Catholic military chaplains cannot be forced to witness or bless a same-sex marriage, nor are they allowed to take part in any marriage counseling retreats that are open to gay couples under new rules issued by the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
The rules, sent to chaplains on Sept. 18 by Archbishop Timothy P.
Broglio, head of the AMS, also bar chaplains from taking part in a
funeral for a Catholic if that participation “would give the impression
that the church approves of same sex ‘marital’ relationships.”
But the new rules
also set out conditions that would allow Catholic military commanders
to comply, without violating their beliefs, with rules giving same-sex
couples under their command federal employee benefits as required by
Broglio cited an interpretation from the National Catholic Bioethics
Center explaining that Catholic commanders can morally facilitate
benefits for gay couples in their command if there was no other way to
avoid it without jeopardizing their career.
“This is also contingent on the commander making known his/her
objection to being required to … participate, as well as on attempting
through legal channels to continue to accomplish changes in policy
consistent with the historic understanding of marriage and family as
based on natural moral law,” said the statement from the bioethics
Broglio promulgated the rules in response to the military’s repeal of
the Don’t Ask/ Don’t Tell policy for service personnel and the Supreme
Court’s decision this summer to strike down a key component of the
federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The new policies were expected and follow similar guidelines issued last month by the Southern Baptist Convention for its chaplains.
But they came out just a day before the release of a groundbreaking interview
in which Pope Francis said the church was “obsessed” with issues like
gay rights and called for a “new balance” in its public witness.
There are 234 priests serving as active duty chaplains in the Army,
Air Force and Navy for about 275,000 Catholic military personnel. About
25 percent of all personnel in the armed forces are Catholic, and eight
percent of military chaplains are Catholic.
Southern Baptists have
nearly 1,500 endorsed chaplains serving in the U.S. military, more than
any other denomination or faith group.
In his statement, Broglio said the new federal policy on gay marriage
and gay rights for military personnel “makes it necessary to reiterate
with clarity the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding
He said that same-sex couples account for less than half of one
percent of couples in the armed forces and “such a small group cannot be
allowed to mandate policy for all.”
“A clear disservice is rendered if the truth of the Gospel is
confused by the actions of those ordained to disseminate that truth,”
the archbishop said, adding that chaplains should also “never forget
that it is the sin that is hated and never the sinner.”
The new rules also reiterate that “anyone who is known to be in a
sinful relationship is excluded from ministries” such as serving as a
lector, catechist, altar server or from giving out Communion.
Last year, Congress approved conscience protections for military
members that allow them to express their personal beliefs without fear