Roman Catholic Archdiocese For the Military Services, USA
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Roman Catholic Archdiocese For the Military Services, USA

Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Foederatarum Civitatum Americæ Septemtrionalis
Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.svg
The coat of arms of the Archdiocese for the Military Services
CountryUnited States of America
Ecclesiastical provinceImmediately exempt to the Holy See
Coordinates38°56?07?N 76°59?32?W / 38.935399°N 76.992086°W / 38.935399; -76.992086
DenominationCatholic Church
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteMultiple (primarily the Roman Rite)
EstablishedJuly 21, 1986 (36 years ago)
Current leadership
ArchbishopTimothy Broglio
Auxiliary BishopsF. Richard Spencer
Neal Buckon
Joseph L. Coffey
William Muhm
Bishops emeritusRichard Higgins

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (formally the Military Ordinariate of Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical jurisdiction or archdiocese that provides the Catholic Church's pastoral and spiritual services to those serving in the armed forces of the United States and their dependents and to all military and naval bases, to the facilities of the Veterans Administration,[1] and to other federal services overseas.

It was originally established as a military vicariate, with the Archbishop of New York serving as the military vicar. It was reorganized as an archdiocese, with its own archbishop and its see relocated to the District of Columbia by Pope John Paul II in 1986. While part of the Latin Church, clergy from the Eastern Catholic Churches are permitted received endorsement by the archdiocese on the condition that they possess bi-ritual faculties and can celebrate in the Roman Rite.[2]

The current diocesan bishop is Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio. He is assisted by several auxiliary bishops. Together, they oversee Catholic priests serving as chaplains throughout the world. Each chaplain remains incardinated into the diocese or religious institute for which he was ordained.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA is a personal jurisdiction, meaning that it has no defined territory and that its jurisdiction extends to those whom it serves throughout the world. It has jurisdiction wherever American men and women in uniform serve. The jurisdiction of the Archdiocese extends to all United States government property in the United States and abroad, including U.S. military installations, embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions.[3]


Chaplain Joseph T. O'Callahan ministers to an injured man aboard USS Franklin , 1945.

Prior to the creation of the Military Ordinariate and then the Archdiocese for the Military Services, the armed forces of the United States was served by an informal corps of volunteer priests. Beginning in 1917, the spiritual care of those in military service fell to the Military Vicariate, the equivalent of a personal vicariate apostolic, that is, a particular church the membership of which is defined by some personal quality (as in this case being a member or a dependent of a member of the armed services) that is headed by a legate of the pope. Originally, the ordinariate was headed by then-Bishop Patrick Hayes, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York who served double duty as papal military vicar for the United States beginning on November 24, 1917.[4]

Hayes was chosen because New York was the primary port of embarkation for U.S. troops leaving for Europe and therefore a convenient contact point for Catholic chaplains serving with them. When Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, died, Hayes was appointed as his successor and kept the additional title and duty of military vicar. In November 1939, the Holy See established the Military Vicariate of the United States of America. The post remained an additional duty of the archbishop of New York from Hayes' time until Cardinal Terence Cooke began plans to separate it as its own jurisdiction in the early 1980s, plans he was unable to carry out before his death in 1983. Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor--a retired Navy chaplain with the rank of Rear Admiral, having served as chief of Navy chaplains (the military's title for its own senior chaplain officer) subsequently served as an auxiliary bishop for the Military Vicariate.[5] He succeeded Cardinal Cooke as Archbishop of New York and Apostolic Administrator of the Military Vicariate. He oversaw the completion of the transition. On July 21, 1986, Pope John Paul II reconstituted the military vicariate as the present Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA,[6] naming Archbishop Joseph T. Ryan its first archbishop.[]

In 2012, Catholic Extension approved a $56,000 two year grant to the Archdiocese for the Military Services to support faith formation programs for Catholics in the United States military.[7] As of April 2013, about 25% of the U.S. armed forces are Catholic.[8]

As of 2017, the Archdiocese had 208 priests on active duty serving approximately 1.8 million people.[9]


