Priests Who Join Military as Chaplains ‘Answering a Call Within a Call’


Father Ben Garrett said he has “never felt more useful in my life” as a priest than as a Navy chaplain meeting the pastoral and sacramental needs of service members.

“Being a priest in the military is extremely fulfilling,” he said. “Not only is it a need for our people, but it’s also a great blessing for the priest himself.

“Our men and women in uniform take on great sacrifices on behalf of our country, and they need to be taken care of spiritually,” he told Catholic News Service…

Read on here.



Christian Air Force Chaplain Under Fire for Reference to Atheists

bible-american-flagWorthy News:

An Air Force chaplain in Alaska who was censored in his weekly column may now face additional consequences, according to The Washington Times.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Reyes had posted a sermon on the base’s online site titled: “No Atheists in Foxholes”. Although the saying comes from a speech made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation claimed that Reyes’ reference to atheists somehow violated military policy. But even after his sermon was removed from the site, MRFF demanded that Reyes also be disciplined.

In reply, the Family Research Council asked why we even have chaplains if they aren’t allowed to express theirs beliefs about the role of faith in the lives of their fellow service members?

Military chaplains are the exception to the First Amendment’s establishment clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Under the principle of religious accommodation, the government may support religious activity if it addresses the religious needs of Department of Defense personnel who, because of government action, no longer have access to religious resources. When the military separates service members from their worship, the government may provide the required religious resources, i.e., chaplains. In this situation, the government is simply responding to a religious need and not promoting religion.

U.S. Army Regulation 165-1 states: “In striking a balance between the ‘establishment’ and ‘free exercise’ clauses, the Army chaplaincy, in providing religious services and ministries to the command, is an instrument of the U.S. government to ensure that soldiers’ ‘free exercise’ rights are protected. At the same time, chaplains are trained to avoid even the appearance of any establishment of religion.”

Military chaplains predate the Constitution; in September 1775, George Washington wrote Benedict Arnold to ensure religious freedom within the ranks of his command.


US Navy Rejects Humanist Applicant for Chaplain; Retired Chaplain: Chaplains Are People of Faith

After the Army recently permitted “humanist” (non-believer) as a religious preference, many hoped a humanist chaplain might follow, the Religion News website reports today (June 4, 2014).

But the Navy last week rejected the application of Jason Heap, a humanist, for the position of chaplain, a Navy official familiar with the case confirmed. Details of the Navy’s decision were not revealed due to privacy concerns.

Roy Speckhardt — executive director of the American Humanist Association — called for a reversal of the decision. “Prejudice is not an American value,” he said.

On the other hand, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty welcomed the decision. “Chaplains, historically and by definition, are people of faith,” said retired reserve Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “You can’t have an ‘atheist chaplain’ any more than you can have a ‘tiny giant’ or a ‘poor millionaire.'”




George Washington and Army Chaplains

James Caldwell, the “soldier parson”

On Fr Peter Preble’s blog, yesterday:

On this day, February 7, 1776, General George Washington notifies his troops of a new policy regarding chaplains’ pay. He’d advocated for better treatment of his chaplains, and he’d succeeded!Shortly after Washington assumed command of the American army during the summer of 1775, the Continental Congress approved its first act regarding chaplains. This act set chaplains’ salaries at $20 per month just above that of lieutenants. Washington was unimpressed. He wrote the President of Congress, noting that the pay was “too Small to encourage men of Abilities.” He asked that a way be found to increase chaplains’ salaries.

Congress approved Washington’s request. It passed an act providing for the appointment of one chaplain to every two regiments. The chaplains had more responsibility, but their pay was also increased. Instead of $20 per month, they were to receive a little more than $33 per month. Washington announced the change on February 7, 1776.

After a few months, Washington decided that the system (unfortunately) did not work for logistical reasons. If regiments were separated due to the demands of war, one regiment might find itself without a chaplain for a while. Washington wrote Congress again. He asked that chaplains be assigned one per regiment, with a salary “competent to their support.”

Congress initially agreed, but the new policy did not last. Eventually, fiscal concerns caused chaplains to be assigned one per brigade. A brigade was a much larger unit of the army; it could be composed of several regiments. In other words, there were fewer chaplains, overall, in the army.

