Military Archdiocese: Better to Have No Priests than Traditional Ones

Military Archdiocese: Better to Have No Priests than Traditional Ones


Brian Williams
June 19, 2017

For the past two years, the Fort Hood Traditional Latin Mass community has celebrated All Souls Day with an outdoor Mass offered on the hood of a Korean era Army Jeep. While the Mass is offered for the souls of all the faithful departed, it is especially for soldiers who fell in battle, including Father Emil J. Kapaun, chaplain for the 8th Calvary during the Korean War. Fr. Kapaun was famously photographed offering the Mass on the hood of a Jeep during the war, shortly before his capture and eventual death, at the hands of the North Koreans.

Fort Hood’s Latin Mass Community, established in 2015 and comprised of approximately 120 faithful, has been averaging upwards of 50-60 weekly attendees at their Sunday Latin Mass. They have also been profiled on EWTN’s Extraordinary Faith series, in an episode scheduled for broadcast later this year. Unfortunately, all of that may soon be coming to an end.

Like many other service men and women in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, the Traditional Latin Mass community at Fort Hood might become victims to the ongoing vocations crisis. With their current chaplain set to retire from active military duty this summer, they are likely to find themselves without a priest capable of offering the Traditional Mass.

One of the founding members of the Fort Hood Traditional Latin Mass Community, Sergeant Major Johnny Proctor, US Army, III Armored Corps Chaplain Sargeant Major, reached out to Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services for help. More importantly, SGM Proctor wrote the archbishop offering a potential solution to the crisis: invite more traditional priests to consider joining the military as chaplains.

That the military is suffering a priest shortage is undisputed. Archbishop Broglio has said the need for Catholic chaplains is “desperate”, noting that an already bad situation is about to get worse.

In 2015, the same year that Fort Hood began offering their Latin Mass, Archbishop Broglio appealed to his brother bishops at the annual gathering of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore:

Approximately one fourth of the active-duty personnel and their immediate families are Catholics…At present, those Catholics — totalling around a million people — are served by only 217 priests in a territory that covers the globe. They represent only 8 percent of all military chaplains…That suggests that others might easily cultivate Catholic young people seeking spiritual counsel…

Archbishop Broglio has also noted that as many as half of those priests may be retiring from active service in the next few years. In his remarks in Baltimore, he urged the bishops to release more priests to serve in the military, noting it was “imperative that every diocese give at least one priest to ensure that your faithful who defend our religious freedom do not have to sacrifice theirs.”

For Catholic men and women serving in the military the importance of the priest-chaplain cannot be overstated. They:

~Offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
~Hear Confessions
~Provide spiritual guidance and formation
~Visit and comfort the sick and wounded
~Anoint the sick
~Pray for the dead
~Administer Last Rites

Of course, the need for all of the above is even greater to those service members deployed for combat, where death is a daily reality and availability of a priest-confessor could mean the difference between salvation or damnation.

It is in this context that SGM Proctor reached out to Archbishop Broglio. In his letter, Proctor wrote:

We have…been visited by another seminarian from Houston who served eight years in the US Army Special Forces and has the…desire for Traditional formation and Army chaplaincy. We have a seminarian who will be ordained next month for the Priestly Society of St. Peter (FSSP)…His parents are regulars at our TLM. Typical of Traditional communities, we have many young men in attendance and also young couples with children. We have several altar boys who diligently practice the Latin responses and perform their liturgical actions with precision and reverence.

In his letter, SGM Proctor further highlighted for Archbishop Broglio a trend already well known to Latin Mass Catholics: traditional orders and societies are experiencing a boom in vocations as more of the young are drawn to the traditional Mass. He noted:

(A)ccording to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the average age of a Priest in the USA is 64. In the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), it is 37. The FSSP and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) have almost 500 priests with over a hundred in formation now. The Priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) may soon be regularized by the Holy Father and granted a personal prelature. They have 600 priests and over 200 seminarians in formation now…Priest-chaplains for the future may be available from these traditional priestly societies if we actively recruit them and permit them to serve in their charism of exclusively using the 1962 liturgical books.

