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Restrictions on Catholic chaplains regarding same-sex couples go far beyond the prohibition of marrying the couples, according to guidance issued by Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio.
Catholic chaplains can’t be forced to witness such a marriage, either. Nor are they allowed to participate in any “Strong Bonds” or other marriage retreat that is open to couples of the same gender. Chaplains can participate in retirement ceremonies, changes of command and promotion ceremonies, “as long as the priest is not required to acknowledge or approve of a ‘spouse’ of the same gender,” according to the guidance from the archdiocese, which is the endorsing agency for Roman Catholic chaplains.
It extends to funerals: A priest can’t be put into situation where his assistance at a funeral for a Catholic would give the impression that the Catholic church approves of same-sex marital relationships.
If non-Catholic individuals in a same-sex relationship ask a chaplain for counseling, they will be referred to a chaplain of another faith who can help them. If Catholic individuals in such as relationship ask for counseling, they “will, of course, be encouraged by the priest to strive to live by the teaching of the Gospel.”
Archbishop Broglio also noted that he is grateful to Congress for passing a provision with conscience-protection provisions. The law that took effect earlier this year protects military chaplains from being forced to perform any rite, ritual or ceremony that is in conflict with their conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs.
As for the consequences to any priest who doesn’t follow this guidance, “any eventual difficulties will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis in accord with Canon Law,” according to a spokesman for the archdiocese. “Nothing in the Archbishop’s statement is new,” he said. “Priests have known these parameters from the time they were ordained.”
In issuing similar guidance, the Southern Baptists, however, stated that “chaplains in violation of these restrictions will be subject to removal of their endorsement,” according to a memorandum signed by Douglas Carver, executive director of chaplaincy services, and Keith Travis, endorsing agent, for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The NAMB guidance prohibits their chaplains from conducting or attending a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple; blessing that union or performing counseling; helping lead same-sex relational events or any kind of relationship training or retreat on or off of a military installation “that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing.” The prohibition is in effect regardless of any civil law that authorizes same-sex marriages or benefits.
Southern Baptist chaplains can lead or participate in a worship service conducted on any military installation or location designated for worship, but they can’t conduct it jointly with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who “personally practices or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.”
“Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist chaplains have been placed in an unethical position by their endorsing agencies,” said Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association, in a statement. “Through threats of losing their endorsement and their military commission, these chaplains have lost any ability to honorably serve our nation and care for all service members and their families. The negative impact of these threats are far reaching and unavoidable.”