Chaplains Offer Thoughts on DADT

The Pentagon recently released its much anticipated study on the possible repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The law requires gay US soldiers to keep their sexual orientation a secret or face discharge from the military. Among those surveyed were military chaplains, representing a wide array of faiths and denominations. Soldiers in prayer

CNN and the Washington Post note that chaplains offered some of the sharpest opinions on both sides of the debate. These opinions are offered in the shadow of the military's assertion that a change in the law will have little to no effect in the ways it handles the chaplaincy.

The Washington Post:

The Rev. Dennis Camp, a retired Army colonel, said it pained him when gay soldiers came to him to complain of the burden they felt from keeping their sexuality a secret. They could not display pictures of their loved ones or talk freely about their personal lives, he recalled. But he could not encourage them to be honest about their orientation, he said.

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"They were forced by the situation, the system, to be dishonest, and that took its toll on them. And me," said Camp, a United Methodist minister who retired in 1996 after 27 years of service. "It was horrible. Right from the beginning, I was saying, 'This is bad. This is wrong. It really has no place in our military community.'"

To other ministers, however, lifting the policy would in effect condone a lifestyle that their faith considers sinful. Among the most high-profile opponents to the change has been the Catholic Church. About 20 percent of the military is Catholic. In July, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services compared the policy to Alcoholics Anonymous.

"Like homosexuality, there is rarely a cure," he said in a statement. "There is a control through a process, which is guarded by absolute secrecy."

 

CNN interviews two retired chaplains, one in favor of repeal and one who desires the law remain intact. The chaplain who opposes repeal says that religious liberty would be threatened if homosexuality were "normalized" in the military, as some chaplains would no longer be able to espouse their views that claim homosexuality is immoral. Yet the current situation, say many top military leaders, including Adm. Mike Mullen, cuts directly at the integrity of individual service members and at the military as a whole.

The report allays fears that gays serving openly in the military would pose a threat to national security, with 70% of soldiers claiming they foresee no harm if gays were to serve openly. Repeal of the law is endorsed by the Commander in Chief, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and scores of retired generals and military leaders.

Given the diversity of the chaplaincy corps, that there is strong divergence in opinion among military chaplains is not surprising. What is remarkable is the strong words and statements against repeal offered by some chaplains, including those speaking for the Catholic Church. How does the military balance the religious liberty of chaplains and the individual liberty of gay service members? If a primary role of a chaplain is to provide pastoral care, how will these comments affect those seeking care? If the law is repealed, is there a cohort of chaplains who, by virtue of their comments, will be unable to provide effective care to openly gay soldiers? What role should chaplains have in setting law for the military?

 

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Mark Davenport
7 years ago
Your comments were excellent, Mr. Dean. I am in agreement with you here.  Archbishop Broglio states that Catholic chaplins must show compassion for persons with a homosexual orientation.  But there isn't a lot of compassion in some of his words.  His statement, "Like homosexuality, there is rarely a cure" in regard to alcoholism is somewhat insulting.  Since homosexuality is not a disease people don't need to be cured of it or seek a cure for it.  It seems that Archbishop Broglio feels that gay people in the armed services that want to be open about their sexual orientation should be told to lie about it.  I hope that the Church does not consider it a sin to tell people the truth about one's sexual orientation.  Does it consider telling someone or forcing someone to lie about it, to be sinful?  Sadly, to me it seems that Archbishop Broglio has a certain dislike for gay people and he allows this to color his opinion on the DADT subject.
Thomas Collins
7 years ago
"What role should chaplains have in setting law for the military?"

Wrong question.
What role should the military, i.e. the government have in formulating church doctrine?

The military takes the view that a chaplain is a chaplain is a chaplain and any chaplain must serve the needs of all personnel.  But while Catholics while the largest religion amongst the military are the most underserved.
I would be glad to see DADT chucked.  But forcing Catholic (and other) clergy to resign or betray their faith is persecution.

