Obama Administration Tyrannizes Military Chaplains

Obama Administration Tyrannizes Military Chaplains February 3, 2012


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  • Tom

    This is horrible. Absolutely horrible. On the brightside they worked together and compromised. On the dark side they worked together and compromised…on our freedoms and Faith… You WILL comply!!!

  • Tom

    Many on the left would love to see Military Chaplians removed from serving in the Armed Forces because it allegedly violates Church and State provisions. It doesn’t violate anything if the sort, but if it does happen and it could based on this Administration’s anti-catholic bigotry, it will allow turnkey force feed their anti-human anti-religion policies. It reminds me of the State controlled Church in China. This action is frightening. I don’t think Americans realize the impact this will have not only on our military but on America as well. Thank you Mark for highlighting this. I never would have known about this until I saw it on your blog this morning.

  • Thomas Magner

    I am not a leftist but would love to see Catholic Military Chaplains removed from serving in the armed services. Priests should not be serving military goals, but rather, the spiritual needs of soldiers. I think it is quite possible to develop an alternate system of chaplains not paid by the government, and not subject to military discipline. Under the present system we should not be surprised that chaplains are expected to support goals set by military leaders.

    • S. Murphy

      Belive it or not, the uniform helps the chaplains serve more effectively. The military isn’t like any other work environment. It helps, even in Confession, but also in counseling, for the padre to know what the guys go through at work, and to speak the local language.
      OTOH, the fact that chaplains are officers can put some of the enlisted personnel off — but a good chaplain overcomes that by going where the junior enlisted folk are, seeing what they’re doing, showing an interest. If he hangs out at the command post or in the wardroom, and never gets out, then he’s not very useful, except to those who show up for services. Then, the fact that he’s an officer, and knows how the service works, allows him a little leeway, and some collar-weight to push back with if somebody tries to push him around, or to push around somebody who wants to see him, as well as the professional understanding of how to go about it.

    • Glenn

      One of our previous command chaplains, a Navy Captain (O-6), and absolutely the finest priest I’ve ever met in the military, has a similar opinion, albeit for differing reasons. He is a proponent of having military chaplains, but that their salaries should be paid for by the chaplain’s church/denomination/faith organization. The logic behind his line of thought is that too many chaplains are merely people who can’t make it as ministers of faith in the non-military world and use the US Armed Services as a means of getting paid a decent salary and, if they stay long enough, a good retirement benefit program as well. In his words, “too many supposed reverends with mail-order divinity degrees and no real ministerial skills.”

  • Julia

    The chaplain here must have missed that memo, because he did read the letter from Archbishop Broglio during the homily, and managed to tie it in to the rest of his (excellent) homily. He did seem very nervous about talking about it, but he got nothing but compliments after Mass. He’s an excellent chaplain (I know several non-Catholics who attend Matt just to hear his homilies) but extremely overworked. And yet, he always finds time to hear a confession or give some sound advice.

    All priests need our prayers, but I always like to add some extra prayers for military chaplains.

  • chris

    I find it quite interesting that the part of the letter that was objected to is a point of philosophy, though stated clearly by St. Augustine and others. So the Army chaplaincy did not object to the Church saying that contraception and abortion are bad, but a point of Platonic philosophy that was accidental to this teaching. Thus the Church is allowed to say Yay or Boo to whatever it wishes, but if it attempts to draw conclusions or political implications, that is out of bounds. This is quite troubling, and is similar to or part and parcel of the reduction of freedom of religion to freedom of worship.

    Furthermore, the objection is idiotic. Its a shame archbishop Broglio didn’t volunteer a substitute, once he saw the letter ran afoul ….”all laws that are contrary to the Constitution are unconstitutional, and unconstitutional laws are not laws”. It would have sounded stupid, but surely the higher-ups would be hard pressed to object to it.

    • Your observation is further proof of what Wesley J. Smith has noticed about this controversy and its similarity to instances of Christian persecution during the Roman Empire, specifically:

      When the Christians under the rule of Pliny the Younger wouldn’t offer a pinch of incense to the Emperor Trajan, he wanted to execute them for their “stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy”, not for their belief in Jesus as the Christ.

      It’s not that Obama wants to institute “thought police” or substantially change the way we believe. He just doesn’t want any of us to act on our beliefs in the public square. He wants us to _act as if_ we support the social order he stands for; he doesn’t care what we really think about anything. Just a pinch of incense – that’s all.


  • Fr. J

    This is off topic, but it was great to finally meet you in person on your visit to Minnesota. It was a great presentation. May God bless you.

    • Mark Shea

      Thanks, Father! It was a pleasure meeting you!

  • Este

    It isn’t tyranny to expect Catholic chaplains to follow protocol and rules no more or no less than chaplains of other faiths.
    Catholic chaplains are employed by the US gov’t, have rank w/o command and get their pay (usually MUCH more than they would receive working for a diocese) from the taxpayers.

    Don’t like it, start your own military. ‘nuf said

    • Carlos Perera

      Er . . . no. All military orders are not legal: e.g., an order to shoot inconvenient prisoners or to rape the enemy’s women in order to sow terror would, if followed, make the hapless serviceman liable to war crimes prosecution. Servicemen do not lose their Constitutional rights when they don the uniform, they may only be circumscribed reasonably to accommodate the demands of an armed service.

      Telling chaplains what they may or may not say regarding a matter of religious import (even if they necessarily have a political dimension), as opposed to, for instance, divulging military secrets or inciting mutiny, is not such a reasonable accommodation. Recall that Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation,” used in a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptists, referred to a wall that would protect the practice of religion from the federal government, not the federal government from the practice of religion. That principle applies here.

