The US Navy is reportedly loosening some restrictions on some sailors attending “off-base indoor religious services,” which it had promulgated in late June and which the archbishop for the military service had called “particularly odious to Catholics.”
The Navy had issued an order June 24 stating that "service members are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in...indoor religious services,” according to First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom advocacy group.
Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services USA, had on Sunday lamented the Navy’s policy, noting that the orders also add that “civilian personnel, including families, are discouraged from” indoor church services.
Broglio said upon learning about the order, he had immediately contacted the Navy Chief of Chaplains’ Office, which he said was not able to offer any relief from the Navy’s provisions. His attempt to contact the Chief of Naval Operations had not been acknowledged as of July 5.
“Certainly, the Navy personnel who fall under this restriction are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, because no one can be required to do what is impossible,” Broglio said.
“However, given the great lengths to which Catholic churches...have gone in order to ensure social distancing in seating, receiving Holy Communion, and even adjust the liturgy to avoid any contagion, I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”
The Navy’s director of Fleet Public Affairs told Fox News July 6 that if “conditions are met locally”— which the director did not specify— "Sailors are not prohibited from attending off-base indoor religious services.”
The Navy had on June 25 established a surveillance testing program, called Sentinel Surveillance Testing, to test asymptomatic service members for COVID-19.
Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.
“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics. It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.
“I want to assure the Navy Catholic faithful of my prayerful solidarity, invite them to continue to participate in Masses that are broadcast or live-streamed, and to be fervent in their faith. This situation will pass and, as Pope Francis reminded us, Christ is in the boat with us.”
CNA was unable to reach the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA for further comment today.