September 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – President Donald Trump confirmed in a tweet this morning that the U.S. Navy has reversed course and decided to renew contracts with Catholic priests to celebrate Holy Mass on military bases. Trump praised the Catholic priests for their “great compassion & skill.”
“The United States Navy, or the Department of Defense, will NOT be cancelling its contract with Catholic Priests who serve our men and women in the Armed Forces so well, and with such great compassion & skill. This will no longer be even a point of discussion!” he wrote in a tweeted in which he tagged New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
The United States Navy, or the Department of Defense, will NOT be cancelling its contract with Catholic Priests who serve our men and women in the Armed Forces so well, and with such great compassion & skill. This will no longer be even a point of discussion! @CardinalDolan
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2020
Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, the commander of Navy Region Southwest, announced the reversal of the plan to suspend most contracts for priests on Tuesday, reported the San Diego Union Tribune.
Vice Admiral Yancey Lindsey, the commander of Naval Installations Command, had previously stated about the original decision: “We have a responsibility to use our limited resources wisely in meeting the needs of our personnel. Therefore, we will reduce redundancies and capture efficiencies by realigning resources.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune, which first reported on the news, explained at the time that “religious services will be cut at bases where those services are readily available in the surrounding community outside the base.”
The newspaper pointed out, “While the Navy has an active-duty component of clergy – the Chaplain Corps – the number of Catholic priests among them is small. To make up for that shortage, the service contracted with priests to lead services on U.S. bases. Those contracts are the ones being canceled.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Fr. Jose Pimentel, who was contracted to say Mass on naval bases in the San Diego area, as saying, “One issue is discrimination (and) another is the violation of your right to practice your religion.”
Between 250 and 400 service members attend Mass at San Diego Navy installations every weekend.
A petition by LifeSiteNews signed by over 10,000 people, addressed to Commander of Navy Installations, Vice Admiral Yancy Lindsey, and Commander in Chief, President Donald Trump, argued that it is “blatant discrimination” against Catholics to cancel Masses while still offering services to other Christian denominations.
“Going to Mass on Sunday is not just a optional thing for Catholics, it is an obligation. The Navy, therefore, has an obligation to its Catholic sailors, to facilitate attendance at Mass, especially as many sailors may not be able to travel off-base,” the petition stated.
“We, the undersigned, are dismayed to learn that the Navy intends to cancel on-base Masses for Catholic sailors citing cost as the reason, while, at the same time, continuing to fund other religious services as per normal.”
Popular Catholic blogger Father John Zuhlsdorf thanked Trump for the good news.
“THANK YOU! I'm one of those priests who in the past contracted with the Navy. THANK YOU!” he tweeted.
THANK YOU! I'm one of those priests who in the past contracted with the Navy. THANK YOU!
— Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (@fatherz) September 9, 2020
LifeSite’s Martin Bürger contributed to this report