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February 8th, 2012
09:33 PM ET

Contraception controversy ensnares military chaplains

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The still-lingering controversy over the Obama administration's mandate about health insurance coverage that includes contraception spread to American Army posts all over the world before the matter was settled.

For the Army, it started when Timothy Broglio, the archbishop for the military services, sent a letter to all Catholic chaplains in the military objecting to the administration's new mandate, calling it "an alarming and serious matter."

Broglio, who oversees all Catholic chaplains in all branches of the service, also wrote: "We cannot - we will not - comply with this unjust law." He wanted Catholic chaplains to read the letter aloud during their sermons on Sunday, January 28.

The Navy and Air Force had no objection to the letter, but the Army chief of chaplains, himself a Catholic, was worried that the line about not complying with the law was close to a call for civil disobedience. So he told the chaplains to not read it in Mass, but instead pass out copies after Mass was over.

Archbishop Broglio objected to this and after a meeting with the secretary of the Army, John McHugh, he agreed to remove the one sentence about complying. McHugh gave the OK for the letter to be read at Mass last Sunday.

In a statement, Broglio's office said: "Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army (about not reading the letter) constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants."

McHugh agreed in his own statement, saying, "The Secretary and his advisors determined that the letter's content was a matter solely within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop and the Catholic Church."

McHugh's statement said he now considers the matter closed.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Military

soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Lucas

    Whaaat? Did you hear me gasp?! I'm shocked! iGracias, Gracias!...And I'm incrdeibly blessed. Now, Becky, how did you come up with three winners...please explain this to me:)Love you with a pure love,-E

    May 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  2. Reality

    One does not need Planned Parenthood to teach our kids about s-ex. Simply read and have your kids read the following:

    WARNING!!! WARNING!!! WARNING!!! ---–>

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate, one million unplanned pregnancies) and male con-doms (17.4% failure rate, another one million unplanned pregnancies ) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Se-xually active teens, young adults and adults must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (i.e. the Bill Clinton Syndrome)

    Obviously, Planned Parenthood, parents and the educational system has failed on many fronts.

    (note: some words hyphenated because of an obvious word filter)

    February 10, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  3. Religious warmonger

    Various forms of clergy have served and supported wars and armies for millennia. They always invoked God for whatever cause their homeland pursued, no matter how dubious or nefarious the effort. Gott mit uns. And they just never get up and say "Stop! This is wrong!"

    Studies have found that the more religious you are, the more you support war and torture.

    Pastors in the South regularly did their thing at lynchings, and the one thing they never said was "Stop! This is wrong!"

    Yeah, morality only comes from religion. Right. The role religion plays in almost any and every war clearly shows its unholy true nature.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • erussell

      The Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, and other none religious peoples around the world have been waging war and torturing and killing people for centuries in the name of non religion. So whats your point? Discriminitory blanket statements about all religious people like that is like saying all black people sell drugs, or all Jews are stingy. Its a human condition, everyone is capable of murder or killing another human being religious or not. Though I see alot more none beleivers murdering people than true beleivers nowadays.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • erussell

      And i doubt you were around when any pastors were officiating lynchings so wheres your proof?

      February 10, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • GodPot

      "Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, and other none religious peoples around the world have been waging war and torturing and killing people for centuries in the name of non religion." I'll give you the last 60 or seventy years or so, but please site any other examples of "centuries" of any organized atheist group killing large numbers of religious people. The majority of this last century of what you are referring to was largely a backlash against religious dominated power structures that had been abusing the general populace for hundreds of years which is why they often started with populist revolutions. I do not defend their actions but I can understand the initial motivations for wanting to throw off the tyranny of the Church which had ruled them for centuries with iron fists.