The lists of bishops, archbishops and auxiliary bishops and their tenure of service:

Apostolic Vicar of the United States Armed Forces

  1. Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes (1917-1938), concurrently served as Auxiliary Bishop of New York and later Archbishop of New York
  2. Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman (1939-1967), concurrently served as Archbishop of New York
  3. Cardinal Terence James Cooke (1968-1983), concurrently served as Archbishop of New York

Apostolic Delegate for the United States Armed Forces

  1. John Francis O'Hara, C.S.C. (1939-1945), appointed Bishop of Buffalo and later Archbishop of Philadelphia (elevated to Cardinal in 1958)
  2. William Richard Arnold (1945-1965)

Archbishop for the Military Services, USA

  1. John Joseph Thomas Ryan (1985-1991)
  2. Joseph Thomas Dimino (1991-1997)
  3. Edwin Frederick O'Brien (1997-2007), appointed Archbishop of Baltimore and later Pro-Grand Master and Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (elevated to Cardinal in 2012)
  4. Timothy P. Broglio (2008-present)

Coadjutor Archbishops

  • John Joseph Thomas Ryan (1975-1985)
  • Edwin Frederick O'Brien (1997)

Auxiliary Bishops

A Catholic chaplain ministers to American Marines and Sailors in Tikrit, Iraq
Chancery of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, in Washington, D.C.


The diocesan chancery is located in Washington, D.C.[10] The Archdiocese for the Military Services is the only US diocese without a cathedral, but celebrates its major functions at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Noncombatant status

The Geneva Conventions state (Protocol I, June 8, 1977, Art 43.2) that chaplains are noncombatants: they do not have the right to participate directly in hostilities. Captured chaplains are not considered Prisoners of War (Third Convention, August 12, 1949, Chapter IV Art 33) and must be returned to their home nation unless retained to minister to prisoners of war.

Reports of sexual abuse


In 1985. Catholic US Army chaplain Alvin L. Campbell plead guilty to sex abuse and received a 14 year prison sentence.[11] He served 7 years of this sentence and was removed from public ministry. He died in 2002.[12]

In 2000, Catholic army chaplain Mark Matson was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for molesting a 13 year old boy while serving at a US Army hospital.[13][12]

In 2005, Catholic chaplain Gregory Arflack was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting members of the US Army.[14]

Air Force

In 1991, US Air Force priest Thomas Chleboski pled guilty to five counts of molesting a 13 year old boy in 1989 and received a 20 year prison sentence.[15][16] He was accused of luring his victim with tours of Andrews Air Force Base.[17]

Barry Ryan, who served two years in prison for separate acts of sex abuse he committed in 2003, was removed from the archdiocese in 1995 after allegations surfaced that he committed acts of sex abuse against a minor in 1994.[12][18]

On April 12, 2019, Arthur Perrault, a former Roman Catholic priest who served as a US Air Force chaplain, was found guilty of sexually abusing an altar boy at an Air Force base and a veterans' cemetery in New Mexico in the early 1990s.[16][19] On September 15, 2019, Perrault, who was extradited in September 2018 years after he fled the country,[16] received a 30 year prison sentence.[20] Perrault was serving in the Air National Guard when the abuse took place.[12]

Notable chaplains by conflict

U.S. Navy Chaplain Kenneth Medve celebrates Catholic Mass on board the USS Ronald Reagan (2006)

Mexican-American War

  • John McElroy, S.J. - One of two of the Army's first Catholic chaplains. Founder of Boston College.[21]
  • Anthony Rey, S.J. - One of two of the Army's first Catholic chaplains. Vice president of Georgetown College (1845).[21] First Catholic chaplain killed during service with the U.S. military.

Civil War

For Civil War chaplains, see footnote[22]

  • Emmeran M. Bliemel, OSB - He was the first Catholic chaplain killed in action during the Civil War.[23]
  • William Corby - He is famous for giving a general absolution to the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg.
  • John Ireland - He served as a chaplain of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
  • Bernard John McQuaid - He volunteered as a chaplain and accompanied the New Jersey Brigade to the seat of war, during which service he was captured by the Confederates.

