President Trump is apparently trying to make up for the backlash that ensued over his recent remarks regarding the military by praising the U.S. Navy’s reversal of a controversial cost-cutting decision that would cancel Catholic Masses at Naval bases in Southern California.
On Saturday, the Navy announced that Catholic Masses at San Diego-area bases are ending as it declined to renew contracts with Catholic priests — a decision the department explained as a cost-cutting move, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The Navy also noted that there aren’t enough Catholic chaplains on active duty to fill the void. The decision was part of a national realignment to the Navy’s religious ministries, which was announced in late August.
After the Navy faced backlash for cutting Catholic Masses in South California while other religious services continue — which included Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who tweeted that the Navy’s initial plan to cancel contracts with Catholic priests means “we need to look at canceling admirals, not priests” — Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, the commander of Navy Region Southwest, announced on Tuesday that Roman Catholic services will continue on board Southern California Naval bases at least for the next year.
“Contrary to previous discussions, this year we will continue contracted religious ministry programs and services similar to what we’ve had in place previously,” Bolivar told The San Diego Union-Tribune in a statement. “We will also continue to assess how best to meet the needs of our Sailors and their families throughout the region.”
The next day, Trump — who has come under fire in the past week following The Atlantic’s report that he called fallen soldiers “losers” and accusing Pentagon leaders of being beholden to defense contractors — seemed to praise the Navy’s reversal in a tweet.
The United States Navy, or the Department of Defense, will NOT be cancelling its contract with Catholic Priests who serve our men and women in the Armed Forces so well, and with such great compassion & skill. This will no longer be even a point of discussion! @CardinalDolan
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2020
The President’s praise for the Navy’s reversal comes a day after Army chief of staff Gen. James McConville hit back at his assertion that top leaders at the Pentagon want to keep waging wars in order to keep defense contractors “happy” by saying that troops are sent to combat “when it’s required in national security, or as a last resort,” during a virtual event hosted by Defense One on Tuesday.
McConville’s remarks were made shortly after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows denied that the President’s remarks that took aim at Pentagon leaders were directed toward an individual general, but that the comment was “more directed about the military industrial complex.”
Although Trump administration officials began coming to the President’s defense over the weekend following The Atlantic’s report on the President’s denigrating comments toward fallen soldiers, Republicans on Capitol Hill have yet to weigh in on the matter.
Amid the controversy that the President faces over his latest remarks regarding the military, the White House has reportedly interviewed candidates to replace Defense secretary Mark Esper — who has occasionally broken with Trump, specifically over their surprise photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House in early June.
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