Archbishop Broglio wrote back to SGM Proctor and the Fort Hood Latin Mass community in a letter dated June 6 (interestingly enough the anniversary of D-Day). Considering the “desperate” situation currently facing U.S. military personnel due to the shortage of chaplains, the archbishop’s response is surprising.


In his letter (see above), Archbishop Broglio argues against the Military accepting priests as chaplains who only offer the traditional Mass, also called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Unfortunately, the reasoning employed is faulty. This isn’t to suggest malice, rather it could simply reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the Roman Rite, both its history and its current definition following the release of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict in 2007.

In the letter the archbishop compares the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite to the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church. He argues that eastern rite priests have to be bi-ritual if they are military chaplains and must offer the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, suggesting the same holds true for priests offering the traditional Mass. He also states that the Divine Liturgy is much older than the “liturgy established by the Council of Trent.”

First, regarding the suggestion that Extraordinary Form is a different rite. In his letter to the bishops which accompanied the release of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict wrote:

It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were “two Rites”. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.

In other words, a Catholic priest of the Latin Church offering the Roman Rite does so, regardless of whether the Mass said uses the 1962 Missal (the Extraordinary Form), or the 1970 Missal (the Ordinary Form). Using an analogy to bi-ritual priests of eastern churches is simply incorrect.

Secondly, it is historically inaccurate to suggest that the Council of Trent established the Traditional Roman Rite in 1570. Pope St. Pius V simply codified the existing Roman Rite for the entire Latin Church, only excepting those venerable rites which were more than 200 years old at the time (such as the Ambrosian Rite).

It is much more accurate to state that the Traditional Latin Mass is the form of Roman Catholic worship used in the Latin Rite since the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great (d. 604 AD). While there was ongoing organic development from the 6th century until the time of Trent, the Mass itself, from the Canon to many of the Offertory prayers to the liturgical use of Latin and Chant, were all there.

Archbishop Broglio, referencing St. Paul’s admonition to be “all things to all” contends that the “legitimate liturgical expectations of all Catholics” would not be fulfilled if a priest-chaplain was unable to offer the Ordinary Form. Interestingly, the archbishop doesn’t see the irony in the reverse being the case now for those who desire the Extraordinary Form.

Regardless, this argument for the “liturgical expectations” of the faithful strikes me as being highly unusual and rather arbitrary. Considering the “desperate” situation now faced by Catholics in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, isn’t there also a “legitimate” expectation that a bishop will do all he can to simply make the sacraments available to his flock?

In his final paragraph Archbishop Broglio provides what he believes to be the solution: those traditional priests of the FSSP, or ICKSP, or even diocesan, who feel called to be military chaplains should petition their superiors for faculties to offer the Ordinary Form of the Mass and sacraments.

With all due respect to His Excellency, this suggested solution isn’t a solution at all.

The current crisis and priest shortage resides in the military, not the traditional orders. The traditional liturgy is attracting the young and experiencing growth, not the military services. The charism which attracts young priests to offer the liturgy according to the Extraordinary Form isn’t simply an option for their priesthood; it is part of their identity. Their formation. Their spirituality. If anything, one might wonder why the archbishop isn’t more interested in finding out why tradition attracts, instead of simply looking to restrict it, or rejecting it outright.

SGM Proctor summarized it best when he told me:

What we are left with from Archbishop Broglio’s letter is a stunning conclusion that under the auspices of pastoral efficiency and paternal concern, it is better to have no priest-chaplains than to have ones devoted exclusively to the Traditional liturgical books.

Unfortunately, this indeed appears to be the case.

The Catholic chaplain has been a fixture in the U.S. military for well over 150 years. In fact, since the end of the Civil War, only five chaplains have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their heroic service. All five were Catholic priests. All five offered Mass in the traditional Roman Rite. The most recent recipient being none other than the previously mentioned Father Emil J. Kapaun.

