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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Permanent Deacon Military Chaplains?

Today's military is in dire need of chaplains. Our U.S. Catholic military men and women overseas can go months without the sacraments and the presence of Catholic chaplains. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion were banned by Archbishop O'Brien due to abuses of "Communion Services." In many cases those seeking some kind of spiritual engagement seek out protestant ministers. Yet it is my understanding (corerect me if I am wrong) that the Archdiocese of the Military - or the Department of Defense does not allow Permanent Deacons to serve as chaplains. Based on at least one conversation I have had with a high ranking military chaplain at the Pentagon, I believe it is the DOD that does not allow it. Apparently they only want Priest Chaplains. I could be wrong, I may have misunderstood. Obviously it would be wonderful to have a plethera of Catholic Priests serving as Chaplains, but wouldn't it at least be better to have Permanent Deacons as Catholic Chaplains than to have Catholics seeking spiritual direction from protestant chaplains?

I found the article below interesting - apparently the Canadian military does allow Permanent Deacon Chaplains...

KANDAHAR — In an environment where death and brutality is inevitably part of the process, faith and religion are too.

"We're that light in the darkness, that calm in the storm," said Maj. Michel Dion, a battle group padre stationed at Kandahar Air Field, where Canadians and troops from other coalition countries are based as part of the mission to rid the Taliban.

There are currently five chaplains providing faith and religion-based services to Canadians on this base that is home to more than 10,000 military personnel. The services are primarily intended for Canadians, but multinational outreach is offered as well.

"Our primary mission is to support the mission here by providing spiritual, religious and ethical support for members," said Dion, a permanent Roman Catholic deacon who has been stationed here for four months. "We provide a ministry of presence." (Photo at left shows Deacon Michel Dion in uniform on the right)

Regular visits to military units, prayer seminars, including religious support for the wounded, sick and dead are available to the troops here, and many take up the offer.

"Our services are utilized quite a lot, in actuality, as Canadians have become more and more involved (in the mission)," Dion said. "It's challenging to have to interpret what's going on out there. And situations can be very traumatic for some. We work with helping members cope and get through traumatic events. We're a voice for those who feel voiceless."

Dion, who has served in the military for 20 years — 10 in his current capacity — is one of a select few here who don't carry a weapon.

"Being able to walk around Afghanistan without a weapon, that's what everyone here is trying to accomplish," he said.


Chris Osgood said...

I think it should be aloud. It is keeping them from their faith.

Timothy said...

>"wouldn't it at least be better to have Permanent Deacons as Catholic Chaplains than to have Catholics seeking spiritual direction from protestant chaplains?"

While I agree that Catholic guidance is better than Protestant, Catholic deacons are almost useless on the battlefield. Only priests can hear confessions and absolve sins, only priests can offer last rites, and only priests can confect the Eucharist.

As a Catholic warrior, when I deploy, I ask for a priest during mobility processing and not a deacon. When Catholic warriors go "wheels up", we need to be in state of grace. (yeah, I know we're called to be in a constant state of grace, but we have weaknesses too.)

God bless... +Timothy

Brad Watkins said...

Timothy, I couldn't agree more. This is perhaps the best reason for Permanent Deacon Chaplains - much like in the Acts of the Apostles the first Deacons allowed the "Priests" to do their ministry. By allowing Permanent Deacons to stay back at the bases and more of our priest chaplains could go to the "front lines" to hear confessions, offer Mass, and annoint.

Charivari Rob said...

I searched around a little. Didn't find anything regarding a DoD position on priest v. deacons.

I did find the following on the website of the Archdiocese for the Military Services:


Peter said...

Though well intentioned, the comments above ignore the fact that we do not have the proper support as Catholic Soldiers in the U.S. Army. The numbers simply are not there. Much like what our civilian Catholic bretheren must realize, we Catholic Warriors need to be ready to recieve God's Grace from an individual who happens to be only one vow away from priesthood (and potentially with a greater kit-bag of expereince to be able to refer to [married?]). Times are changing... The acceptance of the deaconate as a legit Catholic mode of ministry will bolster our Church's spiritual health... Its disregard will continue our flock's collective movement toward confusion, spiritual lonliness, and the continued loss of our sheep.