In an op-ed published on Thursday, John Schlageter, general counsel at Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, a group that oversees military the services provided by the Catholic Church in the U.S., made some startling claims about how the government shut-down could impact priests — and the allegations are chilling.
According to Schlageter, Catholic priests who are contracted risk being arrested if they work during the shutdown.
Unlike active duty faith leaders, these contracted workers are described by CatholicVote.org, aconservative advocacy group, as, “paid by the federal government as independent contractors in places where there aren’t enough active-duty priests to meet the needs of Catholics in military service.”
The attorney also warned of the detrimental impact that the shutdown could have on Catholics in the ranks.
“If the government shutdown continues through the weekend, there will be no Catholic priest to celebrate Mass this Sunday in the chapels at some U.S. military installations where non-active-duty priests serve as government contractors,” writes Schlageter.
The arrest claim is a bold one — but is it true? Recently, Politico did report that furloughed federal workers could be fired for using their BlackBerry phones during the shutdown. One warning noted that there could be penalties for conducting any work outside of the office during this time.
“Due to legal requirements, working in any way during a period of furlough (even as a volunteer) is grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment,”read a recent letter from the House Administration Committee to nonessential employees. “To avoid violating this prohibition, we strongly recommend that you turn your BlackBerrys off for the duration of the furlough.”
Technically, this would translate over to faith leaders as well. As for events that might be scheduled on military bases — baptisms, weddings, etc. — unless a priest who is not contracted is found, Schlageter said that the event would potentially have to be canceled.
If you’re wondering why government workers (contracted priests, included) aren’t allowed to volunteer during the shutdown, Slate has an explanation. The reasoning is predicated upon the Anti-Deficiency Act of 1884.
TheBlaze reached out to Lt. Col. Laurel P. Tingley at the Air Force Press Desk to ask how regulations will impact contracted priests and to see if there’s any merit to the arrest claim.
“Any civilian employee who volunteers their time to the government while furloughed is violating the Anti-Deficiency Act, as is any supervisor who allows an employee to do so,” she said in an e-mail. “The ADA provides for disciplinary action for individuals who are found in violation.”
We followed up to check if arrest is one of the potential ramifications and we’re waiting for clarification.