      Atheists tend to avoid grouping up in to large a mass. It's likely the fear that some religious zealot will imagine in their head that God told them to strap explosive on and earn some wings. That and we have different opinions on just about everything else except for there not being a magic man in the sky.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:29 am |
    • GodPot

      "Increase in Lynching.–In 1900 there were eight more cases than in 1899, and probably this year there will be more than there were last year. The year is little more than half gone, and yet there are eighty-eight cases as compared with one hundred and fifteen for all of last year. The four Southern states, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi are the worst offenders. Last year there were eight cases in Alabama, sixteen in Georgia, twenty in Louisiana, and twenty in Mississippi–over one-half the total. This year to date there have been nine in Alabama, twelve in Georgia, eleven in Louisiana, and thirteen in Mississippi–again more than one-half the total number in the whole United States." –Chicago Tribune.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:56 am |
    • GodPot

      We are out of moral-courage material; we are in a condition of profound poverty. We have those two sheriffs down South who–but never mind, it is not enough to go around; they have to stay and take care of their own communities.

      But if we only could have three or four more sheriffs of that great breed! Would it help? I think so. For we are all imitators: other brave sheriffs would follow; to be a dauntless sheriff would come to be recognized as the correct and only the dreaded disapproval would fall to the share of the other kind; courage in this office would become custom, the absence of it a dishonor, just as courage presently replaces the timidlty of the new soldier; then the mobs and the lynchings would disappear, and–

      However. It can never be done without some starters, and where are we to get the starters? Advertise? Very well, then, let us advertise. – Mark Twain
      (to be continued)

      February 10, 2012 at 3:57 am |
    • GodPot

      In the meantime, there is another plan. Let us import American missionaries from China, and send them into the lynching field. With 1,500 of them out there converting two Chin-amen apiece per annum against an uphill birth rate of 33,000 pagans per day, it will take upward of a million years to make the conversions balance the output and bring the Christianizing of the country in sight to the naked eye; therefore, if we can offer our missionaries as rich a field at home at lighter expense and quite satisfactory in the matter of danger, why shouldn't they find it fair and right to come back and give us a trial? The Chinese are universally conceded to be excellent people, honest, honorable, industrious, trustworthy, kind-hearted, and all that–leave them alone, they are plenty good enough just as they are; and besides, almost every convert runs a risk of catching our civilization. We ought to be careful. We ought to think twice before we encourage a risk like that; for, once civilized, China can never be uncivilized again. We have not been thinking of that. Very well, we ought to think of it now. Our missionaries will find that we have a field for them–and not only for the 1,500, but for 15,011. Let them look at the following telegram and see if they have anything in China that is more appetizing. It is from Texas: "The n e gro was taken to a tree and swung in the air. Wood and fodder were piled beneath his body and a hot fire was made. Then it was suggested that the man ought not to die too quickly, and he was let down to the ground while a party went to Dexter, about two miles distant, to procure coal oil. This was thrown on the flame and the work completed."

      February 10, 2012 at 4:00 am |
    • GodPot

      We implore them to come back and help us in our need. Patriotism imposes this duty on them. Our country is worse off than China; they are our countrymen, their motherland supplicates their aid in this her hour of deep distress. They are competent; our people are not. They are used to scoffs, sneers, revilings, danger; our people are not. They have the martyr spirit; nothing but the martyr spirit can brave a lynching mob, and cow it and scatter it.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • GodPot

      They can save their country, we bes e e ch them to co m e home and do it. We ask them to read that telegram again, and yet again, and picture the scene in their minds, and soberly ponder it; then mul t i ply i t by 115, add 88; place the 203 in a row, allowing 600 feet of space for each human torch, so that there be viewing room around it for 5,000 Christian American men, women, and children, youths and maidens; make i t night for grim effect; have the show in a gradually rising plain, and let the course of the stakes be uphill; the eye can then take in the whole line of twenty-four miles of blood-and-f l e s h bonfires unbroken, whereas if it occupied level ground the ends of the line would bend down and be hidden from view by the c u r v ature of the earth. All being ready, now, and the darkness opaque, the stillness impressive–for there should be no sound but the soft mo a ning of the night wind and the mu f f led so b b ing of the sa c r ifices–let all the far stretch of kerosened pyres be touched off simu l t a n eously and the glare and the shrieks and the a g onies b urst heavenward to the Throne. There are more than a million persons present; the light from the fires flu s hes into v a g ue outline against the night the spires of five thousand churches. O kind mi s sionary, O comp a s s ionate mi s sionary, leave China! come home and convert these Christians! – Mark Twain

