WASHINGTON — The archbishop in charge of more than 800 chaplains in the American armed forces has condemned the proposed repeal of the 1993 law banning openly homosexual persons from serving in the military.
“The effect of a repeal” of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy “has the potential of being enormous and overwhelming,” wrote Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
His statement, released on the archdiocese’s website June 1, was a summary of a report he was asked to make to the chiefs of chaplains of the armed forces. “Sacrificing the moral beliefs of individuals or their living conditions to respond to mere political considerations is neither just nor prudent,” he wrote.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted May 27 to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In both cases, the change was in the form of an amendment to a defense-spending bill. The amendment stipulates that the repeal cannot come into effect until after a Defense Department impact study and the secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president certify that it will have no impact on military readiness, unit cohesion and recruiting, among other concerns.
The Senate will vote on the repeal later this summer.
Archbishop Broglio is charged with the spiritual welfare of the 375,000 Catholics in the military and their 520,000 family members. It’s also his job to vet priests who want to serve as chaplains. His statement warned that the change in policy could “have a negative effect on the role of the chaplain not only in the pulpit but in the classroom, in the barracks and in the office.”
Homosexuals deserve compassion and dignified treatment from chaplains, he noted, but Catholic chaplains “can never condone — even silently — homosexual behavior.”
Instead, chaplains must urge homosexuals to commit themselves to a life of chastity. “By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and by sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
Archbishop Broglio warned against repealing the law at least until the potential impact of the change had been carefully considered.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates promised the chiefs of staff of the armed forces earlier this year that no repeal would take place until a formal study of its impact was completed early in 2011.
Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., says the Obama administration was breaking that promise with its push to pass the repeal.
“They are in a hurry because they are afraid that the balance of Congress will change in the fall elections,” he said.
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