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Priests Weren’t Allowed to Say Mass During Government Shutdown-Fiction!

Priests Weren’t Allowed to Say Mass During Government Shutdown-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:
The government didn’t allow priests to say mass on some military bases during the government shutdown.
The Truth:
There was talk about Catholic mass being canceled at some military bases during the government shutdown, but it never actually happened.
John Schlageter, the general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, released a statement in October 2013 warning that mass could be canceled at some military bases if the government shutdown continued.
The problem, as told by John Schlageter, was not that the government wouldn’t allow priests to say mass. The problem was that a shortage of Catholic chaplains on active duty in the military meant the government had to hire priests as general contractors. Because of the government shutdown contract priests weren’t allowed by law to work, even on a voluntary basis, Schlageter said:

“There is a chronic shortage of active duty Catholic chaplains. While roughly 25% of the military is Catholic, Catholic priests make up only about 8% of the chaplain corps. That means approximately 275,000 men and women in uniform, and their families, are served by only 234 active-duty priests.  The temporary solution to this shortage is to provide GS and contract priests.   These men are employed by the government to ensure that a priest is available when an active duty Catholic Chaplain is not present.  With the government shutdown, GS and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work – not even to volunteer.  During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.

“As an example, if a Catholic family has a Baptism scheduled at the base chapel this weekend, unless they can locate a priest who is not a GS or contract priest, they should consider it cancelled….  If you are a Catholic stationed in Japan or Korea and are served by a Contract or GS priest, unless you speak Korean or Japanese and can find a church nearby, then you have no choice but to go without Mass this weekend.  Until the Federal Government resumes normal operations, or an exemption is granted to contract or GS priests, Catholic services are indefinitely suspended at those worldwide installations served by contract and GS priests.”

In the end, mass was not canceled at military bases because of the government shutdown.
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reinstated civilian employees of the Defense Department, including contract priests, before that happened. President Obama had signed a stopgap budget to ensure that service members would receive pay during the government shutdown, and Hagel interpreted that the stopgap budget also applied to civilian defense employees.