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. Jespo

    Dont become a military chaplain unless you can suspend your personal religious beliefes for the sake of others, follow the rules, administer to everyone, and be a good soilder. This pri-ck needs another job, preferably one far removed form men and woman struggling in warfare and dying to support his right to freedom of expression....he's not worthy to minister to the military.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Jonathan

      One should never have to forfeit their First Amendment rights, regardless of the profession they choose. Our right come first and formost and if anything tries to infringe upon them, that thing/person/idea is WRONG and needs to be fixed.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The Uniform Code of Military Justice operates independently of teh U.S. Consti.tution.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Jespo

      Thanks Doc for the (I thought) obvious and yet still mis understood reality of the difference between the two....and Jonathan, I for one am glad we have soilders who say 'yes sir' and not 'but I think'...

      February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • erussell

      There are different denominations of chaplains. All beleive different things according to thier denomination. If you dont like the catholic churchs view on contraception then dont go to a catholic chaplain. Its pretty simple.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  2. myweightinwords

    How is it infringing on religious liberty to ask that a potentially treasonous sentence not be read to military personnel?

    I mean, the statement was a clear declaration to not comply with a law, and with a directive given by the Commander and Chief of the military. It could be seen as a desire to corrupt the men and women in the military and sow the seeds of treason.

    Granted, that's an extreme reaction, but then again, this whole thing is blown way out of proportion already.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Under the US Constitution

      From Article III Section 3:

      Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

      So that is a far-fetched theory.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  3. BRC

    Here's a fun fact for everyone, the Health Care benefits of the Armed Forces DOES cover contraceptives for women (and they hand us condoms whenever we go out on deployments, or ask for them); so what exactly is the Catholic Church trying to accomplish by bringing this issue up with the Military? I understand their baseless and unsubstantiated objection, but the Military isn't a place where you're going to gain any traction.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  4. Doc Vestibule

    A military Chaplain's job is to provide pastoral care regardless of their, or their soldiers', religious affiliation.
    A Chaplain is also a soldier, and as such is duty bound to obey his Commander in Chief – who has ordered that contraception be covered by insurance.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Doc Vestibule

      Very well said!


      February 9, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Jonathan

      There's a problem with that. One can not serve two masters. You always place one higher than the other and in this instance, I would tell the commander in chief to go jump off a cliff before I disobeyed my God.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You take an oath to loyally serve your country when you put on that uniform.
      If you think your duty to your religion is more important than duty to your country, you shouldn't become a Chaplain.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • erussell

      There are different denominations of chaplains in the military. If you dont like the catholic view then dont go to a catholic chaplain. They even have Pagan chaplains now. So go to whomever will tickle your ears and tell you what you want to hear. Shouldnt force someone to beleive something that is against there conscience.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  5. err

    If they are single women they should be forced to be on birth control. The cost of training a new soldier to replace them is to high. Once you sign the papers your body no longer belongs too you, and if you think different try telling your plattoon srgt. that.

    following was taken from Military.com

    While the reasons for leaving vary in each branch of the military, some of the more common reasons include pregnancy/parenthood, drug abuse, and weight problems. Pregnancy and parenthood have steadily increased as a reason for personnel losses, particularly in the Army. For example, last year 4,238 soldiers were discharged from the Army for pregnancy, up from 2,862 in 2002.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:18 am |
    • Paul

      How does that work–is pregnancy an automatic ticket out of the service? Apparently the army stocks maternity stocks maternity versions of all of its uniforms *including* combat fatigues, so I figured that meant that some women were kept in the field despite pregnancy.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Joyce Neal

      A single female soldier should not be "forced" to take birth control pills. We are all aware of the Single Parent Chapter, should we become a single parent.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  6. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    Why does CNN insist on referring to this as a "controversy"? A controversy is when two sides have legitimate arguments. This is just a bunch of religious fanatics trying to force their dogma on everyone else.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • VanHagar

      Not a well though out argument. While I don't agree with the Catholic Church on this point, they aren't ramming anything down anyone's throat. Rather they have refused to provide a benefit that, until now, they (and everyone else) had no obligation to provide. It is actually the government that is forcing the position.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • David Johnson


      The government is only "forcing" this, from Catholic businesses. They also require these businesses to pay minimum wage and provide Worker's Comp. etc. The government should not and is not trying to tell the Church what fairy tales it can tell their congregation. That is up to them and the gullibility of the faithful.


      February 9, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  7. American

    What we got here is...a failure to educate.

