Catholic military chaplains won’t be “forced” to serve LGBT couples, weddings, funerals

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The Archdiocese for the Military Services has announced that Catholic military chaplains will not be forced to perform weddings, funerals, or counseling to LGBT people as it “would give the impression that the church approves of same sex ‘marital’ relationships.”

“A clear disservice is rendered if the truth of the Gospel is confused by the actions of those ordained to disseminate that truth,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio wrote in a letter on September 18. “No Catholic priest or deacon may be forced by any authority to witness or bless the union of couples of the same gender. No Catholic priest or deacon can be obliged to assist at a ‘Strong Bonds’ or other ‘Marriage Retreat’, if that gathering is also open to couples of the same gender.

A priest who is asked to counsel non-Catholic parties in a same-gendered relationship will direct them to a chaplain who is able to assist. Catholic parties will, of course, be encouraged by the priest to strive to live by the teaching of the Gospel.”

Because of the DOMA repeal in June, the Defense Department declared that LGBT married couples will be recognized in marriage equality states last week, thus will be eligible for federal benefits. Federal benefits were only given to heterosexual couples.

“While the tradition of the Catholic Church always tries to find reasons to bury the dead, a priest may not be placed in a situation where his assistance at a funeral for a Catholic would give the impression that the Church approves of same sex ‘marital’ relationships,” Broglio continued.

“Obviously, anyone who is known to be in a sinful relationship is excluded from ministries in the Catholic community. While this list is not intended to cover every situation, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, catechists, and members of the Catholic Council immediately come to mind.”

Broglio referenced an interpretation from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in the decision.

“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,” according to a statement from the bioethics center.

On September 6, military chaplains from the Southern Baptist Convention agreed to not endorse, perform and attend LGBT weddings even with the authorization of the military.

“[The Department of Defense] respects, places a high value on, and supports by policy the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to have no religious beliefs,” said an official statement from the department.

“The department does not endorse religion or any one religion or religious organization, and provides to the maximum extent possible for the free exercise of religion by all members of the military services who choose to do so.”

The National Guards of Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana have all declared they will not follow Pentagon orders in recognizing federal benefits for LGBT married couples and their spouses.

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