Catholic priests in the military: serious shortage

Back in the day, I reached out to the US Navy about being a chaplain.  I never heard back.  I am probably too old now.

I have, however, heard stories from chaplain friends about non-Catholic superiors putting head pressure on them to support payment for abortion.  I have heard about the room to made for Wicca.  We know that the change on the policy of homosexuality in the military thing is going to be a problem for Catholic priests who need to be faithful to Catholic teaching.

However,this is  from CNA:

Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2010 / 12:54 am (CNA).- Military Archbishop Timothy Broglio told bishops at their annual gathering in Baltimore that the U.S. military is facing an alarming shortage of priests that is increasingly leading Catholic servicemen to seek help from Protestant pastors. [I suspect that a lot of bishops won’t do anything to help both because they don’t have enough priests themselves and because they don’t like the military.]

Calling it a “pastoral problem” that “affects all of us,” Archbishop Broglio appealed to bishops across the U.S. during the annual Nov. 15-18 meeting in Baltimore to consider sending more priests to help serve in the military.

“As you know, the Archdiocese for the Military Services assures the pastoral care for people from your respective particular churches,” he told the bishops. When these people “hang up their uniforms and return home,” he added, “I would like to be able to return them to you as Catholics.”  [Or have the last rites when they die.]

Approximately one fourth of active duty personnel – 400,000 people – and their immediate families are Catholic, he said.

At present, these Catholics “are served by only 275 priests in a territory that covers the globe,” the archbishop noted. “Those numbers will shrink in the coming years.” [Please, people, pray for vocations!]

Because many in the armed services often face grave situations, he said, questions about the meaning of life and the existence of God often surface.

“They are at great risk because there are not nearly enough priests to meet their needs,” he said. Speaking of the growing trend for Catholics to seek help from Protestant ministers, Archbishop Broglio said “our separated brothers and sisters are more than eager to fill the gap created by the absence of a priest.”

“If we are not there,” he said, “someone else will be.”

Archbishop Broglio also lamented the increasing amount of suicides that occur in the military. He said that one suicide occurred per day this last June in the U.S. armed forces and asserted that the presence of a priest is essential in helping prevent future “tragedies.”

“We cannot abandon” service men and women “at the moment of their greatest need,” he added.

Archbishop Broglio concluded his remarks by urging the bishops in attendance at the annual meeting to “to consider sending one more priest to the military.” He also appealed for the bishops to designate a day of prayer for peace, an end to suicides, and to express gratitude to U.S. military personnel.

Of course His Excellency, whose name is on the list of bishops for whom I pray a Memorare after every Mass, is right.  But there is also the dimension of the environment chaplains must work in with in the military culture.

How friendly is the military, under the present administration, to priests.

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45 Responses to Catholic priests in the military: serious shortage

  1. There is another dimension to the story, because not all Protestants are the same. As I understand it from my friends who are military chaplains, both active and retired, the once-large number of Anglican and Lutheran chaplains has also dwindled severely. The “Protestants” most widely represented in chaplaincy are now Baptist, Pentecostal, and so forth.

    I suppose that there is an upside to this, from a Roman Catholic perspective, in the sense that the distinction between “Catholic” and “Protestant” is much, much sharper in the chaplaincy now. A soldier can tell at a glance what he is getting. But surely this is outweighed by the danger of a chaplain corps which doubts, for example, that Catholics are Christians at all, and denies outright the efficacy of infant baptism. I have heard stories from friends at West Point to confirm that such chaplains do a great deal to shake up the faith of cadets who come from traditional church backgrounds.

  2. The possible repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is contributing most directly to this vocation shortage. If a priest goes through all the hoops to become a military chaplain he will be able to be court marshalled and thrown out of the military for repeating the Church’s stand on the 6th Commandment in a homily, a private conversation, or during confession. Why go through all that for the opportunity to also be sent to some horrible sandy desert with no beer (or wine) and the chance to be killed? The world is being turned upside down with nuns being felt up at airports in the name of “security” and priests being discouraged from serving their fellow Catholics in war zones for fear of offending blatent sinners.

  3. Thomas G. says:

    In 25 years in the Marine Corps I was ministered to by wonderful Catholic chaplains, yet I saw first hand some of the things they had to put up with. One glaring example is the need to share worship space with very, very low church Protestants who couldn’t stand for the presence of a single image or statue in the chapel. I have also suspected that many Bishops did not let their priests go to the Military Archdiocese as an expression of their opposition to the Iraq war.

