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Government shutdown causes military to ban civilian priests from holding mass on military installations

In yet another byproduct of the Oct. 1 government shutdown, our almost 300,000 Catholics who serve in the military have now lost the ability to celebrate Mass, baptisms or christenings on their foreign base — at least not on the government’s watch.

According to CatholicVote.org, there are about 234 active-duty priests in the military. These men lead on-base Catholic services, but as one can see by the massive discrepancy between the amount of active-duty soldiers and active-duty priests, there’s a desperate need for some additional leadership.

That’s where we bring in general-scale (civilian-pay) and contracted priests. These guys are brought in to bridge the deficit of the low numbers of active-duty priests. They’re employed by the government as insurance to ensure the military will always have a Catholic chaplain on staff.

Unless there’s an all-encompassing government shutdown, that is.

Following the shutdown, no government-employed military priest is legally permitted to work. If they celebrate Mass, they’ll be arrested. If they give Mass voluntarily and with no expectation of compensation, they’ll be arrested.

Basically, if they do anything that would foster the spirituality of our nation’s soldiers, they’ll be arrested.

The Daily Caller spoke with Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, Army veteran and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, who remarked on the situation with poignant politicization.

“It is completely irresponsible for the president to turn his back on every American’s First Amendment rights by furloughing military contract clergy,” the article said.

No matter your opinion about President Barack Obama’s progress over the past five years, he likely didn’t play a dominant role in this furloughing. Or any role, really. Chances are he probably isn’t even aware of this ripple effect — most likely the result of a poorly designed contractual agreement for active-duty priests written up by a low-scale bureaucratic hand.

As tragic as inhibited religious practice and First Amendment infringements are, this situation brings us to yet another looming, all-too-relevant issue: the perforation that our burgeoning, bloated government has created in nearly all aspects of our daily lives. Note: You know things aren’t going too well when there are multiple issues relating to infringements on our basic human rights.

The bloated, burgeoning, colossal beast has simply grown to demand too much control from parts of our lives that essentially need to remain independent. In light of this shutdown, in light of soldiers losing their religious freedom, in light of the Wall Street Journal reporting 800,000 federal workers being furloughed last week, the realization that our lives can’t afford to be run by a faceless, national conglomerate is starting to sink in.

And with the Affordable Care Act beginning to roll out, are these the guys that we really want in charge of how we get our health care?

 Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]


  • Another nail in Obama’s political coffin. It matters not whether the soldiers are Democrats or Republicans ,they are Catholics united.

  • This is inaccurate. Military chaplains of all faiths, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu, continue to work. Chaplains who are Catholic priests continue to celebrate mass. But civilian contractors have been furloughed–whether they are clerks or mechanics or piano players or directors of religious education. And this includes civilian priests who have been hired to celebrate mass where there is a shortage of Catholic chaplains. They were furloughed not because they were Catholic, and not because they were celebrating mass, but because they are civilians. Military chaplains continue to do their ministry around the world.

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