Spanish-American War

World War I

  • John B. DeValles
  • Francis P. Duffy - Chaplain for the 69th Infantry Regiment (a military unit from New York City and part of the New York Army National Guard) - known as "The Fighting 69th" - which had been federalized and redesignated the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
  • John Joseph Mitty - In 1919, he was assigned as Catholic chaplain at the U.S. Military Academy; during his tenure at West Point, General Douglas MacArthur served as superintendent.
  • Colman O'Flaherty - Chaplain with the 1st Infantry Division; was killed in action, in France; posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
  • Barry O'Toole

World War II

A US Navy chaplain celebrates Catholic Mass for Marines at Saipan, June 1944, commemorating comrades fallen in initial amphibious landings.
A tall stone monument stands on a grassy hill in a graveyard
The Catholic chaplains' monument on Chaplains Hill in Arlington National Cemetery.

See footnote[25]

Korean War

See footnote[25]

  • Herman G. Felhoelter - chaplain with the 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division; executed, along with 30 critically wounded soldiers; posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
  • Emil J. Kapaun - chaplain with 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Captured by Chinese forces at the Battle of Unsan, November 1-2, 1950. Continued his priestly ministry among American POWs, including speaking out against Communist indoctrination and stealing food and medicine. Died in captivity on May 23, 1951; posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013.[28][25] Declared a Servant of God in 1993, Fr. Kapaun's cause for canonization as a Saint began in 2008. In 2022, Catholic officials raised the possibility that Fr. Kapaun died a martyr for the Catholic faith, which would hasten the process of canonization.[29]
  • Dennis Murphy[30]
  • John J. O'Connor (later served as Navy Chief of Chaplains, 1975-1979, and as auxiliary bishop of the Military Vicariate, 1979-1983)

Cold War (pre-Vietnam)

Vietnam War

See footnote[25]

Cold War (post-Vietnam)

Iraq War/War on Terror

Fiction and literature portraying Catholic military chaplains

See also

A Roman Catholic army chaplain celebrating a Mass for Union soldiers and officers during the American Civil War (1861-1865).