    See, this religious organization that has infiltrated our Armed Forces is clearly subversive and counter-productive and counter-progress. It should have no legal respect and should be viewed as a clear and present danger to the security of these United States of America and as a hate group.
    They can talk amongst themselves as much as any group of people, but they are clearly undermining the Authority of the Military Chain of Command and should be dealt with accordingly for what they are actually doing as individuals. The label on the organization means nothing – it is the actions of the individuals in every situation that determines their crimes.
    They are organizing outside of the Chain of Command for purposes of their own that violate and subvert the Const!tution, the Military Code of Justice, the very Authority upon which the whole military operates! When they can give "secret codes" to their cult members to kill on command from their cult leader, then they are the "American Taliban" and have no place in the military at all. The purpose of our Armed Forces is not about building churches and stomping around according to their manipulative and subversive machinations behind the scenes using simple mind-control techniques against our own military's usage of mind-control in training.
    All those generals better get off their chump asses and remove military chaplains entirely when they cannot keep their lying bigoted mouths shut and their views to themselves. The military is about kicking ass. It shouldn't be about birth control or other health-related questions unless they have a military aspect. And contraception doesn't.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      The Roman Empire fell because some people thought the same as you. Bring out the lions but remember that persecution strengthens Christianity. In the end America will fall because of unsustainable population levels. Buenos Dias!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:59 am |
    • err

      If the population levels are so high then why are they trying to import mexicans to fill jobs? Seems like if the population was too high then we would want to keep any new people out.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • AGuest9

      @err, what jobs are you trying to fill? I know a lot of people who are 2nd and 3rd generation LEGAL Americans who are looking for work.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, "American", contraception is a military necessity. Women a vital part of most modern armies, and teaching birth control to men is also important. You have a large group of young people, many away from their homes for the first time, in a living situation where se.xual activity will likely occur - whether among those enlisted or with civilians. Not only does birth control prevent unwanted pregnancy, the use of condoms also helps prevent the spread of STDs. It would be negligent to exclude birth control from the health care provided to our soldiers.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • American

      Tallulah13, you can say that -any- concerns about personal health are relevant for having a healthy Armed Forces, but there is still -no- military aspects to health beyond that general fact.

      Unless you "weaponize" a rubber or IUD (not impossible just silly) the fact remains that contraception is still a health concern and not something focused upon in terms of strategy or logistics. It only has a bearing on readiness, just like every other health concern. There is no logic behind a religion being involved in the military, being subversive when we're supposed to be on the same side, or making any kind of big deal when this is all about some idiot's personal opinion without any relevance to military readiness. It's all religious idiocy and violates military protocol, rules, regs, and laws.
      From a purely health-related standpoint, military readiness requires rational medical knowledge, not ideological fantasy.
      Those religious nutjobs should be prosecuted and DD'd right out of the Armed Forces. They are not team players, do not respect the chain of command, common sense, or military tactics and strategy. They should be shot or imprisoned for such buffoonery!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  8. Jay

    What about simply teaching your congregants to have REAL faith so that they will not engage in fornication....... ? Just a BIBLICAL thought. If you were REALLY trying to follow the bible...... This wouldnt be an issue...

    False Religion is a joke....

    February 9, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • rick

      religion is a joke

      February 9, 2012 at 4:59 am |
  9. tallulah13

    I will never forget that a military chaplain blatantly lied about Pat Tillman's final moments, trying to vilify a heroic man because he happened to be an atheist.

    Not all members of our military are catholic, and the need for birth control is necessary among those who have enlisted. If a chaplain can't do right by the soldiers and sailors who serve our country, they should should replaced by less selfish individuals.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  10. Kitten Puncher

    The catholic cult is 100% worthless. Dig a huge hole and dump every catholic into it. Then fill that hole with kitten blood so they all drown.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • The Four Fluffy Kittens of the Apocalypse are Coming For You!

      You are a veeeeeeeeeeeery bad man, and DOOM will be your reward! Not about the Catholics – Jesus has a lot of really big guys named Bubba in hell just a waiting to do some . . . ANALysis on them, kind of a turnaround-is-fair-play thing, like Dante.

      No, your doom will come quickly, a force irresistable and terrible, the Roadrunner of the Apocalypse! When you're on the highway and Roadrunner goes BEEP BEEP, you won't be able to step aside and you will end up in a heap!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  11. Reality

    The Catholic hierachy do not believe in artificial birth control so why do they employ those who do? Did not the Supreme Court recently decide that religious organizations have the right to decide who they hire and fire?

    Bottom line: To reduce health insurance costs and to not be subject to Obama care regulations about supplying contraceptives, Catholic groups should simply not hire those in need of contraceptives and fire those who demand such coverage.

    There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities and non-profits.


    "The government must stay out of hiring and firing decisions by a religious organization, even if a minister sues for employment discrimination, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

    Religious freedom groups praised the decision, and especially the fact that it came from a unanimous court."

    Next topic !!!

