Priests Face Arrest for Performing Mass on Military Bases During Gov't Shutdown

By:  Dave Bohon
10/08/2013
       
Priests Face Arrest for Performing Mass on Military Bases During Gov't Shutdown

Some Catholic priests may face arrest if they perform Mass or other religious functions on military bases during the government shutdown.

The federal government has threatened to cancel some religious services at military bases during a so-called government shutdown, a move that prompted the House of Representatives to pass, by a 400-1 non-binding vote, a resolution strongly encouraging the Pentagon to forgo such an action. Among those who would be most adversely impacted by the religious service cancelation would be Catholics, who make up some 25 percent of military personnel, according to CBN News, but who are represented by just eight percent of active-duty military chaplains.

The House resolution says that not having full religious services on military bases “threatens the ability of members of the armed services and their families to exercise their First Amendment rights to worship and participate in religious activities.” The resolution strongly encourages the Pentagon to continue allowing religious services on any property owned or maintained by the Defense Department during the shutdown “in the same manner and to the same extent as religious services are otherwise available.”

CNSNews.com reported that, because there are only a little over 230 active-duty Catholic priests to serve some 275,000 Catholic military personnel, the government has contracted with non-military priests to help perform Mass and other religious functions. But according to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, these non-active-duty military priests face arrest if they perform Mass or other religious services on military bases during the government shutdown, even if they volunteer their time.

John Schlageter, general counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, explained in a letter on the archdiocese website that during the shutdown, contract priests hired by the federal government to fill in on military bases when no active duty priest is available “are not permitted to work — not even to volunteer. During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.”

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