Sign at military chapel: ‘Shutdown: No Catholic service till further notice’


But now the news of contract military priests being unable to say Mass at military installations is making national news. Even the liberal tabloid Huffington Post carried the story:

Is religious freedom the latest casualty of the government shutdown?

Some priests are being actively prevented from ministering to service members and their families, even on a volunteer basis, and they run the risk of arrest if they disobey. As a result, military families serving at home and abroad who depend on the government for their religious services, are now actively being denied communion on bases that are served by civilian priests. Active-duty priests are still holding services.

Several military installations, like Quantico in northern Virginia, do not have a full-time Catholic chaplain on base. Catholics at that base rely on a contract priest to come to their base and say Mass. But that isn’t happening during the shutdown shutdown.

The Daily Caller reports that Catholics at a military base in Georgia will find a note at the chapel.

Father Ray Leonard, a Catholic priest who serves a Georgia military base, was not allowed to celebrate mass at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay this weekend.

“Shutdown: No Catholic service till further notice,” a sign posted on the chapel said.

Leonard — who is contracted with the Department of Defense to minister the military on the base — is not allowed to work on the base during the federal government shutdown.

This is madness.

Yes, there are serious disagreements between House Republicans and Senate Democrats. But surely they can come together and ensure that contract priests are able to say Mass at military bases this Sunday.

Last Friday, the general counsel for Archdiocese for the Military Services sounded the alarm. We at CatholicVote swung into action. Steve Skojec’s article about this subject has been read by 100,000 people on Friday alone. By late Friday evening, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised a quick vote in the House.

On Saturday, Democrats and Republicans came together in the House to pass a Concurrent Resolution, which expresses the intent of Congress that their previously passed law against people volunteering their time during a government shutdown was never intended to apply to ministers performing religious ceremonies.

It was a lopsided 400-1 vote.  Even Nancy Pelosi voted to let the Catholic priests say Mass on military bases.

On Monday, we sent a message to the entire CatholicVote membership, telling them to call their two United States Senators. But it’s been four days since the House took action, and so far the Senate hasn’t budged.

If you haven’t called yet, what are you waiting for?

Look up the phone numbers of your two Senators here:

[Let us know in the comments if you made the call to your Senators!]

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Joshua Mercer is a co-founder of, where he serves as Political Director. Mercer is also regular contributor with Catholic Pulse. Mercer previously served as Washington Correspondent for the National Catholic Register and Chairman for Students for Life of America. He lives in Michigan with his wife and six children.

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