Recent media coverage of religious freedom issues in the military call for clarification
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Recent media reports surrounding the issue of religious freedom in the United States military, and specifically, the creation of the Coalition to Restore Military Religious Freedom, have given rise to the question of which organization speaks on behalf of Catholics who serve. The Roman Catholic Church entrusts the role of the pastoral care and religious freedom protection of Catholics in the military and their families to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) and its current Archbishop, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio. It is Archbishop Broglio and his staff who serve as the official voice of Catholics in the military.
AMS General Counsel John Schlageter, Esq., said:
“The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA is recognized by the federal government as the sole endorser of Catholic military chaplains as well as Catholic chaplains serving in the nation’s Veterans Administration Medical Centers.”
It is “Timothy (Broglio)” for whom the faithful pray as “our bishop” during Mass on all U.S. military installations and warships around the world and in Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Centers nationwide. Additionally, the AMS Religious Education curriculum is the only one used to teach the Catholic faith in all U.S. military chapels and Catholic communities, and the AMS is the nation’s largest single funder of seminary expenses for prospective Catholic military chaplains.
As AMS General Counsel, Mr. Schlageter’s office serves as the principal recipient of phone calls and letters from Catholic service members who believe their religious freedoms have been violated. The AMS is also the primary advocate for military Catholics on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Schlageter said:
“Archbishop Broglio and his staff work with members of Congress, policymakers, public interest groups and servicemen and women to protect the First Amendment Right enshrined in our Constitution of the ‘Free Exercise’ of religion of everyone serving in the U.S. military.”
Archbishop Broglio himself is on record as a devoted champion of First Amendment rights for Catholic chaplains, as demonstrated in January, 2012, among other occasions, when he held firm against efforts by the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains to suppress a pastoral letter in opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) mandate for abortion insurance coverage.
Mr. Schlageter said:
“Any other individual or group that claims to be charged with protecting the religious freedom rights of Catholics in the military, no matter how well-intentioned, is acting independently and is not the official voice of Catholics in the Military.”
The AMS was created as an independent archdiocese by Pope John Paul II in 1985 as the only Catholic jurisdiction responsible for endorsing and granting faculties for priests to serve as chaplains in the U.S. military and VA Medical Centers.
AMS-endorsed chaplains serve at more than 220 U.S. military installations in 29 countries, making the AMS the nation’s only global archdiocese. AMS-endorsed chaplains also serve at 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the U.S.
The AMS service population also includes American Catholic civilians working for the federal government in 134 countries, but currently, due to limited resources, the AMS cannot adequately serve this population.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.8 million Catholics depend on the AMS to meet their spiritual and sacramental needs.
For more information on the Archdiocese for the Military Services, visit www.milarch.org, the only official Web site for Catholics in the military and for the Cause of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M.