Military Services, USA, Archdiocese for
MILITARY SERVICES, USA, ARCHDIOCESE FOR
The Archdiocese for Military Services, USA is responsible for the spiritual and sacramental care, including sacramental records keeping, of Catholics and their families in the United States Armed Forces, including the army, navy, air force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, as well as Catholics in Veteran's Affairs Hospitals and U.S. diplomatic posts overseas. The archbishop for the military services is also recognized by the federal government as the endorser for all Catholic priest chaplains who serve these faithful.
Development of a Military Vicariate. Catholic priests served American armed forces with distinction since Revolutionary War times. In 1888, the Apostolic See granted exclusive competency to the archbishop of New York to designate navy chaplains. After the Spanish American War, a commission of the U.S. bishops, under James Cardinal Gibbons, was established to recruit priests of the military chaplaincy. At the outbreak of World War I, there were sixteen priests in the army, eight in the navy, and a further ten in the National Guard. The need for priests was urgent, so the bishops of America, with significant support from the Knights of Columbus, formed a National Catholic War Council. By Armistice Day, 1919, a total of 1,026 priests were serving with the U.S. armed forces. Most were commissioned officers, but some 165 of those served as civilians paid from funds donated by the Knights of Columbus.
In the United States, as in other countries, the military constituted a vast diocese with no regularly constituted head until Pope benedict xv authorized each country to have an episcopus castrensis, or bishop for the military. On Nov. 24, 1917, he appointed Patrick Hayes, an auxiliary bishop of New York, to be "Ordinary of all Catholics who fight in the Army and Navy during the present war." Bishop Hayes organized the new jurisdiction, with headquarters at St. Stephen's Church, New York City, and five regional vicariates. The organization came to be known as the Military Vicariate and its offices as the Military Ordinariate. Special faculties for general absolution, the Eucharist, and marriage were among many privileges granted only to military chaplains by the Military Ordinariate.
War was threatening again when Cardinal Hayes died in Sept. of 1938. On Nov. 25, 1939, Pope Pius XII designated Archbishop Francis Spellman, the new ordinary of New York, to be military vicar of the United States of America and Archbishop Spellman an episcopal administrator for chaplain affairs. The first administrator was Father John O'Hara, CSC, president of the University of Notre Dame. O'Hara was later named bishop of Buffalo and afterward cardinal archbishop of Philadelphia.
When peacetime conscription was instituted in 1940, Archbishop Spellman and Bishop O'Hara appealed to the America bishops for clergy. By Dec. 8, 1941 there were 500 priests on active duty. During World War II, 2,453 priests served as army chaplains and 817 as navy chaplains, of whom 676 died in service. After World War II, as realities dictated an American presence in outposts far from home, the jurisdiction of the Military Ordinary was expanded to include civilians serving the U.S. government overseas. In June 1946, the Veterans Administration program was placed under the canonical jurisdiction of the Military Ordinariate. During the Korean War, with many nations fighting under United Nations auspices, the Holy Father placed all Catholic chaplains in Korea under the American Military Vicar.
On April 25, 1951, an instruction of the Holy See, Sollemne Semper, established norms for canonically establishing a permanent vicariate for the apostolate to military personnel. It was made specific for the United States in a subsequent decree, Mysticam Petri Naviculam, of Sept. 8, 1957. This decree formally erected the Military Vicariate and placed it under the archbishop of New York, with the tribunal of the Archdiocese of New York appointed to hear the cases of its subjects. It operated as a separate office in the New York Chancery, with its own staff and auxiliary bishops. Bishop Terrence Cooke succeeded Cardinal Spellman as archbishop of New York and Military Vicar of the U.S. Armed Services in the spring of 1968. To assist him Bishop Joseph Ryan, who had been bishop of Anchorage, Alaska, was installed as coadjutor archbishop of the military vicar in December 1975, and a separate ecclesiastical tribunal was created to attend to the needs of the military.
When Cardinal Cooke died on Oct. 6, 1983, the Holy See determined that the military vicariate should have its own independent status, not as an added role for the archbishop of New York, but with its own full-time ordinary, to function as any other diocese. After a brief interregnum, during which time Archbishop John O'Connor of New York served as apostolic administrator, Archbishop Ryan was named and installed as the first ordinary of the Archdiocese for Military Services in March 1985. In January 1986 Archbishop Ryan moved the administrative headquarters of the newly independent jurisdiction to the Washington D.C. area. Archbishop Ryan retired in 1991 and the Most Reverend Joseph T. Dimino, who had been auxiliary bishop of the military vicar, was appointed the second ordinary for the military services. When Archbishop Dimino retired in 1997, he was succeeded by the Most Reverend Edwin F. O'Brien, who had been an auxiliary bishop in New York.
General Norms. . On April 21, 1986, Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution Spirituali militum curae, effective July 21, which made each military vicariate or ordinariate juridically comparable to a diocese. Spirituali militum curae recognized that military people "constitute, as a matter of fact, a particular social body, and because of the special conditions of their way of life, they have need of a concrete and specific form of pastoral
assistance." Each ordinariate is headed by a military ordinary, normally a bishop, with all the rights and obligations of a diocesan ordinary, insofar as possible, given the nature and pastoral conditions of the military. Canonically, this ecclesiastical entity is denominated Ordinariatus militaris seu castrensis. A local title more suitable to the language of the particular country being allowable, in the United States the designation is Archdiocese for the Military Services.
The Apostolic Constitution laid down certain general norms valid for all military ordinariates. In addition, each military ordinariate is ruled by its particular statutes as approved by the Apostolic See.
The military ordinary, nominated by the pope, belongs by right to the National Episcopal Conference. His jurisdiction is personal and exercised over all persons pertaining to the ordinariate, wherever they may be; it is ordinary for both the internal and external forums and proper but cumulative with the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. The areas and places reserved to military personnel fall chiefly under the jurisdiction of the military ordinary and secondarily, in the absence of a chaplain, under the diocesan bishop. The military ordinary has the right to erect a seminary, to incardinate clerics, and to petition for a proper tribunal.
The following belong to the military ordinariate and come under its jurisdiction: the faithful who are military persons, as well as those who are at the service of the armed forces, provided that they are bound to this by civil laws; all members of their families, spouses and children, even those who, though independent, live in the same house, as well as relatives and servants also living with them in the same house; those who attend military training schools, or who live or work in military hospitals, homes for the aged, or similar institutions; and all the faithful, both men and women, whether or not they are members of a religious institute, who carry out in a permanent manner a task committed to them by the military ordinary or with his consent. Particular statutes of each ordinariate may further specify the areas of proper subjects.