The paucity of priests serving in active duty in the US Military’s Chaplain Corps is nearing disaster.
I think there are three active duty priests in the Army in Iraq. The number of Navy chaplains, who serve the Marine as well, is dropping. It has been suggested that someone, somewhere, in the heights of the executive branch and military leadership, are trying to reduce the number of priests. There will also be problems from a repeal of “Don’t ask don’t tell”.
That said, the Archbishop of Baltimore, H.E. Most Rev.Edwin O’Brien, former Archbp. for the Military Services wrote a column in his diocesan paper, The Catholic Review, about problems with the number of chaplains.
Here is an excerpt.
It is my understanding that my fine but frustrated successor as Archbishop for the Military Services, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, has pleaded with military leaders at very high levels to show some concern for those of our Faith, but the new mantra of the Chaplain Corps is said to be: A chaplain is a chaplain, is a chaplain, is a chaplain. In other words, it makes no difference what religious needs you have as long as there is a chaplain of any denomination nearby. For Catholics, this is unacceptable!
The result? Catholics are down to some 70 priests to serve our three sea services when the need is more than twice as many. And those “slots” no longer filled by priests are going over to chaplains of other denominations, some of whom are overeager to welcome our young, Catholic, spiritually hungry service men and women into their fold.