Military Archdiocese Lawyer Warns Priests Could Face Arrest for Holding Mass During Shutdown

by Sterling Beard

John Schlageter, general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, warned in an op-ed yesterday that Catholic priests will risk being arrested if they attempt to minister on base during the shutdown.

“With the government shutdown, many GS [government services] and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work – not even to volunteer,” Schlageter wrote. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.”

Catholics make up roughly a quarter of the military but only 8 percent of the chaplaincy corps, according to Schlageter. If shutdown continues through the weekend, he says, there will be no Catholic priests to celebrate Mass at chapels where non-active-duty priests serve as contractors.

“Until the Federal Government resumes normal operations, or an exemption is granted to contract or GS priests, Catholic services are indefinitely suspended at many of those worldwide installations served by contract and GS priests,” he wrote.