Monday, September 07, 2020

USN Tone Deaf on Religion, Again

Indifference, ignorance, hostility ... or a bit of everything?

In times of cultural and societal turmoil, which I think all of us can agree 2020 is such a time, for many people their religion is a safe harbor and a place of stability.

Especially for those in the military where there are stresses few in the civilian world face, for many religion serves as an even greater anchor. It is a force multiplier, and for all of human history, militaries have known this.

There have been notable exceptions - revolutionary France, republican Spain, and the Soviet Union are three examples of military hostility to religion, but probably not good benchmarks ... and yet again we have an example of Navy nomenklatura making pro-active efforts to limit access to religious services ... or at least failing to understand their importance. 

Remember the Page-13 issue that was thankfully nuked by the White House earlier this year?

Catholic Masses at San Diego-area Navy bases have ended because the Navy, in what it says is a cost-cutting move, has declined to renew its contracts with Catholic priests, and there are not enough Catholic chaplains on active duty to fill the void. Protestant services on bases, which are led by active duty chaplains, will continue, said Brian O’Rourke, a Navy Region Southwest spokesman. The changes to the Navy’s religious ministries are part of a national realignment announced on Aug. 20. It is unclear how many priests this will affect.
You have to love the bureaucratic squid ink language;
“The Navy’s religious ministries priority is reaching and ministering to our largest demographic — active duty Sailors and Marines in the 18-25 year-old range,” O’Rourke wrote in an email. “To meet that mission, the Navy has had to make the difficult decision to discontinue most contracted ministry services.” ... In the Navy message announcing the change, Vice Adm. Yancey Lindsey, the commander of Naval Installations Command, said it differently. “We have a responsibility to use our limited resources wisely in meeting the needs of our personnel,” wrote Lindsey. “Therefore, we will reduce redundancies and capture efficiencies by realigning resources,” noting that religious services will be cut at bases where those services are readily available in the surrounding community outside the base.
Oh really? Very well, give me your budgets for the last 3 FY. I also want the manning documents for your UIC and UIC two echelons down. I'll find your funding. As freedom of religion is a constitutional right, I'll look at things in other non-foundational areas. How many dedicated BSC are related to "Diversity and Inclusion" in those three echelons? How much money was spent on contracted trainers, seminars, travel and participation in sectarian "affinity groups?"

After we get that number, we can look elsewhere for things lower on the hierarchy of needs.

Knowing the demographics of San Diego, the stab at Catholics is a bit ballsy, but if you want to make a move, move big. Once you do that without pushback, cutting access in other places for small religious confessions will be easier.

Over to Father Jose;
To Rev. Jose Pimentel, a priest who has led services at Naval Base Coronado and Naval Air Station North Island for eight years, the loss of his parish isn’t just a personal loss — it’s a loss of the 1st Amendment rights of service members on bases. “One issue is discrimination (and) another is the violation of your right to practice your religion,” he said when reached by phone Friday. Pimentel was notified Aug. 19 that the Navy will not exercise the final two years of his contract, citing “funding constraints.” His last day is Sept. 30. While the Navy has an active duty component of clergy — the Chaplain Corps — the number of Catholic priests among them is small, reflecting a worldwide shortage of Catholic priests. To make up for that shortage, the service contracted with priests to lead Catholic services on U.S. bases. Those contracts are the ones being canceled. O’Rourke acknowledges in his statement that the change predominately affects Roman Catholics.
I would really like to know how far up the chain this COA went and who approved it. Who thought, "Hey, let's stick it to Catholics in San Diego." was a smart money move - especially given the already spotty record our Navy has had in San Diego this year? Just look at the stats:
Religion in San Diego, California 45.0% of the people in San Diego are religious: 
- 1.6% are Baptist 
- 0.4% are Episcopalian 
- 26.8% are Catholic 
- 1.0% are Lutheran 
- 1.2% are Methodist 
- 1.1% are Pentecostal 
- 0.9% are Presbyterian 
- 2.4% are Church of Jesus Christ 
- 6.7% are another Christian faith 
- 0.6% are Judaism 
- 1.5% are an eastern faith 
- 0.7% affilitates with Islam
High demand, low density. Who decided the answer would be even lower density support for the majority religious community? Heck, I'm not Catholic and I'm pissed.
Catholics on active duty also have needs many civilian priests can’t accommodate, Pimentel said. Sacraments such as Holy Communion, confirmation and marriages can be challenging for service members and their families when balancing deployment schedules. “It’s hard to quantify what I do,” Pimentel said, saying he’s done everything from performing weddings and baptisms to counseling families of service members who died by suicide. “I’m a 25-year veteran of the Navy and Air Force, so I can provide a certain level of support they wouldn’t get from the civilian side,” he said. Pimentel and those who attend Catholic services said there is still a high demand for Mass. “Between three services, I serve about 250 to 400 people on the weekends,” Pimentel said. Parishioners who spoke with the Union-Tribune questioned the fairness of Catholic services being canceled while Protestant services will continue.

UPDATE: Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, has weighed in.

You can read his letter here.

UPDATE II: Electric Boogaloo: It looks like a course reversal.
Roman Catholic services will continue on board Southern California Naval bases at least for the next year, Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, the commander of Navy Region Southwest, announced Tuesday, reversing a plan to suspend most contracts for priests in an effort to cut costs. ... Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, wrote on Twitter Sunday that the Navy should “look at canceling Admirals, not priests.”

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