    On the flip side, Catholic chaplains will generally find Catholic servicemen to be supportive and zealous in their faith.

  4. S. Murphy says:

    As far as the shortage of diocesan priests goes, please let your bishops know that they can encourage some of their priests to sign on as reservists. Some of the religious orders apparently do this – on two of my 3 OIF deployments, we had a reservist Navy chaplain: one was a Benedictine, one was a Dominican.

    The presence of more active-duty Catholic chaplains would encourage a rational approach to the coming “No need to ask, I’ll make sure you know” policy and the issues it will raise for chaplains. Our guys usually know how to deal with somebody who isn’t, and doesn’t want to be Catholic, but wants to vent or seek advice confidentially. The evangelicals sometimes make a point of NOT doing this. Sometimes it’s good – there was one at 4th recruit training battalion, MCRD Parris Island (where all enlisted women in the Marine Corps are trained), who talked a recruit who had arrived pregnant out of getting an abortion (she’d have been sent home regardless), and brought about a conversion (she ‘got saved’ which is a least a positive change from where she was). But he also negelcted to display pamphlets from the Catholic chaplain, or relay the times for Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday services to our DIs. It IS possible to be professional without compromising the truth, but the subtlety is naturally lost on people who think Genesis is a science book. We need well-educated priests to balance out this kind of thing.

    Another thing that would help is encouraging retired priests to help with Masses and religious ed on bases, posts and stations, freeing the younger guys for downrange. At my current duty station, the Catholic chaplain is a retired USAF chaplain, who was hired back to keep the on-base parish open.

  5. Nathan says:

    I agree with Thomas G. in that, in my 23 years in the Army, I came across some very good Catholic chaplains. This was true especially in the combat units.

    Unfortunately, I also observed some rank heterodoxy as well and a lack of spiritual good order and discipline, especially in the military communities where my family resided. For example, in 1999 it was in a military chapel where, shortly after I arrived, I went to Confession and read the bulletin. The bulletin instructed us that at Holy Mass we were to stand, rather than kneel, after Holy Communion, because we were to “wait until everyone was fed.” I went back to my quarters and told my wife, “we have to go downtown to Mass.”

    In the late 80s, I remember a Sister who was the actual boss (instead of the officer chaplain) of a major Army overseas command’s Catholic activities. She used her position to push the idea that “we are not going to have any priests soon” and that lay-led “liturgies” were the future of the Catholic Church. She also brought in the whole OCP travelling cadre to teach musicians in the chapels heterodoxy in music.

    I also had a chance to talk, a couple of years ago, with a senior Catholic chaplain in the Pentagon, who told me and a colleague just how wonderful the L.A. Religious Education Conference (aka Mahoney-fest) was for understanding the mind of the Church, while minimizing the valid liturgical concerns of my colleague.

    I think, because the archbishop is in Washington and these chapels are spread all over the world, chaplains are often alone, like missionary priests. There is real pressure on chaplains to be like the (often larger and more financially self-supporting) general Protestant communities. Also, because a single priest has to support a chapel (very much like a parish) and be a chaplain/counselor to a unit (a full time job) simultaneously, either the unit or the chapel suffers from a lack of priestly attention.

    Please pray for the priests who are chaplains. They have quite a cross to bear, especially those who are deployed. As well, those who are ministering to military families desperately need support (“top-cover,” to use military slang), to uphold the Faith while under pressure from all sides.

    In Christ,

  6. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Father, as a Marine friend once told me, in the military there is a waiver for just about anything if they want you enough. It is a general rule of application, but don’t exclude yourself without actually inquiring.

    One interesting conundrum (if I understand it correctly) is that Catholic deacons cannot be appointed U.S. military chaplains. The only way for a deacon to be with the military is if he holds another position – and serves as a deacon on his own time.

    Some Army chaplains come up through the service. There is a well known priest in the NY National Guard with a Special Forces tab and the Combat Infantry Badge from Vietnam.

  7. Desertfalcon says:

    I spent 20 years in the Air Force and recall some very good Catholic chaplains and allot of overworked ones. I never experienced any change or approach of any kind based on who the Commander in Chief was at the time, BTW. I doubt the repeal of DADT, (which I think inevitable), will make much difference in ministering to Catholic troops. Like it or not, much of military culture and policies are in conflict already with Church teaching. It’s the nature of that difficult assignment for any pastor, Catholic/Protestant or other.

