From the Trenches: Priest Threatened With Arrest, Says Mass in Park

Despite Saturday’s 400-to-1 House vote in favor, there’s still no word from the Senate on the reinstatement of priests affected by furlough at American military installations. I’ve heard from several current and former service members who have either seen their chapels closed or would have been unable to make it to Sunday Mass without access to alternate transportation. Joshua Mercer mentioned some others this morning.

Of course, we’ve seen how flexible the shutdown restrictions really are. Despite the theatrical (and in many cases completely unnecessary) closing of national parks, memorials, and monuments, the National Mall was not only opened yesterday, but a giant stage was erected, all to host a pro-immigration rally organized by — you guessed it — friends of the Obama Administration. And naturally, President Obama’s preferred golf course at Andrews Air Force Base remains open, despite the commissary being closed. That the ongoing unnecessary furlough of those serving the spiritual needs of our nation’s service members continues is, simply put, an affront to decency.

This morning, I got an email from a retired Marine Major whom I know personally. A priest he served with — Navy Chaplain Fr. Paul Shaughnessy, S.J. — has been impacted by the furlough, and was threatened with arrest if he celebrated Mass on base. Fr. Shaughnessy is assigned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in the Virginia Beach area (formerly NAB Little Creek). According to the base’s website, it is “the major east coast operating base supporting Overseas Contingency Operations”. I’ve also been told that it is a base where at least two Navy SEAL teams are stationed.


Fr. Shaughnessy is no stranger to conflict. He has served in active combat situations around the world, and his efforts to minister to soldiers caught in a firefight in Iraq were featured in this AOL series, Home of the Brave:

For a man who has offered sacraments under fire, one imagines government bureaucracy is not a very intimidating challenge. Undeterred by the restrictions he faced against saying Mass on base, Fr. Shaughnessy found a way to serve the soldiers he is so dedicated to. The following email was sent to chapel parishioners at the base last week:

“Father Shaughnessy asked me to send you the following which explains the impact of the government shutdown on Mass this weekend on Base. Please give this information to those in your ministries and others in your network of parish members.

NOTE : If by some miracle Congress ends the government shutdown, then Mass will return to its normal schedule.

Catholic Mass has been declared non-essential by the Base, so contractor priests are not allowed to perform Mass on military installations during the government shut down.

I am however required by the Church to conduct a personal Mass daily, so I invite you to join me for an outdoor Mass at Bayville Farms Park Pavilion 1 as I fulfill my religious obligations at:

1730 (5:30pm) Saturday Oct 5

0900 (9am) Sunday Oct 6

1230 p.m. Sunday October 6

Father Paul Shaughnessy, S.J.


All I can say is, GOOD FOR FR. SHAUGHNESSY! But note the language: “If by some miracle Congress ends the government shutdown, then Mass will return to its normal schedule.” Because that’s what Catholics on base have to pray for to get their sacraments back. I’ve heard rumblings that some military chaplains feel as though they are being increasingly targeted under this administration. Creative priests like Fr. Shaughnessy are finding ways to fulfill their priestly obligations without directly violating the legal restrictions put in their way, but it shouldn’t have to come to that.

Some have argued that no priest would be arrested for celebrating Mass, and that the ADA has never been very strictly enforced. That priests are reporting being directly threatened with arrest tells us that this time, it’s different. We’ve already seen veterans arrested for refusing to leave a war memorial in New York – not the first time it’s happened, but a particularly sensitive issue with news of the barricades and police presence in place to keep our veterans away from memorials in their honor. A jogger was fined $100 for just running through Valley Forge. Private businesses and homeowners that lease space or have property on federal land are being barricaded and kept from doing business or even going home. Cones were placed along the side of the road near Mount Rushmore to keep motorists from pulling over to view the monument when passing by. Parts of the Florida Bay have been closed down to boats and fishermen. The Grand Canyon is closed despite the State of Arizona offering to pay to keep it open. Evidently they’ve found enough staff to fine people for entering the park, however.

These draconian measures are intended to inflict pain on the American people. Just as the President tried to talk down the markets last week — an extremely irresponsible thing to do for a man warning about the impact of US economic actions on the global financial system — his administration and those who side with his stance of “we will not negotiate” continue to rebuff attempts to restore normalcy and ease the pressure on those most impacted by the ongoing partial shutdown.

We need to keep the pressure on them. Keep sharing these stories with your friends and social networks, keep contacting your members of Congress, keep fighting the good fight. This is a critical time. We need to stand together.


Categories:Church News Religious Liberty

  • Margaret Mary Long

    Domino Gloria for Priests such as Fr. O’ Shaughnessy!

  • eric

    So Steve, when and where was a Priest threatened with arrest? I don’t see that information in your post.

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      Eric, apparently reading is a challenge to you, “Chaplain Fr. Paul Shaughnessy, S.J. — has been impacted by the furlough, and was threatened with arrest.” Stop defending the tyrant in Washington and begin to defend our priests.

