The U.S. Navy will end its provision of Catholic Masses at its bases in San Diego, California, over budgetary restraints — ending its contracts with local Catholic priests who lead the services — while continuing to provide other religious services.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported:
Catholic Masses at San Diego-area Navy bases have ended because the Navy, in what it says is a cost-cutting move, has declined to renew its contracts with Catholic priests, and there are not enough Catholic chaplains on active duty to fill the void.
Protestant services on bases, which are led by active duty chaplains, will continue, said Brian O’Rourke, a Navy Region Southwest spokesman.
The changes to the Navy’s religious ministries are part of a national realignment announced on Aug. 20. It is unclear how many priests this will affect.
Vice Adm. Yancey Lindsey, the commander of Naval Installations Command, described the decision to cut on-base Catholic services as a function of accessible alternatives available in surrounding communities.
A shortage of Catholic priests within the Navy’s clergy, the Chaplain Corps, necessitated the contracting of non-military Catholic priests to lead religious services on bases.
Several parishioners who spoke with the San Diego Union-Tribune challenged the equity of the Navy’s termination of Catholic services while maintaining Protestant services.
Two retired Navy personnel described decades of attendance at on-base Catholic Masses, lamenting the forthcoming challenge to established military Catholic congregations.
“It is unfair,” said Bill Bartkus, a retired Navy senior chief. “I’m very sad that I can’t go to Mass anymore on the military base where I’ve been going 40 years. I’d like to stay in my own military community. We know each other.”
Richard Haas, a retired Navy Captain, stated, “I don’t understand; the Chaplain Corps has gone to great lengths to be inclusive. Why deny Catholic members the right to hold their worship services? For a service member on (Coronado) or North Island to go out in town to find a priest — it doesn’t work that way.”
The Navy forbade active-duty personnel from attending religious services off base, according to a July-published report in National Review. The prohibition was issued, ostensibly, as public health directive to minimize coronavirus infections.
National Review wrote:
Many naval commands recently issued orders prohibiting the participation of Navy personnel in religious services off base. Both enlisted personnel and officers are required to sign affidavits that they have received those orders and that they know they will be held accountable for disobeying them. Checks have been instituted to ensure compliance, and Big Brother is watching: One Catholic naval aviator who attended an off-base Mass was asked if he had done so, answered honestly, and was immediately quarantined, his naval future in jeopardy.
The Navy also “discouraged” family members of active-duty personnel from attending church services.