7 years ago
Any army or military force (unless it is only used for defensive war) is the ultimate transgressive organization - it professionally trains men to commit murder - an act that is the ultimate transgression to Christianity and civil society.

In this regard, I would think that the army would welcome such aggressive transgressors such as homosexal men into their ranks as they are already experienced in putting their will and desires above the limits of civilization as we know it - and esp. Christian civilization.

Gay pride/power and military pride/power as very similar if looked at in this way - both are transgressive ideologies.

Look at how our Senators explain it in the NYTs:

"Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the committee, was eager to show that a gay soldier could be just as lethal as a straight one. He read a quote from the Pentagon report: “As one Special Operations force warfighter told us, ‘We have a gay guy
7 years ago
One more try:

We have a gay guy (in the unit).  He is big, he's mean, and he kills lots of men ("bad guys").  No one cared that he was gay."
7 years ago
Mr. Collins seems to be under the mistaken perception that religious values trump military values with his comment that "forcing Catholic (and other) clergy to resign or betray their faith is persecution." 

I am reminded of a Catholic chaplain - a Francisan priest - who briefly served at my first Navy base, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, back in 1971.  The good Father decided, soon after completing his chaplain training and accepting his first duty assignment at NAS Lemoore, that he would prefer to wear his Franciscan habit, rather than his Naval officer's uniform.  When he tried to explain the importance of his religious garb to his commanding officer, the C.O. "explained" (I believe the word was a bit stronger) that the chaplain had as much time as he needed to return to his quarters to change back into his uniform before he would be ousted from the Navy.  Needless to say, the chaplain's tour of duty and career as a chaplain ended abruptly, since he chose not to change his habit.

To paraphrase an old adage about the military and its consideration of one's spouse and family needs:  "If the Navy wanted you to have a religion, they would have issued you one." 
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years ago
Please forgive what might appear to be a quibble, but it is not accurate to say that the military ''professionally trains men to commit murder.''  Our soldiers, sailors, and marines may well be taught to commit homicide, but there is an important distinction between the two terms.
Marie Rehbein
7 years ago
If the military permits people to freely acknowledge their sexual orientation, against which there is no law, but which might be at odds with some religious teachings, will it also permit people to freely acknowledge that they have had abortions?  Oh, wait, there is not problem with that behavior coexisting with chaplains who might find it objectionable. 
Winifred Holloway
7 years ago
Not to make this all about me, but I am embarrassed by those in power in the church who are so fundamentally clueless.  There have always been gays in the military.  The protestant chaplain makes the best case for supporting gay soldiers.  It is "horrible" to deny one's total being, which is what DADT does.  It is subversive to one's integrity as a human person.  Chaplains should be able and willing to provide pastoral care to anyone who needs it.  Why the reality that a soldier may be gay should be a sticking point for them is beyond me.  Even if they believe that "gayness" is sinful, how is that any different that all the rest of the sinful attitudes and behaviors that we all have.
7 years ago
As a Catholic mental health professional for some 35 years, I find this so tiresome:  Here we go again, with alcoholism being compared to homosexual orientation, this time by Archbishop Broglio. Alcoholism is a chronic mental illness-I should know, being in recovery-but being gay isn't. The reality that the archbishop used the word ''cure'' betrays his ignorance, both of addictive disease (which is incurable, chronic) and of homosexuality (which isn't pathology to begin with).

The purpose, as I understand it, of anonymity in AA is not ''control'' or ''secrecy.'' (As I understand it, AA can and does assert neither, since each AA group retains autonomy.)  AAers practice anonymity (in media only, by the way; affiliation is hardly ''secret'') as a spiritual exercise related to a personal rejection of narcissistic self-promotion so as to avoid impugning both AA (by reputation) and its members (by the influence of example).

(I await with tongue in cheek Brett Joyce et al.'s setting me straight, and I apologize in advance for my ''pun''ishment.)

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