Washington objected again. Interestingly, his main concern was for religious liberty. He wanted many chaplains of a variety of faiths. If there were fewer chaplains overall, then, by definition, there were fewer choices for his men. They were more likely, he wrote Congress, to be compelled “to a mode of Worship, which they do not profess.” Washington preferred the old system, with more chaplains and a greater likelihood that the men could have “a Chaplain of their own religious Sentiments.”

Perhaps what is most interesting about all of these events is the great importance that Washington placed upon the presence of chaplains in his army. He thought they served a valuable function, and he advocated for them consistently. Remember that Washington often faced shortages of supplies and funds. Yet he thought it important to spend some of these valuable funds on chaplains.



Chaplain Corps: A Place to Run for Help

Via nwf daily news:

An emergency storm shelter and a place of safety you can run to. A first sergeant’s 911. An ear to listen to issues, with a 100-percent confidentiality guarantee. Sometimes the only thing standing between someone and their final decision.
These are just some samples of what chaplains and chaplain assistants offer Air Commandos here.

It doesn’t matter what faith a person follows, or how they live their lives; the chaplain corps is available to them, 24/7.
“We are here for everyone,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Hunsinger, 1st Special Op-erations Wing. “We accommodate all religious and non-religious beliefs. You don’t have to have a spiritual or religious issue to come to us, or believe as I do to get my help and counseling. I will always do my best to help someone find their own bedrock of belief to stand on in times of trouble.”

The chapel staff sees every memorial service on base, from those who fell in battle, died in an accident or took their own lives. They are the ones who give comfort to those left behind… even when they are wrestling with their own struggles.
“We can’t help but ask ourselves, ‘What if that person had come through our doors, would this have happened?’” said Master Sgt. Steven Reed, 1st SOW chapel NCO in charge and lead chaplain assistant. “What if one of their friends, coworkers or family needs the same help — would they come to us before it’s too late?”

Chapel staff members are always available as a good safety valve for anyone to talk to about any issue, big or small, legal or not. But, the majority of their work revolves around people who have reached rock bottom and need help finding their way up.

“We talk to a lot of different people; sometimes it’s about things that are illegal, dan-gerous or at a crisis point,” said Reed. “Every member of a chapel office is trained in crisis counseling and suicide intervention. If a chaplain isn’t immediately available, you can talk to a chaplain’s assistant for the same level of care. Give me the opportunity to help you if you’re not comfortable going to mental health or your leadership.”

Sometimes a person doesn’t know the “whys” of their feelings or actions, they just know they need to do something, said Chaplain (Capt.) David McGuire, 1st SOW. Hopefully, that something isn’t a permanent something.

“I believe in life after death, but I also believe in ‘life before death’ — you have to live your life,” McGuire said.

“Sometimes we get so tightly focused on the bad that people don’t know what to do next. I try to help you pull back so you can find your balance and see if there is an underlying cause. I’m like a camera operator: people tend to zoom into an issue or crisis. We help you ‘pan out’ and figure out a way to work through it.”

So, you can come in for ‘A,’ said McGuire, but chaplains help you find out it is actually ‘E’ and help you figure out a way to fix it.

For those who are faith-centered, the chapel and its staff can be an extension of “home and family,” said McGuire. For those who aren’t driven by faith, the chapel can be an emergency shelter and an escape from the chaos outside.

While some people might be hesitant to go to a spiritual leader for help, chaplains and chaplain assistants are the only people with 100 percent confidentiality in the military. This means they are able to lead someone through a problem without fear of legal or administrative repercussions.

“Sometimes people do things that are illegal or unethical, and they will come to us for help,” Reed said. “As soon as they step into the building, or into a chaplain’s office at a unit, they are protected by absolute, 100 percent confidentiality.

“If an Airman is spilling his guts to me about something illegal, and there is a first sergeant down the hall who hears it, that Airman cannot be charged with anything due to the expectation of confidentiality,” he continued. “In addition, if that first sergeant later asks about that Airman or that conversation, we won’t say anything.”

That means if someone has an issue that is less-than-legal, causing a major crisis or both, the chaplains and their staff are the people to go to.

“Life happens; people do things they later regret, but don’t want to say anything,” Hunsinger said. “They are afraid it will end their military careers, destroy their clearances or ruin their lives. These men and women feel trapped by what they have done, and what they think the consequences will be if they speak about it to a military doctor or leader.

“We will help you guide you to where you need to go, be it substance abuse counseling, hospitalization or other avenues, but we will never force you there,” he continued. “Our first and last priority is you, plain and simple.”