Shortly after Pope Francis's comments about gay marriage and the US military's extension of benefits to gay couples, the two worlds of religion and military service have collided. This time, the result is not so positive.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services has issued new rules regarding Catholic chaplains' involvement in same-sex marriages, funerals, and couple's counseling. The gist? Chaplains should not indicate support for gay marriage, as mandated by Catholic doctrine. Someone should see what Pope Francis has to say about this.
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 (pictured), 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 law.
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 center.
The Archdiocese follows in the footsteps of other conservative organizations reinforcing their stance on the issue after the Don't Ask, Don't Tell, DOMA, and Prop 8 decisions. In fact, "The new policies were expected and follow similar guidelines issued last month by the Southern Baptist Convention for its chaplains," though the Catholic military contingent is far smaller. Still, same-sex couples are the minority as Archbishop Broglio is quick to point out.
He [Broglio] 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.”