    February 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  12. Abinadi

    Cudos to these courageous chaplains! Freedom of Religion was the first and most important amendment and must be protected at all costs!

    February 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      Not when it infringes on the rights of freedom over ones own body! Who exactly is the church to tell anyone they can't use contraceptives?? Stop looking at this as a religious thing and start looking at it for what it is...an infringement. If the Catholic organization hires public workers and those workers pay taxes, they have every right to this coverage. It is time the church stayed out of the bedroom and educated themselves on the true benefits of birth control (not just meant to prevent pregnancy but then again maybe ensuring a woman's health is protected in other ways means nothing to you).

      February 9, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • rick

      my belief system calls for me to use marijuana as a sacrament. do i have this freedom of religion? after all, it should be protected "at all costs"

      February 9, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • anotherGuest

      It's a practical matter. If Catholic chaplains hand out condoms some people will think they are communion wafers and choke on them.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  13. Its a Mess

    I P00'd in my pants after reading these comments. Haha they are hilarous, but the cleanup wont be fun.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  14. Yes

    Lol these comments have the maturity of a 15 year old or extremely ldiotic people. It's hilarious watching the same people bicker back and forth and nobody ever presents anything of substance, just the same old tired responses to the simplest overarching question, which shows no intellectual capability whatsoever.


    February 8, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  15. errr

    All women in the military should be required to be on contraceptives. Alot of the women I knew when I was in the Army were kicked out for getting knocked up a short time into there enlistement. Huge waste of tax payer money on training thier sorry butts.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      Better yet the other religions like Islam will take over. Oooh a minaret on top of Washington Cathedral. Not that I mind much the compensation to the Anglican Church will affect me for good somehow! Allaaaah Akbar!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:09 am |
  16. Flinders, the butler

    What is the problem, ma lord ? Are the old men in red dresses afraid the sheeeps won't do what they're told ? The military ? How in hell does "coverage" create a problem Can't the sheeeps just say "no" ? Just get rid of the ENTIRE chaplain program. What a waste of money ! Do you wish to take tea in the drawing room, ma lord ?

    February 8, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • josh

      Obviously you've never been in a combat zone. The last rites that many chaplain issue to a dying soldier or Marine are the last comforts they get in this world. the simple fact that i know i will be taken care of and returned home is enough comfort for me to have the courage to actually serve my country faithfully.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  17. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Have you ever thought of burbling? The word burbling I mean. You guys are burbling. Burbling is kind of like purple. Another great word. Purple burbling. What does that mean?

    February 8, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Now THAT was a major insight, piper!

      Babbling about burbling; Tom-Tom has gone Gump on us.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • anotherGuest

      I guess this is as on topic as half the other stuff on here. You type well for whatever it is you're on, or have.

      February 9, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  18. Chaplain Marlowe

    FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed–

    BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country; And besides, the wench is dead.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  19. Bible Bob, Knight of Infallibillibabbity !

    Yeah, you definitely don't want soldiers being given condoms. What a bad idea that is.

    I hope they train those soldiers to not step on cracks so that they don't break their mothers' backs. Gotta honor the god behind that superstition too.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by biblebib example of ad hominem fallacy

      February 8, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Big fumble for Fallacy Spotter

      That's not ad hominem. It is closer to reductio ad absurdum, which is not a fallacy. It's not very convincing reductio ad absurdum, but I doubt it was meant to be considered a piece of serious debate.

      Not ad hominem. You must resign your debate-vigilante post.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • anotherGuest

      Not the real Fallacy Spotter.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Answer

      What happened to the fanaticism? Don't you have more faith that your prayer is the key to life? lol

      February 8, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • just sayin

      Start with the basics and move up. When everyone is up to speed it will prayerfully become more elaborate. Some are still foggy on the concept, you wouldn't want them left behind would you?

      February 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Answer

      Behind where? In with the pack of stupidity that you are involved with? That's funny.

      February 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • captain america

      with canadians like answer stupid goes well beyond the bone. There's your sign

      February 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Answer


      Just you being here is enough to stupefy the whole of CNN.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Matthew 6:5-15

      “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

      “This, then, is how you should pray:

      “‘Our Father in heaven,
      hallowed be your name,
      your kingdom come,
      your will be done,
      on earth as it is in heaven.
      Give us today our daily bread.
      And forgive us our debts,
      as we also have forgiven our debtors.
      And lead us not into temptation,
      but deliver us from the evil one.’

      For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

      February 8, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Answer


      I didn't even read your post. Is it important?

      February 8, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Acts 1:14

      They all joined together constantly in prayer,

      February 8, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @answer: Are you Canadian? If so cool...at least in Canada we don't infringe on the personal rights of a person to decide what to do with their bodies...even our Catholic School Boards cover contraception in their medical plans.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • 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 8:07 am |
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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.