      • eric

        You read Steve’s title of his post and believed it. He offers no proof in his post to back up the title of his post. Where was he threatened with arrest? Nowhere. Read the article first and then comment.

  • Chris

    I’ve learned two things from this shutdown:

    1. Mr Obama is an evil tyrant. (And that goes for his friends too.)
    2. The federal government needs to be weakened significantly to prevent it from abusing its citizens again.

    • Margaret

      Why spout the talking points of the left? A “clean vote on the budget” is a liberal talking point that makes no sense. There has been no “budget” passed from this Administration- which IS required by law. Because no budget has been passed for years, Continuing Resolutions (CR’s) are required to fund the various entities of the federal government. CR’s just continue to fund existing expenses. Blaming the “Catholic” Speaker of the House and Republicans for requiring a delay of the “individual mandate” in the CR funding of ACA -as President Obama has already unlawfully bestowed delays and exemptions on his business friends, Congress and other favorites- is reasonable . If a delay is good enough for some, it is surely good enough for all. Such a delay might enable Congress to work out other details that are problematic. As a Catholic, I find ACA (Obama-care) offensive and a threat to my religious liberty. Don’t you, Reverend? Are you not concerned about what this law forces every citizen/business owner, charitable organization/hospital to do? Are you not concerned about the conscience of clergy and laity regarding life issues in healthcare? Are you not concerned about the intrusion of the IRS into every facet of our private lives through government healthcare oversight and forced compliance? This is the same IRS that targets individuals and organizations for political purposes. It can wield untold power regardless of which party is in power. Why shouldn’t our elected representatives use whatever means available to protect us now before it is too late? I applaud the efforts of the House to de-fund, delay, stop in any way possible this nightmare of Obama-care. I applaud the brave servants like Fr. Shaughnessy that refuse to allow political posturing and fear mongering by Democrats and President Obama to obstruct them in their mission to serve God and the good people of this country. I blame the Democrats and President Obama for the shut-down and subsequent nonsense regarding closing of outdoor memorials and base churches. Regardless of whether arrested or not, to tell chaplains they cannot celebrate Mass because of a shut-down shows how little regard this Administration has for the military and people of faith. It ought to send a chill down the spine of all clergy, especially you, Reverend. A true indication of what Obama-care means to all who cherish their faith. “Do what I want or else we take your right to practice your faith” courtesy of President Obama.
      BTW: Fr. Shaughnessy is an American hero.
      You, however, are very scary.

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      Rev. You’re in the wrong party, in the party that felt ashamed during the convention to mention God. In the party that supports gay marriage and contraception. In the party that has the HH Mandate but you would blame it all on Republicans. Thank you for supporting your fellow priests because your party affiliation is more important than solidarity with fellow brother priests.

      • eric

        What does your response have to do with the point the Rev. was making? Answer: none.

  • (Rev) Raymond F. Collins

    Why blame the administration when it is the Republican and “Catholic” Speaker of the House who will not allow a clean vote on the budget?

    • May

      Obama and the Democrats own this shutdown. The Republicans are listening to the majority of Americans who want the ACA repealed. God bless them.

      And the priests were forbidden from saying Mass as the regime deemed the Mass non-essential, even if the priests volunteer to do it on their own time on base. There have been MANY shutdowns in living memory and NO administration has done what Obama has done regarding chaplains, public federal parks, etc..

      Consider that he finds the funds to employ park rangers to work at closing down federal areas. Well if he is using these rangers, then they should be doing their normal jobs but instead he is using them to harass WWII vets among others. What jerks Obama and Reid are. And even bigger jerks are the morons who are blaming Republicans and “we the people” who want the Republicans to tell Obama that he is not getting his spoiled brat way on this one.

      We do not want government controlled health care. Period. You get it yet?

    • Walter A. Stapleton

      As Christians our first duty is to God and in upholding His Word, our values and our First Amendment rights, which Obama has trod upon, so a “clean vote on the budget” is way down on our list! This may be the first action that opens civil disobedience against this evil administration? But it’s at least time for Catholics to stand up against the spending and programs that will ruin our Country into debt and further eclipse our religious freedom!

  • Francis

    So….did anyone actually threaten Fr. Shaughnessy with arrest, or is this just another example of a sensationalized headline here at Catholic Vote?

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      Francis, perhaps you need to read the story again rather than blaming because you don’t like the tyrant in Washington to be criticized, “Chaplain Fr. Paul Shaughnessy, S.J. — has been impacted by the furlough, and was threatened with arrest…”

      • eric

        Perhaps you need to read the entire post to recognize that nothing in the post supports the title of the post. There was no threat of arrest issued to FR. SHAUGHNESSY. The Father doesn’t even mention any arrest threat.

  • Ann

    Is there any confirmation from AMS that the return of civilian employees that started on Monday under the interpretation of “Pay our Military Act” (POMA) has resolved this issue?



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