    I think ‘Rob Cartusciello’ brings up a good point that could help alleviate the shortage. I do not know why Deacons cannot serve as chaplains as the military has no real concern in the sacramental authority of a given chaplain but Deacons could be invaluable as the ‘legs’ of overworked priests. Much of what chaplains do day to day are not related to sacramental duties.

  8. S. Murphy says:

    A potential problem with assigning chaplains is that it might complicate the manpower planners/ career monitors/detailers jobs, or lead to unintended consequences. If a given command is supposed to have a variety of chaplains, and already has its Catholic quota, in deacons, there might be a priest who could be ordered there, but only when one of the deacons gets ordered somewhere else. (I’m not exactly how they look at it, and I’m sure the Army, Navy and Air Force all have different policies; but most big bases have Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and if possible, Orthodox, if possible Muslim chaplains available, so the Navy – at least for Marine Corps assignments, seems to try to serve the range of faith-groups as well as possible.)
    It would definitely be better to have a deacon than to fall back on ‘lay leaders.’ In CONUS, there’s always a parish outside the gate, but on deployment, we need priests.

  9. Stu says:

    Interestingly, the Military Archdiocese will not take priests who only offer the Extraordinary Form. This not only hampers the effort but I think shortchanges the troops as well who, in my experience, seem to really take to the traditional Mass. The shortage is much more hurtful in the Navy given the overrepresentation of Catholics in both the Navy and Marine Corps when compared to the general population.

    Another difficulty that I have seen priests encounter in the Navy, which may not be apparent to most civilians, is dealing with superiors who are non-Catholic chaplains. In any given command, there is usually one chaplain that in charge. In some instances it is a priest and in others it can be a chaplain from any other denomination. This is where biases sometimes come into play or more often differences in approach that aren’t supportive of the faith. More and more, I see the chaplains being bogged down with what in my mind are superfluous admin duties instead of truly tending the flock.

    But at the end of the day, the good priests do have a positive effect on all involved and not too coincidentally in my mind, they are orthodox in all matters. Special prayers to Father Charles Johnson and Father Thomas Patrick O’Flanagan who are two very special Navy Chaplains currently on active duty.

    BTW, every solid traditional priest I have met has either been a military chaplain or wanted to be one (our host included). I am thankful to God for them all.

  10. Marcin says:

    As these are grave circumstances, I would send military Catholics (in absence of the Catholic priest) to the Orthodox chaplains, but those are are even rarer species.

    In the early 2000s , I have befriended an Orthodox Navy chaplain serving in Bethesda. A very warm, caring and outgoing man, who was not afraid of giving his priestly blessing left and right in the hallways when asked. He simply had no shame of his Faith, what quite often brought unto him strange looks if not ridicule from the protestant chaplains. Although a staunch Orthodox, he was also enough irenic to ask me to chant the Epistle for a weekly Moleben. Such help was needed as his own flock was sadly rather absent – the congregation consisted mostly of an Orthodox scientist, a Catholic lady volunteering at the hospital and myself. Unfortunately, he retired from the service.

    Since Moleben was offered right after a rather well frequented Roman Mass (happy to attest it!), time constrains surely prevented many from staying for much longer, but I was never able to escape a strong impression of the panicky run of Catholics at the first sight of a phelonion.

    As for the state of Catholic Chaplaincy there, judging from homilies we are stocked up with rather orthodox staff: a service chaplain priest on a lease from Philippines (!) and alternating Franciscan priests. Liturgy-wise, besides being habitually started with “Good morning everyone” and finished with “Have a nice day”, Mass is rather restrained compared to average suburban parish. Of course, the Franciscans just have to say Mass from memory (even if bespectacled) and keep tight eye contact with the worshipers for as long as physically possible, but I guess it still pales in comparison with what I’ve found in suburbs here.

  11. Fr. Basil says:

    \\I have heard about the room to made for Wicca. We know that the change on the policy of homosexuality in the military thing is going to be a problem for Catholic priests who need to be faithful to Catholic teaching.\\

    Not all who serve the Armed Forces are Christians–or even Jews (who did not have rabbis as chaplains until the Civil War). Since the USA is a secular government which favors NO religion above another (at least officially), Wiccans and the like are legally entitled to their chaplains.

    As for homosexuality, the repeal of DADT will NOT affect the seal of confession. In fact, with the present policy, there is greater danger of conflict.

