HELP! The dire state of US Military Chaplains


The US Bishops are meeting in their annual plenary session.  Yesterday, Most Rev. Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, delivered a presentation on the dire state of the number of chaplains serving the military and their families.

His presentation is dire.  He doesn’t pull punches.   Broglio starts about 34:00.  On demand page HERE: 2015-11-16 Afternoon Session

(Apparently either the blog doesn’t like that code or that code doesn’t like this blog.  Interesting.  I wonder if this can be embedded by anyone else.)

He calls on all the bishops to be more open to the service of their priests as military chaplains.

You readers who are not diocesan bishops can’t send men to serve, but you can support the work of military chaplains by sending a donation.

To make a donation online, please go to




About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. MasterofCeremonies says:

    Father, is there a direct link to the video of the Archbishop? I see an error message stating that the video cannot be viewed from this website.

  2. It’s in the post, above.

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    Archbishop Broglio starts at 34:00 in the afternoon session.

    I also watched the press conference, which featured several different questions that were all from liberal reporters. I found it quite funny. The bishops’ handling of them was fairly deft.

  4. RAve says:

    The most Christ-like selfless priests I have known have been active duty military chaplains serving in war. The circumstance of war makes the soldier and the priest very aware of what is essential.

    No one works harder than an active duty military priest.

  5. Deo volente says:

    Father, just tried to post it in Blogger but it’s a Macromedia Object. Sorry, no go!

  6. frbolin says:

    His Excellency’s comments are wholly accurate, and not an exaggeration of any kind. As a priest-chaplain in the Army, I can testify that we have uniformed priest-chaplains, priest-chaplains who have retired, but are still serving on a temporary status as “retiree recalls,” and government-contracted civilian priests who potentially serve both the military community and also the local civilian community. Those contract priests, though, only serve to administer the sacraments and counsel those who actually come to the chapel. A chaplain actually serves in uniform alongside our congregants, going anywhere and everywhere our people do.

    Tonight, the Army Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Major General) Paul Hurley, a priest-chaplain, will host a dinner for those bishops who have provided priests to the Archdiocese for the Military. May the Lord continue to provide laborers for the fields.

    My experience is that nearly half of new chaplains, regardless of faith tradition, are “prior-service,” having served in the military in another capacity before following God’s call to ministry. The Archbishop touches on this he references the fact that the military is the greatest source of vocations. I am in this boat, as are many men that I know.

    May God continue to guide and bless us.

  7. restoration says:

    Now that we have gay weddings at West Point Chapel and women on submarines, doesn’t the Catholic Church needs to rethink its support of the U.S. military and those of other nations who allow open sodomy in the ranks and encourage the poison of radical feminism?

    The United States military is officially a sodomite army now, so why are Catholics even serving in such an entity, let alone formally assigning chaplains? I discourage young Catholics from having anything more to do with the military. The mixed-gender training alone is a near occasion of sin. Please do not support Catholic chaplains. They need to return to their diocese of origin and Catholic servicemen need to make arrangements to leave the military as soon as possible.

    [You’ve written like this before about chaplaincy and I have been shocked and saddened each time. I repudiate what you wrote, this spiritually stingy message, in the strongest terms. It is precisely because the military is being subjected to evil social engineering that priests are needed to see to the needs of the Catholics who are serving, some in very hard conditions, many young and far from home. When I was in Italy I wound up sometimes on American and NATO bases. I recall how the enlisted and officers alike glommed on to me when they saw the Roman collar. They were happy to see a priest and eager to talk. I’ve known quite a few Navy, Army and Air Force chaplains and they are outstanding men. I recently posted about one of my friends HERE. The Apostles and great saints went out among sinners. So the military services have problems. Boo hoo. Catholics don’t hide like quivering voles from problems. The Catholic Church is for sinners, not the pure. We cannot send Catholics into harm’s way – and there are many kinds of harm – without recourse to the sacraments. “A subitanea et improvisa morte… From a sudden and unprovided death, spare us O Lord.” Pray for chaplains and support them through the Archdiocese.]

  8. AmjdhA says:

    Archbishop Broglio’s remarks are succinct, honest, and accurate. I am under the AMS and have witnessed these things first hand – especially the “ecumenical” programs that seem so innocent and friendly.

    I hope that all those listening took his message to heart. Our military priests do so much and help so many. They need more help. Please, ask your civilian bishops to support the AMS. They will receive so much more in return. And God bless those bishops who already have priests serving in our Archdiocese.

  9. Amerikaner says:

    A good chaplain, stationed overseas, was recently sent back stateside. His offense? He upset progressives at the chapel who didn’t like his inclusion of Latin at Mass and his more traditionally Catholic viewpoint. He was reported to his superior, a non-Catholic, who helped to push him out. The state of many military chapels leaves much to be desired. This priest was in the military for a long time and said that with all of the changes, he is actually ready to get out now. He said it is hard being a good priest in the military services and that his pleas to the Archbishop were ignored. Having experienced my fair share of Masses at various bases, I can see why he was negative on the state of things in the military system and with the progressive chaplains stationed at bases.

  10. MAJ Tony says:

    @restoration Fr Z has already dealt with you, and I don’t have the time to write the treatise on how WRONG you are. As a career Guardsman, I’ve somehow in 23 years and 3 deployments into combat zones been blessed to have access to the sacraments. The Army is not a “Sodomite Army.” You act as if there were not always those with same-sex attraction (SSA) in our ranks. The fact that there always have been actually explains why San Francisco is filled with them. You act as if we who execute the laws of the nation in the area of national security had a choice in the matter of accepting openly SSA individuals into our ranks. You act as if we as citizens of our nation have a choice in whether or not we provide for it’s defense. I will tell you we do not have a choice, we have a DUTY, directly or indirectly. Did all the earliest converts to Christianity who were Roman soldiers (exercitus) leave the service of their pagan empire?