      February 10, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      @Religious Here's something to think about. Why in the 1860's was the US government fighting to " free the slaves" and at the same time practicing genocide on the Native Americans. Can we say "secular hypocracy"? You may have heard of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Quaker author who authored Uncle Tom's Cabin, a book which raised consciousness against slavery. Or John Brown, the religious zealot who opposed slavery to the point of violence. How about something from Texas history: before the Mexican War, Catholic Mexico was offering free land to North Americans on two conditions: 1) they get rid of their slaves, 2) become Catholic (we'd call this "naturalization").

      February 10, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Asep

      Hi Pastor, I was wondering if you are going to do anynihtg on Sunday, the 11th for the 10th Anniv. of the Twin Towers tragedy. We are playing at the 8 am and I don't know if I am suppose to have a moment of silence or say something, or what. I would imagine that Barry would be better at saying a prayer for it than me, so let us know. I planned to ask you tomorrow night, but I bet I forget !! Thanks, MPS Jim did a splendid job at our rehearsal tonight helping us find our sound settings. What a neat new system . we are VERY happy!!

      May 22, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  4. Chris

    I served as a chaplain for many years and understood that my role was not to represent one faith but to re-present through my presence the compassion of all faiths and no faiths–in other words, human kindness for humankind. This article and the issue presented serve to emphasize something I have said for a long time: Many chaplains probably should not be chaplains. And further, maybe this is a good time to cease employing clergy with taxpayer money. Volunteers, local congregations and the web can do the job, if and when needed. If the military or prisons, jails, hospitals, the streets are simply one's mission field to save lost souls (that is, convert someone to your theological dogma), then the rest of us can exercize our liberty and freethinking by not giving you a cent.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Marcos G.

      If the first gentleman served in the military for more than 20 years, than means you got a pension. So are you implying that you are willing to give your pension away and go out to evangelized?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • PrimeNumber

      ".....the rest of us can exercize our liberty and freethinking by not giving you a cent." Just so you know, "free thinking" is at the heart of Christian dogma. First you think for yourself, then you behave badly (called sin). You said you were a chaplian on the military payroll? Then clear your conscience and give back all that money you were paid.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  5. hippypoet

    God is an idea. Such an improbable idea that many have, to make the idea inarguable, said that the idea is beyond human comprehension and so by doing remove the need but more importantly the ability to prove and so make it an untouchable notion of truth based on an idea. How is that different from being delusional? You hold fast to an idea of an improbable, incomprehensible, and untouchable nature as if it is fact!
    Until you have evidence for the existence of god, the notion of god remains in the realm of ideas.
    And thats a factual statement!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • erussell

      But I bet you beleive in ghosts and aliens.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:14 am |
  6. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  7. BISHOP

    I CAN SEE WHY CAT/BIS MAD THEY COULD CARE LESS FOR WOMEN,LOOKING FOR LITTLE BOYS WILL THEY EVER LEARN THEY AT NOT ABOVE THE LAW OF THE LAND ( WHEN THEY READED THE LETTER IN THEY OPEN THE DOORS

    February 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  8. SlayFalseGod

    Thats some sweet hypocrisy there – " hey guys its OK to kill the enemy but PLEASE put a condom on or go to hell ."
    Hahhahaa – thou shall not kill – right out the window

    February 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  9. Joyce Neal

    The military gives free birth control pills, so what is the controversy?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • John Jackson

      I can't figure out the controversy either. How exactly does this affect Catholic chaplains in the army since the army already provides free contraception? BTW, as a non-Catholic I am happy that the administration is standing up for my religious freedom to not have Catholic organizations impose their anti-contraception beliefs on me in the workplace.

      February 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  10. Prayer changes things

    men of conscience honor God first in or out of the military.
    A good man prays
    A great man acts on prayer

    February 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
      Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
      Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
      Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
      Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
      Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
      Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
      Prayer dulls your senses.
      Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
      Prayer wastes time.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Nope

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs."""""`

      February 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.