According to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, the Department of Defense prevented around 50 US government contracted priests around the world from performing their duties during the government shutdown.
Under the discretion of the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense allowed certain contracted government employees to continue their work during the shutdown. Contracted Catholic priests are not one of them. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel explained the department’s decision as follows:
"The Department of Defense consulted closely with the Department of Justice, which expressed its view that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians," Hagel said. "Under our current reading of the law, the standard of 'support to members of the Armed Forces' requires a focus on those employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of covered military members during the lapse of appropriations."
Upset with the DOD’s decision, contracted priest Father Ray Leonard has decided to sue the government. Leonard is the lone priest presiding over the only Catholic church at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. The government’s decision, Leonard says, is preventing his parishioners from performing their Catholic duties.
From the lawsuit:
“As the Catholic Pastor for the base, Father Leonard celebrates daily and weekend Mass, hears confession, and administers the Sacraments, which take place on the base,” says the lawsuit filed for Father Leonard by the Thomas More Law Center.
“The doors to the Kings Bay Chapel were locked on October 4, 2013, with the Holy Eucharist, Holy water, Catholic hymn books, and vessels all locked inside. Father Leonard and his parishioners…were prohibited from entering.
“Father Leonard wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge on the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay during the government shut-down, but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so.
The closest Catholic Church is off base in the town of St. Mary’s, which is eight miles away from the base.
“Many of Father Leonard’s parishioners live and work on the Naval Base and do not own a car or have access to other transportation. This makes a sixteen mile journey to and from church impossible for many of Fr. Leonard’s parishioners, particularly sailors who are not given enough break time to walk sixteen miles and attend the Mass service.
“Catholics are required by the dictates of their faith to attend Mass and to receive Communion on the Sabbath each week.”
This concludes the presentation of reason #234,964 why the government shutdown needed to end.