  11. tzabiega says:

    What upsets me is when bishops and Catholics in general talk about a lack of priests in the U.S. I would recommend everyone look on the website and look up dioceses in Latin America, where you have on average one priest per 10 to 30 thousand Catholics, while in the U.S. the number is usually one priest per several hundred Catholics, or at worse per a few thousand. In some parishes in Latin America Mass is celebrated once a year, certainly not something American Catholics have to worry about. So bishops have priests to spare and should be encouraging them to volunteer to serve as an Army chaplain for a few years or even promoting this among young, recently ordained priests as a great opportunity for a wonderful spiritual experience. I agree that the rampant immorality in the U.S. Armed Forces these days would not encourage me to want to have my children serve in it (except for times of real national threat–which our meddling in the Middle East has not been), but this immorality is more of a reason for a need for more chaplains to counter the poisonous atmosphere there. Archbishop Broglio is wonderful and I wish we had him here in Chicagoland instead of Archbishop Cupich.

  12. Charles E Flynn says:

    From Stretched to its limits, US military archdiocese appeals for more priests (CNA/EWTN News):

    “If the Armed Forces were ever to be completely without priests, most observers agree that they would soon be completely without chaplains of any kind,” he said.

    Ironically, the Armed Forces is actually “the largest single source of vocations in this country” according to a 2015 CARA study. It found that six percent of newly ordained priests surveyed had prior military service, and 16 percent were children of active duty parents.

  13. frbolin says:

    I would like to submit a couple more notes on this topic, based on the comments of others.

    First, yes, serving as a faithful Catholic in the military can be challenging, and it is becoming more so, in light of the continuing shifts in our government’s official policies. It is not impossible, however. I am currently serving as an ethicist, in addition to my duties as a Catholic chaplain, and I have heard multiple young, newly-commissioned Second Lieutenants comment that the government changed the terms of the contract that they agreed to when they received their commissions as officers (the June 2015 Obergefell SCOTUS ruling). They struggle with serving while remaining faithful. My recommendation to them has been to reduce the scope of their struggle. Yes, each one of us can be overwhelmed at the thought of serving a culture that is in such serious moral decline. The question is whether we can influence positively those in our own individual context (military, our Area of Operation / Area of Influence). If so, and if enough of us do so, we may be influence a greater area at large.

    Second, regarding Amerikaner’s comment, being a Traditionalist with the Army Chaplaincy is difficult; I’ve been told the Navy is a bit more receptive, though I cannot confirm that. I am a Traditionalist, if one were to put a label on it (I would go with Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s general line of thought here). I’ve been told by fellow priest-chaplains that ad orientum celebration of the Mass went out with Vatican II. I’ve been told by laity, fellow priests, and even bishops, that there is no need for offering the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in a military Catholic community; they can drive 1.5 to 3 hours to attend one. All of this in spite of the fact that I’ve had young officers, young NCOs, families with young children, and civilians and military retirees that have asked for the offering of the EF within the military Catholic community. While no one can prohibit its offering, there is strong pressure not to go there. The other bit of guidance is that a Mass that is already established in the Ordinary Form cannot be changed to an EF Mass (directive guidance that I have personally received), which leaves only the option of adding to what can be an already packed schedule. It can be frustrating.

    Here is the bottom line in all of this, from the perspective of 1 Catholic priest-chaplain (former Infantryman, former Signaleer, former Protestant minister and chaplain) – I don’t do what I do for love of country anymore, although that’s what initially put me into a military uniform 23 years ago. I do what I do for love of Soldiers. That’s what Fr Z hit on earlier with his comment back to “restoration”. Our Soldiers deserve the best that we can give them. While there is a general trend within American culture, within the military, and even within the chaplaincy, toward the “lowest common denominator” – a push away from Venerable Fulton’s Sheen’s comment that the priest is to give his life for his people, serving in this regard is still worth doing.

    Personally, I can retire in 1 more assignment. I have promised to remain open to God’s leading, in or out of uniform. I am, as we say, “pegged-out” on the military fun-meter, and ready to put down roots and invest long-term in people’s lives. We all go where God sends us and are to grow where we’re planted.

  14. Here in the Diocese of Arlington, I know at least two Navy men recently ordained. These men will serve a Diocese parish for 3 years and then return to the Navy as chaplains. What more could these two sacrificing men do? I’m gonna hate seeing these fine priests leave for duty, but the need for support in the military is critical. So many military are without spiritual support or Sacraments.

  15. jameeka says:

    frbolin: thank you, thank you for your goodness and service. I have had two Catholic nephews in the Army, and the chaplain-priests they have encountered there, those faithful few, have been crucial to their own development and prayer life as grown men. Yes, these nephews have gotten fairly cynical about the direction our military has been going, but they are thankfully reminded by these priests — what is REALLY essential.

  16. WYMiriam says:

    restoration, I wonder why you use that username. What exactly would be “restored” if all the Catholics in the chaplaincy and in the military ranks were to abandon the military?

    Now that “gay” “marriage” has been forced upon the USA by two men and three women in black robes, has this country officially become a “sodomite country”? If so, then I would expect to see you tell us that ALL Catholic priests should flee to another country, and that ALL Catholics should follow them, and that NO Catholic from a foreign country should be encouraged (or even, perhaps, allowed) to enter this country.

    That is exactly where your brand of illogic leads to; is that really what you want?

    We need more Catholic chaplains, so that the Catholic members of the military — I speak particularly of those overseas, especially in the Middle East (where a nephew of mine once served for a year) — can have access to the sacraments more than once every six to twelve months — if at all.

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