  12. Pavegs says:

    I am not a priest, but a seminarian int he Chaplain Candidate program for the US Army, so I can shed a little light on this situation. In my experience there has been little change in the treatment or “friendliness” of the administration to priests. In reality the administration has very little to do with the experience of rank and file soldiers, including chaplains. The Army Chaplain School is actually very good to the priests and seminarians. Most protestant chaplains would ask me what they could do to help us and to help Catholic soldiers. Many of the mainline protestant, Jews, and Orthodox chaplains do not seek to convert Catholic soldiers and genuinely want to help them practice their faith. Many evangelicals are not of that mind.

    The policy of the DOD on religions is that ALL servicemen have the right to practice their faith provided that it does not conflict with execution of the mission. This includes pagans and wiccans and every other sort of abomination. Chaplains must provide for this 1st amendment right (which usually just means getting them a room), while performing for the soldiers of their own faith. I have yet to encounter any difficulties and have not heard of any priests who have.

    Most of the difficulties do not come from other chaplains but from commanders. If a commander likes chaplains and supports them they will be free do minister. There are some commanders who do not like chaplains and inhibit their ministry. In the Army the Chaplain is on the personal staff of the commander and is charged with executing HIS religious plan. I hope that helps a little.

    PLEASE PRAY FOR MILITARY VOCATIONS!!! All of the Catholic Chaplain Candidates I know today are fantastic men; orthodox and holy. Not all of the chaplains I know are. Sometimes there are issues with this, as in any diocese.

  13. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    I am in tears reading this, all the dioceses need men with a vocation to the priesthood, but we desperately need priests for the Military Archdiocese.

    I was blest that in all my years of military service, there was ALWAYS a Catholic Priest around, in not on station. My father and uncles had priests, but my son does not. In nearly 10 months in Afghanistan, he has seen a priest three times, two of the military chaplains were with other NATO forces too, but ministered as best they could to all Catholics (regardless of nationality) when they visited.

    In the weird way of the military, the powers that be sometimes view chaplains as interchangeable so long as they are professed Christians. So sometimes a priest DOES lead a General Protestant Service. On the on the other hand, I have been deployed where Lutherans and Episcopalians frequented the Catholic Mass over the “general” Protestant Service. Some even swam over to Rome because of that experience. And as a “lay-leader” (i.e. Catechist), I had to fight for having a “contracted” local priest come to preside a Mass, because we are not a “self-serve” church. We can do a liturgical prayer service (remote and deployed locales, an increase in the laity that do Lauds and Vespers), but we cannot just “do” the center of our faith ourselves.

    Most important, Reconciliation and Anointing / Last Rites (for someone under hostile fire, a matter of eternal salvation, not just temporary terrestrial comfort) are things only an ordained priest can do, as a lay woman, I can pray, that’s all, same as a lay-man, we can pray but cannot bring the healing of the sacraments.

    Pray for priests, but also please pray for priests to accept a military vocation.

  14. meippoliti says:

    I am confused about the current policy? How is there a greater danger of conflict now than with the repeal of DADT? For those who serve in the military, what should they do about DADT? Is it better to stay or leave if it is repealed? If the men, women, and their families stay, is it going against the Catholic faith? With the shortage of military priests, these difficult questions are not being heard by the those who want to serve and be a devout Catholic.
    With the current shortage, it makes it difficult for some to even attend a service. Some families even drive up to two hours to attend a service. The military priest is AMAZING! It’s even better when they actually live on Base and are available, but even that can be difficult. Yes, please pray for vocations. If the military family could have access to good military priests than their sons would perhaps want to become a priest and serve too?

  15. jeffreyquick says:

    “I have heard about the room to made for Wicca.”
    As somebody who spent over 20 years as a Wiccan, many of them as a Gardnerian (Catholic-analog) witch, and is now a Catholic, I have an opinion. Providing for Wiccan services on-base is a matter of simple equity and religious freedom. After all, they aren’t going to find a coven in Iraq. OTOH, a Wiccan chaplaincy may be overkill, just because 90% of Wiccans didn’t have any trained clergy at home (and none of them had paid clergy; Wiccans don’t do that). So give ‘em a space and have them organize it themselves. The subtext for the demand for chaplains is legitimacy. When Wiccans create public structures, it’s not because those structures best serve the Wiccan faith (indeed, traditional Wicca is designed to be as private as Christianity in North Korea) ; it’s because they want the approval of men. So every once in awhile, you’ll see a group start some kind of public charity, so they can be “as good as” Christians…which flops, because they don’t have the grace to sustain such a project.