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7 comments on “Military Archdiocese: Better to Have No Priests than Traditional Ones

  1. My late father assisted at just such field Masses in France and Germany from June 1944 until after the War.

    The Sergeant Major assisting the priest in the photo is a friend of mine and an exceptionally fine man. His daughter writes for a Catholic publication/website (Regina Magazine) and Johnny has been hard at it, here, in Korea (numerous times), in Iraq and Afghanistan as an NCO attached to the Chaplains’ Corps.

  2. Translation [of Military Ordinariate Archbishop Broglio’s letter] – I am a Modernist and will not have these Traditional wackos working for me.

  3. REMNANT COMMENT: Unfortunately, the Archbishop’s response signals trouble for this Latin Mass community. As the headline of the Liturgy Guy article suggests, for some it is apparently better to have no priests at all rather than priests trained to offer the Latin Mass. Why so much fear and apprehension over the Mass saints, martyrs, popes and faithful Catholics attended for almost two thousand years…before the advent of the Second Vatican Council? This is the Mass St. Thomas More heard. This is the Mass of St. Joan of Arc, St Therese, St. Ignatius of Loyola. This is the Mass St. Maximilian Kolbe offered exclusively. The Mass of Pope John Paul’s First Communion and Ordination. The Mass at which Sister Faustina worshipped every day. The Mass of the Cristeros. The Mass Archbishop Broglio’s own grandmother had on her wedding day and every day thereafter.

    So why is this Mass treated like a dangerous pariah that must always and forever be somehow subservient to the New Mass—a 50-year-old experiment in liturgical innovation that Pope Benedict XVI himself finally admitted on February 14, 2013 (in his last address to the Roman clergy) has been totally “trivialized”, to use his own word, and riddled with massive abuses?

    Why? Answer this question correctly and you will have unraveled the secret to the entire Modernist revolution in the Church today.

  4. Michael Matt: “The Mass at which Sister Faustina worshipped every day.”

    While the point’s “valid,” because historically verifiable, it detracts, I fear, from the tone of the otherwise “licit” polemical argumentation.

    Again, I have no problem accepting that Sr. Faustina is in Heaven and was, in any number of ways, a suitably virtuous religious. My complaint has been with what is purported to be her “diary,” about which allegations that it was fabricated by others are not without merit.

    Certainly the Holy Office – twice – condemned said writings (and the image, and the public devotions, etc. – ordering them confiscated, removed, etc.) before Wojtyla finagled a resuscitation of the wildly off-beam concoction.

    Anyway, let it stand as Michael Matt said it. I just get irked whenever DM is brought up in any “traditional” venue, unless to warn folks off from it.

  5. Interesting column here by Maureen Mullarkey regarding some problematic aspects of DM:

    Credulity is not a virtue. Nor is it a compliment to faith. We are advised to be always ready with a cogent answer “to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) The words emphasize faith’s footing in rationality. The faith is to be defended in accord with reason and logic.

    Admittedly, reason is chastened by its own limits. As Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” There is no acid test for “the evidence of things not seen.” But, following Paul, the search for understanding cannot—must not—be abandoned to sentimental mystification. It is to be articulated, made graspable, not wrapped in gauze. Not surrendered to consoling fictions.

    Please understand, the piety of Maria Faustina Kowalska is not the issue. Neither is the merit or sincerity of Catholics who have adopted the Divine Mercy devotion. What matters is the integrity of the devotion’s promulgation and the sensibility it encourages.

    An irritated reader suggests that my skepticism toward the cult of Faustina indicates . . . how to put it? . . . a deficiency in my Catholicism. She wonders why I bother. The answer is simple: Giving oxygen to credulity weakens the Church. The Divine Mercy devotion, no less than the franchise built on it, is inseparable from the content of Faustina’s imaginings. The machinery of it makes the Church’s teaching function appear incoherent—as disjointed as the culture it is commissioned to evangelize. The specter of implausibility hanging over the whole opera weakens Church authority among those most in need of trust in it.

