Updated: Feb. 8 at 2:42 pm.
WASHINGTON, February 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A letter from the military archbishop saying that Catholics “must not” obey the impending birth control mandate from the Obama administration was barred from being read from pulpits by Catholic priests and edited by military officials that saw the criticism as an incitement to disobey the Commander in Chief.
Like nearly all other Catholic bishops in the U.S., Archbishop Timothy Broglio had written a letter to be read at all Sunday masses for U.S. military personnel denouncing the new rule that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to provide sterilizations and abortifacient drugs.
“Unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to choose between violating our consciences or dropping health coverage for our employees (and suffering the penalties for doing so),” wrote Broglio. “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.” The prelate called for prayer and fasting “that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.”
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However, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent its own communiqué forbidding Catholic chaplains from reading the letter based on what he saw as a call to civil disobedience and thus a challenge to the authority of President Obama as head of the armed forces.
Although one source reports that many priests read the letter anyway, Broglio has acknowledged that another version of the letter will be sent out that removes the “unjust law” sentence at the behest of military officials. Nonetheless, the prelate condemned the move blocking the original letter as a serious violation of Constitutional rights.
“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army 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,” said the archbishop’s office in a statement.
The office further noted “Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.” The original wording of the archbishop’s letter remains available on the archdiocese’s website.
The archdiocese reportedly took further steps to ensure the integrity of its free speech rights, in the form of a letter to Catholic priests encouraging them to contact the Military Archdiocesan lawyer in case of further repercussions from the military.