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Catholic Weddings in
Ecumenical Military Chapels?

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Dear TIA,

My fiancé and I (both Catholic) have completed VERY thorough precana class and our wedding (with mass) is scheduled with a Catholic priest who is a chaplain at a military chapel (fiancé is military).

We were surprised to hear a comment from a relative that since the military chapel is not exclusively Catholic (it is shared by the Catholic and Protestant chaplains), this is atheological problem and they cannot attend the wedding.

This comes as a shock. No Catholic or military representative said anything of the kind throughout the entire engagement/precana period. I'm wondering if the relative is being more conservative than the Faith would require. Please provide your perspective.

     Thank you.

     E.R.J.
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TIA responds:

Dear E.R.J.

For someone speaking with the mind of the Church, as we hope we are, from a Catholic perspective there are two points to be considered in your question.

First, the validity of the marriage, second the convenience of having the wedding Mass and ceremony in said place.

1. Regarding the validity of the marriage, we think that a marriage that takes place in a chapel that is not exclusively Catholic, but shared by Protestants, is valid, as long as the military chaplain is a validly ordained Catholic priest and the formula of the Sacrament is followed.

In essence, for the Sacrament to be ministered there is need only of two spouses legally able to contract marriage, the Catholic priest, and two witnesses. This Sacrament may be ministered anywhere, in case of necessity. Therefore, it could take place in a garden, a private home, a hospital, on ship, in the sacristy of a church, or in a solemn ceremony in a church during a Mass where the spouses receive Communion. This solemnity, even if afterwards it is what most people remember, is not essential for the Sacrament of Matrimony to be valid.

The situation you describe is that of a military chapel in which Catholics and Protestants share the same place in turn for their respective worships. The military authority who first established such a place took a position of Religious Indifferentism by allowing both religions to be there with equal rank. It is an error for this authority to have done this, and he will have to give an account to God for that. However, this does not affect the validity of the Catholic Sacrament administered in that place.

The situation is similar to that in which this Sacrament is administered in a non-Catholic hospital. The Sacrament does not lose its validity when it takes place there.


2. Regarding convenience, there are other considerations.

As far as we know, the Catholic Church approved ecumenical chapels just in the case of war, when on the front lines from exiguity of space there was only one tent or a single simple building in which the true Mass rotated with ceremonies of false religions.

The liberal reason alleged by military authorities for this was to offer soldiers of different beliefs some spiritual comfort. They did not care about what is true or false. Therefore, military authorities accepted those different religions as a fait accompli that was not a topic for discussion.

The Church allowed Catholics to attend Mass in such chapels for a grave reason, that is, as long as they could not go to another place because of the war. It was a lesser evil to assist there than remain without any Mass.

After the war, such ecumenical chapels were implanted in many American military bases, no longer for the imperative reason of war, but just as a material convenience for the officers and soldiers. It was a step further in liberalism. American Catholic Bishops either closed their eyes to these chapels or positively approved them to foster ecumenism, which was gaining strength in the ‘40s. After Vatican II, ecumenism was definitely encouraged by the progressivist Bishops and Popes.

Another attempt to advance ecumenical chapels was made in international airports in the late ‘60s. Today it is not rare to see ecumenical chapels in large shopping centers and other sizeable commercial complexes.

A new fashion adopted by progressivist Bishops is to call the modern churches they build “worship spaces” and no longer Catholic churches. Such is the case of the new Cathedral of Los Angeles, which Cardinal Roger Mahony calls by this name and lends to heretics and pagans to celebrate their feasts. It is the progressivist tendency to transform Catholic churches into ecumenical temples.

Along the same lines, some years ago, John Paul II lent a Catholic church indefinitely to Schismatics in Rome for them to celebrate their ceremonies. From that time on, this practice has become increasingly common in Italy. This is not to mention the so-called “ecumenical services” in which different creeds gather together to say some common prayers. Benedict XVI did this recently on his trip to Poland.

So, the American military ecumenical chapels were one of the landmarks for the advance of bad ecumenism everywhere.

However, all these initiatives incur the severe condemnations of pre-conciliar Popes.

Indeed, Pope Pius IX affirmed with energy:
“Perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs [religious indifferentism], a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial” (Encyclical Qui pluribus of November 9, 1846, The Papal Encyclicals, vol. 1, Mcgrath, 1981, p. 280).
Referring to the ecumenical experiments already being carried out under his pontificate Pope Pius XI was also firm:
“Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, since they are founded on the false opinion that considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy …. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion, they reject it, and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism” (Encyclical Mortalium animos of January 6, 1928, Papal Encyclicals, vol. 3., p. 317).
Given these precedents and this perennial doctrine, it seems to us very convenient to avoid attending an ecumenical military chapel as a normal parish. Also, celebrating your own marriage in such a place should be avoided. If you marry in such a chapel, you can understand that some traditionalist or conservative Catholic relatives or friends may not attend for the reasons exposed above.

We hope this provides you with the requested assistance.

     Cordially,

     TIA correspondence desk.
Posted November 27, 2006

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