  16. restoration says:

    As a veteran Navy officer and Catholic, I am perplexed by the hand-wringing over the shortage of Catholic chaplains. Personally, I would like to see all Catholic priests withdraw from the Chaplain Corps. This is an organization that has been completely taken over by relativism and modernism and has been for some time now. Homosexuality is only the latest in a long line of immoral innovations in our military that should have been met by a strident preaching followed by mass resignation of our priest chaplains. Where was the outcry when women entered air combat and ships? Where was the concern over rampant adultery, destroyed marriages and permissive sexual behavior on ships and coed barracks due to the presence of women? Where was the concern over the emasculation of our warriors and our culture when mothers and wives were sent to fight and die while their husbands stayed home? I haven’t heard a whisper of protest from Catholic chaplains about the massive daycare industry on military bases called “Child Development Centers”. It is just as immoral to support the radical feminist movement in the military as homosexuality. The same demonic forces that gave us feminism now send homosexuality. Other deviant lifestyles will soon follow including bigamy and transgendered perversions of every kind. The military’s laws against adultery will be next on the list. Do not be fooled into thinking that these “changes” will stop with gays. Catholic chaplains wake up and preach the truth! It may cause your discharge or resignation, but it is dishonest and immoral to continue this charade.

  17. meippoliti says:

    To restoration…
    Massive daycare industry on base? I homeschool and stay at home with my children, but the child development center has been a blessing when husbund is away and I have to go to the doctor etc.
    Though I do applaud you for mentioning all the above, because no one else will talk about it.
    I however, do not think the solution is to withdraw military priests. This would do a lot of harm to the men and women who serve and their families. This in fact would cause more of what you talk about if there was no guidance or even presence of the priest in the military.

  18. robtbrown says:

    Desertfalcon says:

    I think ‘Rob Cartusciello’ brings up a good point that could help alleviate the shortage. I do not know why Deacons cannot serve as chaplains as the military has no real concern in the sacramental authority of a given chaplain but Deacons could be invaluable as the ‘legs’ of overworked priests. Much of what chaplains do day to day are not related to sacramental duties.

    What are those duties you say that deacons could provide?

  19. Del says:

    Bishop Morlino of Madison, WI has answered this call. We have at least one young priest serving as a Chaplain. (One more reason why we love our bishop!)

    I have two sons: One is a Soldier, and one is a Seminarian. Archbishop Broglio visited the Soldier’s base, back when his brother was still discerning his entering seminary. The Soldier persevered in catching a moment with the Archbishop, and invited him to talk with his little brother back home.

    Archbishop Broglia accepted. My teen-aged son got a phone call from the Archbishop of the United States Military!

    They had a pleasant chat. His Excellency gave my son the double-recruiting pitch — “So, I hear you are thinking about the priesthood? Have you considered the call of being a military chaplain?” He described how great the need is, and how easy it is for a priest to serve. All that is necessary is permission from his bishop.

    During this, the Soldier was standing by, beaming. The Archbishop kindly added to the Seminarian, “Do you know how proud your brother is of you? His eyes light up when he talks about you!”

    The Seminarian piped back, “We’re very proud of him too, Bishop!”

    We’re very proud of them both.

  20. Mickey says:

    I’m an Air Force officer, and I have been fortunate that at all my assignments except one I’ve been priviledged to have good priests for our military parish. Ft McNair was the only place I’ve ever been where I couldn’t go to Holy Mass on a daily basis. Here at the Pentgon, we have MIC and Dominican priests who offer Holy Mass for us at lunch time in the Pentagon Chapel.

    I agree with Desertfalcon that the repeal of DADT won’t have much effect…at first. But after a while the “social workers” among us will institute “Gay Awareness Month” or some such, and push will come to shove as commanders and chaplains alike will have to choose between furthering their careers or the Gospel. I pray I’m long retired before then…

  21. ghp95134 says:

    I lament the fact that during my 20 years of active service I was not Catholic.

    Nathan says, I agree with Thomas G. in that, in my 23 years in the Army, I came across some very good Catholic chaplains. This was true especially in the combat units.