  1. ^ Bunson, Matthew (July 4, 2017). "Shepherding God's Military Flock". National Catholic Register. EWTN News, Inc. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ "Endorsement". Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Retrieved 2021.
  3. ^ "Statutes of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA".
  4. ^ "Our Story". Salute. October 6, 2010. p. 7. Retrieved 2021 – via Issuu.
  5. ^ Steinfels, Peter (May 4, 2000). "Death of a Cardinal; Cardinal O'Connor, 80, Dies; Forceful Voice for Vatican". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States. GCatholic. Retrieved August 20, 2010.[self-published source]
  7. ^ "AMS Named Recipient of $56,000 Grant from Catholic Extension". August 1, 2012. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ Karen Jowers (April 5, 2013). "Training material listing Catholics as 'extremists' angers archdiocese". Army Times. Retrieved 2013.
  9. ^ Christopher White (June 24, 2017). "White, Christopher. "Military Archdiocese faces uphill battle to serve troops", Crux, Jun 24, 2017". Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, official website. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
  11. ^ "Future Pope Refused to Defrock Convicted Priest". Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d "Military Chaplains Accused of Sexual Misconduct". Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ "Jailed Hawaii priest accused of mainland sex assault". Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ "Army chaplain gets five years for sex assaults". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ Griffith, Stephanie (May 24, 1991). "D.C. PRIEST GETS 22 YEARS FOR MOLESTING VA. BOY, 13". Retrieved 2020 – via
  16. ^ a b c Lee, Morgan; Hudetz, Mary (April 12, 2019). "Former Air Force chaplain, a retired colonel, found guilty of sex abuse in New Mexico". Air Force Times. Retrieved 2020.
  17. ^ Burns, Mary (February 19, 1995). "UNSACRED TRUST". Retrieved 2020 – via
  18. ^ "Fr. Barry E. Ryan | Priest". Retrieved 2020.
  19. ^ 'Few acts more horrific': former US priest jailed for 30 years for child sexual abuse The Guardian, 2019
  20. ^ Lee, Morgan; Hudetz, Mary (September 16, 2019). "Retired Air Force chaplain, a fugitive for 20 years, sentenced in Kirtland AFB sex abuse case". Air Force Times. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ a b O'Conner, Thomas H. "Breaking the religious barrier", The Boston Globe, Boston, May 10, 2004.
  22. ^ On the following page, go to the link for "Chaplains" and then click on the "USA Chaplains" link or the "CSA Chaplains" link."Home page". The National Civil War Chaplains Museum. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  23. ^ "Rev. Emmeran M. Bliemel - Hero of Battle of Jonesboro: 10th Tennessee Regiment: The first American Catholic Chaplain to die on the battlefield". The National Civil War Chaplains Museum. 2008. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved 2011. Chaplain of the 10th Tennessee Regiment, he courageously and unselfishly ministered to the spiritual needs of all the wounded, both under fire and behind the lines. He died while giving the last rites to his Commanding Officer, Colonel William Grace. Rev. Bliemel also ministered to the men of the 4th Kentucky Regiment (the Orphan Brigade).
  24. ^ McClarey, Donald R. (October 3, 2016). "Hero of the Maine: Father John Chidwick". CatholicStand. Retrieved 2016.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o On Chaplains Hill in Arlington National Cemetery is a monument for 83 Catholic chaplains who died in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
  26. ^ Ryan was a Navy chaplain from 1943 to 1946 and took part in the Marine landing at Okinawa. He served as chancellor of the U.S. Military Vicariate from 1957 to 1958. On February 7, 1966, he was appointed the first archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska, by Pope Paul VI. He was consecrated a bishop on March 25 by Cardinal Spellman. On November 4, 1975, Ryan was named coadjutor archbishop for the Military Vicariate and Titular Archbishop of Gabii. After the death of Cardinal Cooke, Pope John Paul II elevated the Military Vicariate (which had been run by the Archdiocese of New York) to the rank of an archdiocese and named Ryan the first archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, on March 16, 1985.
  27. ^ "Sunday in Paradise". March 11, 2009. Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ A Servant of God, Father Kapaun died in a POW camp and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 11, 2013 by President Barack Obama. Milburn, John, "Army says Kansas Army chaplain Rev. Kapaun worthy of Medal of Honor for service in Korean War"[permanent dead link], Associated Press, October 13, 2009. Baltimore Sun website. Retrieved October 15, 2009. The article includes an undated photo (released by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita), showing Fr. Kapaun saying Mass in the field.
  29. ^ Wenzl, Roy (January 25, 2022). "Vatican to reconsider whether Kapaun died a martyr, possibly speeding sainthood path". Wichita Eagle. Retrieved 2022.
  30. ^ Chaplain Dennis Murphy celebrates mass for the men of 65th AAA Bn., at Bolo Point, Okinawa. July 19, 1951. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  31. ^ For information about Father Brett, go to "United States Navy Chaplain Corps § Notable chaplains" and click on the three footnotes next to his name.
  32. ^ Scroll down - through the 32 ecclesiastical provinces (in alphabetical order) - to the Washington archdiocese, below which is the Military Services archdiocese and its archbishop and auxiliary bishops.

Further reading


  • Crosby, Donald F., 1994. Battlefield Chaplains: Catholic Priests in World War II. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0814-1
  • O'Brien, Steve. Blackrobe in Blue: The Naval Chaplaincy of John P. Foley, S.J. 1942-1946 (see external link, below)
  • O'Rahilly, Alfred. The Padre of Trench Street (about Jesuit Father William Doyle). ISBN 1-905363-15-X
  • O'Malley, Mark Francis. An History of the Development of Catholic Military Chaplaincy in the United States. Gregorian University, 2009 (dissertation).


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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