New regulations sent to Catholic chaplains, on September 18th, by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, describe in detail how Catholic chaplains must act when encountering gay and lesbian people who are in committed relationships.
The rules are apparently in response to the military’s repeal of the “Don’t Ask/ Don’t Tell” policy for service personnel and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer to strike down a key component of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Clearly, strong American Catholic military muscle against same-sex unions. The focus and intent, however, are disconcertingly out of sync with the commander back home at headquarters in Rome.
Some weeks ago, remember, when asked about gays, Pope Francis, replied: “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized.” Most recently Pope Francis criticized his church’s mania for “small-minded rules” and urged it instead to emulate Jesus’ emphasis on serving people rather than excluding them.
My chaplain friends tell me that the new Roman Catholic policies were expected and follow similar guidelines issued in August by the Southern Baptist Convention for its chaplains.
What the rules specify for Catholic chaplains:
(1) Chaplains cannot participate in weddings, blessings, retreats, counseling, or funerals that involve same-gender couples.
(2) Chaplains may attend ceremonies and functions “as long as the priest is not required to acknowledge or approve of a ‘spouse’ of the same gender.”
(3) Chaplains must exclude men and women in same-gender relationships from any lay ministries.
(4) Catholics in military leadership positions, should be directed to discourage any support for same-gender couples; and should be encouraged to abstain from doing work that would provide benefits like housing and healthcare.
JAD Editorial comment:
Last year, Congress approved conscience protections for military members that allow them to express their personal beliefs without fear of punishment.