    I fondly recall the conclusion of one field training exercise in 1981 — after a 12 mile forced march (read: jog; aka “the airborne shuffle”) in full field gear — our battalion Catholic chaplain (2 Bn, 503d Inf, 101 Airborne Division (Air Assault)) — plopped down beside me, all sweaty, carrying his field chaplain kit. He, about 10 years my senior, had made the forced march and was still in a smiling, friendly mood. I looked at his “merit badges” and saw that he served in Vietnam with the same unit (then part of 173d Brigade) and sported jump wings with a combat star (combat jump: Operation Junction City) and Combat Infantryman Badge; he said he was just a young enlisted “grunt” at that time and became a priest later. I asked for a sip of wine, but he just winked at me. He did show me the contents of his kit and explained the functions. Not a bad way to wait for our helecopter “taxis.”

    He was a “stud” — a bit soft around the edges, but he could “soldier!” I was (and still am) totally impressed with him. Not saying the other chaplains never went on forced marches … but I only ever saw him with us.

    –Guy

  22. Stu says:

    Mickey is correct. Eventually, “Gay Awareness Month” and other such nonsense will appear as the military will transition from allowing homosexuality to mandating that everyone must affirm and accept it as normal.

  23. Pavegs says:

    @Desertfalcon – Deacons would be pretty much useless in the role of military chaplain. What soldiers need are priests who can bring them the sacraments and especially hear confessions. Frankly Deacons do not have enough training to be able to provide what the military needs for Catholic servicemen. It is true that many duties of a unit Chaplain are not sacramental, the most critical duties are. There needs to be the ability to send a Chaplain wherever he is needed at any given time, frankly in a deployment situation a deacon would not be able to provide the most critical need, Mass.

    Also the repeal of DADT will not have a huge effect on Chaplains. It could effect some areas such as the Strong Bonds program, however it will likely not have much of an effect on priest chaplains.

    @ restoration – Chaplains provide an invaluable service to our troops, I’m surprised that you don’t see that being a veteran. Chaplains ensure our troops their right to worship. Only priests can bring that service for Catholic troops. Regardless of the immorality in the military, and there is a lot, Chaplains are often the beacon of light. Chaplains have a huge effect on troops and bring about many conversions. A holy priest can win many souls for Christ. What we need are holy priests who are not willing to water down the faith or become more protestant. Unfortunately there are many priest chaplains who do just that.

  24. Ed the Roman says:

    Father Z: The oldest Navy chaplain I knew was a Maryknoller commissioned at 59: he had been in Bolivia for 28 years. He declined his battalion commander’s offer of a cot in the field, but despite being ordered to stop trying to PT with the men was very much a grunt’s chaplain.

    He had some interesting stories, as well. At Guam, the Protestant XO routinely presented for Communion, and (as far as he knew) could not be publicly refused – the XO was an odd duck who wasn’t Catholic but thought only the Catholic Eucharist was real. A Protestant Chaplain asked to receive privately, and WAS refused: Fathere told him to finish his twenty (he had children) and then convert.

    Most interesting to me was a story from his chaplain course. There was lunctime disucssion of where the chaplain should be during battle: at the aid station or up in the line. Several Protestants opined that they should be at the aid station, to pray with and comfort the wounded and dying. Father agreed that THEY should be at the aid station to do those things, because it was all that they could do; HE would be in the line, to forgive the men’s sins and give them the Body of Christ.

    Not long afterwards, one of those Protestants had a breakdown and left the Chaplains program. He converted, and began to study for the priesthood.

  25. Del says:

    The culture war isn’t over yet. We may yet win the hearts of the nation for natural families.

    Meanwhile…. we need Catholic chaplains. We can’t let our young Servicemen and women go unserved.

    Imagine, if there were several thousands of Catholic priests in the military, and they all stood in solidarity against Gay Soldier Appreciation Month. “Arrest us all, or let us all resign!” Give our Evangelical chaplains a spar to cling to — they don’t have bishops to go home to, and they have families to support.

    There is one bright light in our confusion of faith and politics: The faithful bishops have growing vocations in their dioceses, and these are the ones who are most likely to support our Catholic Soldiers.