    We watch our civilization’s slow abandonment of Christianity. We witness the Church’s loosened grip on the moral climate. We mourn lessening of faith in the Real Presence. We lament the displacement of modern man’s religious impulses onto messianic environmentalism. All the while, we cast blame everywhere outside of ourselves. In that way, we make ourselves partners in underwriting faded authority with an effortless devotion rooted in improbable apparitions. It is a self-defeating subsidy.

    The words of Domenico Bartolucci (d. 2013), the last great Chapel Master of the Sistine Chapel Choir, resound more compellingly with each passing year:

    “Gregorian chant was born in violent times, and it should be manly and strong, and not like the sweet and comforting adaptations of our own day.

    What Cardinal Bartolucci said of chant and polyphony applies as well to our devotions. The Jesus of our devotional life should also be manly and strong. The grand nature of the Christian claim diminishes in any devotion—however popular—that depicts a plaintive Jesus who drops by with a fail-proof recipe for redemption. And who dramatizes his feelings the way a woman might.

    Faustina’s Jesus gossips and plays favorites. He flatters and complains. He exhibits the emotionalism women would like men to have. He confesses his feelings (“The flames of mercy are burning Me—clamoring to be spent.”) He is as overbearing and guilt-inducing as Sophie Portnoy. (“If you neglect the matter of the painting of the image and the whole work of mercy, you will have to answer for a multitude of souls on the day of judgment.”) He discards masculine reticence and whines: “Distrust on the part of souls is tearing at My insides. . . . Even My death is not enough for them.”

    A deformation intrudes on more than one Diary entry. To illustrate, on a day Faustina was lying in the infirmary, a visiting Jesuit brought Communion to the ill sisters. Thinking Faustina was the last communicant, he gave her two hosts. None was left for a novice unnoticed in the next cell. Realizing his mistake, the priest went back for another host. But he need hardly have troubled. Jesus confided to Faustina his aversion to the overlooked novice:

    “I enter that heart unwillingly. You received those two Hosts, because I delayed My coming into this soul who resists My grace. My visit to such a soul is not pleasant for me.

    It is a petty, miserly statement. Why would Catholics lend credence to it as coming from the incarnate God who is generosity itself? And who loves even those unworthy of divine largesse? How can we credit a Jesus who, in 1936, responds to Faustina’s prayers for the people of Russia with the same spiteful inflection and a veiled threat: “I cannot suffer that country any longer. Do not tie My hands, My daughter.”

    What are we to think of a Jesus who commissions a portrait of himself (“painted with a brush”) to supplant the cross as the ultimate symbol of mercy? How much sustenance can a secular world, however thirsty, discover in Faustina’s fantasy life? What are the plugged-in riders on Amtrak or the crosstown bus to believe about the transcendent origin of 600-plus pages of treacle mining? How much credit should any of us lend to an unscriptural Jesus who trumps the Eucharist with his own portrait? And in exorbitant tones:

    “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. . . I Myself will defend it as My own glory.

    Faustina’s Diary constructs a Jesus looking for payback. Recompense. (“My daughter, your love compensates me for the coldness of many.”) Is this how the Word wishes to be known by us?

    The original 1934 Divine Mercy painting hangs in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Vilnius, Lithuania. The painter Eugene Kazimirowski set to work in the manner of a police sketch artist—translating onto canvas the image in Faustina’s mind. Her mind’s eye was fixed on Saint-Sulpice-style images of the Sacred Heart, with which she was familiar. To lend verisimilitude to a patently derivative composition, Faustina’s spiritual director, Fr. Michael (Michal) Sopocko sat in for Jesus during painting sessions.

    In short, the painting is not a portrait of Jesus at all. It is a pastiche: part copy of 19th century religious kitsch, part portrait of the priest who got the bandwagon rolling.

    Correction: I had previously cited the Cathedral in Vilnius as home base for the painting. No, it hangs in its own church.

    Also, I initially robbed Peter to pay Paul. That is fixed, thanks to those of you who wrote to tell me I need a copy editor. (It is always good to make mistakes up front where everyone can see them.)

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