(CNN) – A Catholic priest has gone to court, saying the partial government shutdown is preventing him from providing religious services– even voluntarily– on a U.S. military base.
Father Ray Leonard filed a lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Washington, saying he “wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge… but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so.”
Leonard is a newly hired civilian employee, scheduled to start work October 1 to provide Catholic religious services at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.
The priest was one of thousands of civilian military employees and contractors furloughed because of the failure of Congress to reach a deal on funding the federal government. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has since recalled some Defense Department workers, but civilian military chaplains were excluded.
Leonard and co-plaintiff Fred Naylor, a veteran who attends Catholic services, said their First Amendment right of religious expression and outreach was being violated. (source)
The weekend before last I was experiencing car problems and thought about just walking to the chapel on base for Mass. Good thing I checked their Facebook first since it turned out Mass was canceled and continues to be.
I do wonder if any of these military bases affected had arranged for transportation of service members to a nearby parish? Especially for those Catholics living in barracks without cars. Of those in this situation I wonder how many are aware how serious the obligation is to attend Mass?
Not being a Canon lawyer and having not even played one on television I still wonder about the canonical questions regarding this obligation (Canon 1247, 1248). I would think just because the closest convenient parish was closed would not be a sufficient grave cause when other parishes are available in the area. I faced this question myself realizing that just because our car wasn’t working didn’t mean we couldn’t call a taxi. Thankfully we did end up getting a ride to Mass that day.