  26. AnnAsher says:

    I am thr wife of a 20+ year army veteran. Our family has been touched by two faithfilled Army Priests. However I wholly believe it is NOT the answer to send the AMS more Priests as active duty or reserve members of the armed forces. There is an option for contract Priests, borrowed on a needs basis from Diocese’s and presumably this could be done as well from Orders.
    The MAIN problem which encompasses all conflicts of the Priesthood with military service is that the AMS Bishop does not have the same and due Authority over his Priests and his faithful entrusted to his care. He has NO Parishes. It is impossible for him to defend his Priests and the full, true and authentic practice of the Catholic Faith when he doesn’t control Priests assignments and when ranking Protestant Chaplains dictate practices for chapels which are shared for worship and over which they maintain authority. This is the prevailing circumstance! It takes much longer to produce a Priest than to produce Protestant minister of any flavor. Unless and until the Arch Bishop for Military Services is assured due authority there should be no more military Priests. Priest who owe allegiance only to God and their full fledged Bishop can serve thr needs of the Faithful connected to the military on a contract or missionary basis.

  27. Pavegs says:

    @Ed the Roman – If it is true that a non-Catholic presented himself for communion and the Chaplain knew this he should have been told no, the chaplain DOES have authority to publicly refuse communion. This is a common problem. The military does not have any authority over how a chaplain worships, only his endorser does (which for Catholics is the AMS)

    @ANNAsher – The Archbishop of the Military Services does actually have the exact same authority to incardinate priests as any other bishop, the issue is that the AMS hasn’t the funds to send guys to seminary or to operate a house of formation; thus he must borrow priests. This does mean that he does not have full control, however it is actually a Catholic priest who assigns the priests. Sometimes protestants try to mess with the Catholics and assert authority over Catholic worship, however this is illegal and can be addressed. NO CHAPLAIN HAS THE AUTHORITY TO DICTATE HOW ANOTHER CHAPLAIN OF A DIFFERENT FAITH DOES WORSHIP!!! Some chaplains don’t get this, most do.

    Also the option for contract priests works ONLY in CONUS (in the US), it is not a solution but a bandaid. Also contract priests are only contracted for specific services, like saying mass. They are not with the troops daily like a chaplain is. We DO NEED MORE PRIESTS FOR THE AMS. One possible solution that has been discussed is the foundation of a religious order (Society of Apostolic Life) whose charism is to provide chaplains for the military.

  28. robtbrown says:

    Fr. Basil says:

    As for homosexuality, the repeal of DADT will NOT affect the seal of confession. In fact, with the present policy, there is greater danger of conflict.

    Why?

  29. Ed the Roman says:

    @Pavegs: thanks, I was careful to repeat what Father told me at the time. And the time was pushing thirty years ago.

  30. Revixit says:

    @ Fr. Z.,

    Paperwork gets lost in the military, same as anywhere else.
    If you really want to be a Navy chaplain, call them and tell them so. Keep calling and expressing interest until you get an answer. As a priest applying to be in the Chaplains Corps, I don’t think your age would matter. They’ve called up Reservists in their fifties for combat duty

    You’d learn a lot from military life. Just do it!

  31. Father!
    Please do consider enlisting! I don’t want to give false information, but the military makes all kinds of exemptions for medical personnel and I think the same holds true for the chaplaincy. I have Catholic Army buddies serving in Iraq who go MONTHS with no priest….and some of the priests they do have to put up with!! military parishes are reknowned for their irreverence–converting the Holy Mass into the ‘original amateur hour’ complete with banjos and auto harps!
    You are needed!

    k.c.

  32. Pavegs says:

    I believe that they actually will waiver a priest up to age 52 (in the Army, not sure about Navy), that is without prior service. It never hurts to ask. I had men well into their 50s at Chaplain School with me and they were protestant.

  33. Desertfalcon says:

    @ RobtBrown

    I was thinking that as the Archdiocese for the Military Services has no parishes proper that Deacons could fulfil some of the non-sacramental roles of military chaplains. The could be engaged in counselling and preaching and in taking care of administrative and liaison duties which often burden chaplains. While in the field they could expand the reach of the assigned priests and carry Holy Eucharist to troops in remote locations. I remember that there were designated ‘chaplain’s assistants’ when I was in the service but I can’t recall if it was just an additional duty or not.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    Why we need priests in the military? Confession, Eucharist, Sacrament of the Sick and Dying. No one else can give these gifts to our men and women in uniform except a priest.

  35. robtbrown says:

    Pavegs says:

    @Desertfalcon – Deacons would be pretty much useless in the role of military chaplain. What soldiers need are priests who can bring them the sacraments and especially hear confessions. Frankly Deacons do not have enough training to be able to provide what the military needs for Catholic servicemen. It is true that many duties of a unit Chaplain are not sacramental, the most critical duties are. There needs to be the ability to send a Chaplain wherever he is needed at any given time, frankly in a deployment situation a deacon would not be able to provide the most critical need, Mass.

