Catholic Military Chaplains Can't Be Forced to Oversee Gay Funerals

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com September 25 2013 2:10 PM ET

A new set of rules for chaplains states that Roman Catholic military chaplains must not be forced to preside over any ceremonies in which the church must acknowledge a same-sex relationship, and that includes performing funeral services for LGBT service members where spouses of the same sex are acknowledged, Religion News Service reports.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio also said chaplains do not have to witness or bless a same-sex marriage or take part in marriage counseling sessions attended by gay couples.

"A priest who is asked to counsel non-Catholic parties in a same-gendered relationship will direct them to a chaplain who is able to assist," the announcement read. "Catholic parties will, of course, be encouraged by the priest to strive to live by the teaching of the Gospel. Participation in retirements, changes of command, and promotion ceremonies is possible, as long as the priest is not required to acknowledge or approve of a 'spouse' of the same gender."

However, Broglio said he also advised Catholic military commanders that they should adhere to the National Catholic Bioethics Center's guidelines, which state commanders have the moral duty to facilitate federal benefits for gay couples under their command.

“This is also contingent on the commander making known his/her objection to being required to … participate, as well as on attempting through legal channels to continue to accomplish changes in policy consistent with the historic understanding of marriage and family as based on natural moral law,” said the statement from the bioethics center.

Broglio's guidelines follow similar rules issued for Southern Baptist chaplains.

According to the report, there are 234 Roman Catholic priests serving actively in the military, and about 275,000 Catholic military personnel (about 25% of all armed forces personnel).