      • Este

        All military orders are not legal: e.g., an order to shoot inconvenient prisoners or to rape the enemy’s women in order to sow terror would, if followed, make the hapless serviceman liable to war crimes prosecution.

        You obviously know very little about how the military functions and you try in vain to cover that up with extreme comparisons.
        If members of the military want to hear calls to be disobedient they are free to attend services outside of military installations from clergy who are not on the payroll of the military.

        • Mark Shea

          Military personel do not swear an oath of obedience to Health and Human Services. This was an abuse of power by the Administration–because they could get away with it.

          • Dismas


            I’m glad you brought this up:

            “This was an abuse of power by the Administration–because they could get away with it.”

            I’m not just a little confused at the moment why I don’t see conservative secular or Catholic bloggers, in light of the constitution, identifying exactly what these are abuses are and why the Administration is getting away with it?

            In light of the constitution, are these only abuses or are they in fact actually criminal acts? What are valid articles of impeachment, how does the impeachment process work? Why don’t I see bloggers exploring and discussing these topics?

            Another big contradiction for me is why Ron Paul, the libertarian constitutional republican candidate and I believe, one of your favorite presidential hopefuls, has been very quiet on these issues in light of recent events.

            I thought as a country we hadn’t given into and adopted marxism yet, but recently I’m no longer sure.

            • Jared

              I’m not sure if Paul has said anything publically about the contraception mandate; however, Jeff Cavins posted this on facebook last night:

              I spoke today with Presidential candidate, Ron Paul. I asked him about President Obama’s healthcare initiative that would force Catholics to offer coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.

              His comments were interesting. He mentioned the fact that Catholics are no different than any other group that would be losing their rights. One thing that he said, really made me think. He told me that Catholics need to unite, they are divided on a number of issues, including Medicare. Then he said, “you Catholics need to unite and listen to your pope.” Not bad advice, is it?”

              “Losing their rights” seems to imply that he’s against it.

              • well, there’s little doubt that Paul is against the HHS edict, as he is the “Constitutional” candidate, and the HHS edict basically shreds the 1st Amendment.

          • Este

            Ridiculous retort. There’s a reason it’s called a chain of command. Like it or not, chaplains must abide by the UCMJ as long as they are commissioned and taking a paycheck. That’s the deal. Some have always said it wasn’t a great deal. Catholic chaplains got a raw deal under Protestant chief of chaplains for a long time until the position was put on a rotation. That’s the way it is.

            If military personnel really want to hear lackluster calls for civil disobedience from
            clergy, they can hear all they want (short of
            sedition ) off base.
            It’s time to be real and stop puffing up our chests
            and living in a fantasy world free of obligations
            and consequences.

            • FrMichael

              Way back when I joined the Service as a young man, while the Cold War raged, I heard plenty about not following illegal orders. We watched “Breaker Morant” and heard about the Nuremburg trials. Funny how the military no longer apparently follows this.

              Este, get a clue. The Army Chief of Chaplains is not even in most chaplains’ chain of command. His ridiculous bleats should have been treated with contempt by rank-and-file Catholic chaplains. Glad to read that many Army priests ignored the impious windbag.

              Just realized a few minutes ago that the Army Chief of Chaplains is a priest. I emailed the Military Archdiocese and suggested that he remove the priest’s ecclesiastical endorsement, which he clearly does not deserve. Then I find he is from Albany. Ha! That lousy diocese strikes again. I’m sure more than a few Protestant chaplains must have been scratching their heads over the occasion of a Catholic priest wearing stars contradicting his archbishop.

  • Elaine S.

    If this letter was so “subversive” why didn’t the Navy, Air Force, or Marines have a problem with it? ONLY the Army objected.

  • S. Murphy

    There was really no call to civil disobedience on the poart of military members on the Archbishops’s letter, that I can see. It’s the bishops, not Catholics in the ranks of the military, who are being asked by the administration to violate their consciences. It’s the bishops who can comply or not comply – seems that this bishop is explaining the situation to his flock, not directing any action on their part — except maybe to do what they still have a right to do – call their Congresscritters and ask them to support conscience protections.

    The chief of chaplains technically isn’t in any chaplain’s chain of command – chaplains are special staff to a commander – not commanders themselves. At the same time the Army (and Navy) Chiefs of Chaplains probably have authority delegated by the service chief to set policy for staff officers in their field to follow (probably staffed around the service heardquarters and issued under the service chief’s signature when it’s not an immediate, ad hoc thing like this). I think the Army made a bad call – it would have been better just to tell the chaplains to explain that the bishop wasn’t calling for personnel to disobey orders (there aren’t any relevant to the issue) or show up for demonstrations in uniform – which would be against the UCMJ.

  • P Robinson

    Question. If a Catholic layperson employs other people (say to arrange flowers), and is forced to choose between letting those people go or cooperating with material evil (by paying for insurance for sterilization and abortifacients), or as a third alternative, civil disobedience, and if she then looks for guidance to her priest, who by coincidence gives the homily at the mass at the chapel on the Army base, who has the final say on what this chaplain may legitimately tell her?

    • S. Murphy

      The priest. It’s not even an issue.
      ( Unless she’s a military dependant and he tells her to put up a political protest sign on her lawn in base housing or something like that.

  • FrMichael

    Hey, better to light a candle than curse the darkness. It is easy enough at http://www.milarch.org to contact the bishops of the Military Archdiocese (the archbishop and two auxiliaries, another auxiliary having recently died). I sent an email there recommending that the Archdiocese pull the endorsement of Rev. Rutherford (doesn’t deserve “Father”), the Army’s Chief of Chaplains. Instead of prancing around wearing two stars, he can serve as an associate in the frozen wastes of the Empire State. Sounds like a win-win: a notoriously priest-short diocese gets another priest, and this poor exuse of a military chaplain is humbled.