    Agree. There is also the problem of rank, e.g., having a deacon who’s a Major or LTC and a priest who has just come into the service who’s a Captain.

  36. Stu says:

    robtbrown said: Agree. There is also the problem of rank, e.g., having a deacon who’s a Major or LTC and a priest who has just come into the service who’s a Captain.
    ——————————-
    Of all of the concerns, I don’t think that would be an issue. Most Catholic Chaplains I know aren’t concerned about rank. Further, the old tradition is that a chaplain assumes the rank of the most senior person in the room.

  37. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    We had a “new” military chaplain (Catholic Priest) from the Diocese of Erie PA, he was 57 and it was 1991. He had been a school Principal AND a pastor, and asked for a “break” to do something “different.” He came in as a Reservist during the build-up (Desert Storm) and stayed on…

    One of the best Chaplains I had encountered. Although “junior” in military rank, he had decades of experience! Stu is pretty much correct on the custom of the “Padre” or Chaplain being the “ranking” person, but fewer and fewer people are taught that.

    Fr. Z, IF the Navy won’t take you, consider the Air Force.

  38. Desertfalcon says:

    I think some people are also missing the point that if deacons could take up many of the non-sacramental duties of chaplains if *would* free up the available priests to concentrate more exclusively on hearing confessions, saying Mass, etc. My experience with deacons in general is that they are very well trained and capable. Maybe I have just been fortunate to have lived in dioceses that expect a high standard for their deacons. I don’t know why the same could not be expected of those working in the military Archdiocese.

  39. robtbrown says:

    Desertfalcon says:

    @ RobtBrown

    I was thinking that as the Archdiocese for the Military Services has no parishes proper that Deacons could fulfil some of the non-sacramental roles of military chaplains. The could be engaged in counselling and preaching and in taking care of administrative and liaison duties which often burden chaplains. While in the field they could expand the reach of the assigned priests and carry Holy Eucharist to troops in remote locations. I remember that there were designated ‘chaplain’s assistants’ when I was in the service but I can’t recall if it was just an additional duty or not.

    There is nothing in the diaconate that would indicate that counseling is a component. Counseling is attached to Confession.

    Although I understand the concern for administrative and liaison duties (some of which can be handled by assistants), nevertheless, there are certain non Sacramental duties that are part of the priesthood.

  40. Desertfalcon says:

    @ RobtBrown

    You are referring to a type and level of counselling that I was not referring to. I am not referring to matters that are part of the sacrament of penance or the specific pasturing of one’s soul. I am referring more generally to instructing soldiers in the field regarding the faith. Of guiding the faithful in the absence of a priest. Young soldiers like young people in general I suspect, often have questions in applying Church teaching to their daily lives. They are often ignorant of that teaching. In the military culture that I was a part of that can be especially trying for them. Deacons can fulfil that role to the faithful in counselling them in the faith and scripture and freeing up priests for their pastoral duties elsewhere.

  41. robtbrown says:

    Stu says:
    16 November 2010 at 10:20 pm

    robtbrown said: Agree. There is also the problem of rank, e.g., having a deacon who’s a Major or LTC and a priest who has just come into the service who’s a Captain.
    ——————————-
    Of all of the concerns, I don’t think that would be an issue. Most Catholic Chaplains I know aren’t concerned about rank. Further, the old tradition is that a chaplain assumes the rank of the most senior person in the room.

    It’s not a matter of whether they are concerned about rank, it’s a matter of who has authority. A priest always has authority over a deacon, but what if the priest is a Captain and the Deacon is a Major?

  42. robtbrown says:

    Desertfalcon,

    I wouldn’t call instruction in the faith counseling. But granting your assumption that it is, I can see a deacon doing that. On the other hand, I’m not so sure that deacons know much more about the faith than well catechized laymen.

  43. Stu says:

    robtbrown says:
    17 November 2010 at 1:15 pm
    It’s not a matter of whether they are concerned about rank, it’s a matter of who has authority. A priest always has authority over a deacon, but what if the priest is a Captain and the Deacon is a Major?
    ———————-
    Won’t matter. No one in that situation is going to care about rank differences.

  44. Ed the Roman says:

    It would be like having a Commander submarine officer and a LT pilot on an aircraft.

  45. Stu says:

    Exactly.

    Besides, even the military started using Deacons, they would most likely put them in places where there wasn’t a priest.