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US military base delays Catholic chaplain appointment

US Air Force Jets

Eliyahu Yosef Parypa | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 09/09/23

Comparing the situation to the occurrence at Walter Reed NMMC, Archbishop Broglio lamented this breach of the First Ammendment right to worship.

In what is beginning to become a common occurrence, the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama is dragging its feet in the appointment of a new Catholic chaplain. The delay has drawn a harsh admonishment from Archbishop for Military Services Timothy Broglio, who has called on lawmakers to remedy this breach of the First Amendment right to worship of Catholics stationed at Maxwell. 

According to the website of the Military Archdiocese, the position of chaplain has been open at Maxwell AFB since April 2023. The prelate noted that Catholics make up the largest single faith group on the base and, furthermore, Maxwell’s contracting office is well aware of the vacant position. 

After nearly six months with no chaplain, however, the contracting office sent word on September 5 that Maxwell AFB does not intend filling the position until late September or October. Archbishop Broglio expressed his incredulity with the situation in comments to the Military Archdiocese: 

“I call on the appropriate elected officials of the U.S. Government to assert control over the bureaucracy that is permitted to deny the First Amendment rights of the men and women in uniform and their families. The deplorable situation that loomed over the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center should not be permitted to repeat itself. There is a priest to fill the position. It is incomprehensible that it is still unfilled.”

Archbishop Broglio has had his work cut out for him dealing with military bureaucracy in 2023. In May, a two-month battle ensued after Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (NMMC) ended a two-decade contract with the Franciscan community of Holy Name College Friary, while stating its intention to replace them with a secular defense firm — the problem being that a secular firm would not be able to bring in Catholic priests to minister to the faithful. 

By May, Walter Reed had relented, stating that it would allow priests to visit veteran patients on request, but the matter was largely settled in June, when CNA reported that the Franciscans had been allowed to return to the hospital to minister to patients and staff as they had for nearly 20 years. 

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