim to be in ‘command’.

    • I pay for that hospital Paul, and pay those service members. Yes I do get to say something here.

      I get that you have strong feelings and thoughts regarding the military, due in large part to your own experience in it. I see by your words that you are suffering, and are concerned your inpatient comrades are suffering with the change in contract.

      Contracts periodically get reviewed. Change is hard. This too will pass. This year wasn’t the exact same but service member were able to participate in Holy Week events. With a priest.

      • The short point here is that the services provided, whether medical or spiritual, are all about the military member and no one else. As bill has challenged me inn the past, this IS a hill I’m going to fight and die on. When a military member is in that facility, he SHALL be provided, not only medical support but also any religious support he needs. If he says he needs to talk to a preacher, he gets a preacher.

        Let me give you an example about how strongly many of us feel about this issue. If you, Maureen, were a military member and in a hospital, and told me that did not want to see any religious figures at all, I would sit in a chair in the doorway of your room and make sure they never got inside. Even though I feel strongly the other way for myself. See this is about the patient and what he needs, NOT what you or I think.

        • Those services were available.

          As an American I too would sit in a door for you to get only the services you wanted.

          As an aside Paul, I’m not picking on you, I do appreciate your replies on various subjects, and as I want to talk with neighbors, I appreciate that you reply to me. With actual subject points, not belittling blather.

          • I appreciate a good debate. And I SO agree with ‘subject points, not belittling blather’. To many times, the original subject is lost or ignored as soon as a discussion is started. This article is a good example. The story is about services denied to military members. Seems to me the main point is the service member and not whether anyone else has a pro or anti religion view.

            And, thank you. You are a much appreciated and worthy debate opponent. I look forward to many more discussions/debates/arguments in the future.

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