DAILY CATHOLIC FRI-SAT-SUN August 6-8, 1999 vol. 10, no. 147
NEWS & VIEWS
AIR FORCE PLANS TO TRANSFER CATHOLIC OFFICER
General Says His Religious Convictions Undermine Mission
WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG 5 (ZENIT).- Lt. Ryan Berry's struggle to remain in the Air Force with an unsullied service record continues. Ordered to serve in cramped quarters for twenty-four to forty-eight hours in the company of a female officer, the Catholic officer told his superiors that he had problems of conscience accepting the assignment. This led to an unfavorable service report, practically guaranteeing that the West Point graduate will have to leave the military in 2002.
Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett, a member of the Armed Services Committee who is supporting the officer, received a letter dated August 3 from General Michael Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, indicating the resolution of Lt. Berry's case.
"I fully agree that the United States Air Force must accommodate religious beliefs to the maximum extent possible," wrote Gen. Ryan.
However, regarding Lt. Berry, Gen. Ryan said that "his personal convictions could no longer be accommodated without creating an unacceptable impact on the unit's ability to accomplish the military mission," hence, the young Catholic officer "will soon be scheduled for training to a new career field followed by an assignment to another installation."
William Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, stated, "Lt. Berry's attorney, Henry Hamilton, labeled Gen. Ryan's overture 'vapid,' and I would certainly agree with that assessment. The only thing that really matters is whether the politically-driven negative evaluation of Lt. Berry -- which followed two glowing accounts of his performance -- will remain unamended. If it does, it effectively kills Lt. Berry's career."
Lt. Berry's refusal to serve in such close quarters "is completely consistent with the Catholic faith," said Donohue. Noting the Air Force's great strides in tolerance toward many groups, he asked, "but where is the tolerance for him?"
Lt. Berry is not happy with the general's decision, either. "I love my Church, I love being in the military, I love my wife, I love my child," 1st Lt. Ryan Berry told a press conference Wednesday. "I'm not being allowed to combine those loves. I have to sell one of them short."
The Air Force has already decertified Berry from working with nuclear missiles. He is presently working on other tasks at his North Dakota base.
Rep. Bartlett said the Air Force policy of putting men and women together in such proximity could easily lead to sexual misbehavior. "It is silly. This policy is stupid, quite apart from the religious aspects of it," Bartlett said, calling it "a case of worshipping at the altar of political correctness."
Lt. Berry is being supported in his effort to clear his record by
Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of the Archdiocese for the Military
Services, John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, and prominent
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NEWS & VIEWS