Mattingly: ‘Don’t ask’ policy puts chaplains in vise

Terry Mattingly

Terry Mattingly

Source: The Republic

The setting: The office of a priest who serves as a military chaplain.

The time: This hypothetical encounter occurs soon after the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that forbids gays, lesbians and bisexuals to openly serve in America’s armed forces.

The scene: An officer requests counseling about tensions with her same-sex partner as they prepare for marriage. The priest says this would be inappropriate, since his church teaches that sex outside of marriage is sin and that the sacrament of marriage is reserved for unions of a man and a woman.


What happens next? That question is driving the tense church-state debates that continue behind the scenes of the political drama that surrounds “don’t ask, don’t tell.”


A letter from Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America to the chaplains board was even more blunt: “If our chaplains were in any way … prohibited from denouncing such behavior as sinful and self-destructive, it would create an impediment to their service in the military. If such an attitude were regarded as ‘prejudice’ or the denunciation of homosexuality as ‘hate language,’ or the like, we would be forced to pull out our chaplains from military service.”

Read the entire article on The Republic website.


  1. alexis banias :

    Am I glad that I’m not in the military anymore. Sadly, the American taxpayer will have to pay not only for special amenities for women (i.e. in barracks, ships, etc.) but now for the sodomites. I am sure morale is a problem in the military with the current rape statistics of women being 30%, and now will probably increase (male rape?) with the DADT policy being rammed through like our current healthcare bill. This is definitely not the military of our fathers, grandfathers and forefathers, is it?

    Tragically, the young bright-eyed bushy-tailed male military officer fresh from ROTC or the academies will have to deal with unnecessary distractions and obstacles in the name of “political correctness,” in order to fulfill the objectives of the mission. The military used to pride itself on discipline, honor, and self-restraint. I only wonder what new hairbrained scheme will be hatched by our Ivy League Elites for the military, a once honorable institution (like traditional marriage), since “anything goes” now.

    The sordid state of our history seems to be in progressive entropy ever since 1966: feminism to homosexuality to abortion to rampant divorce to the U.S. Armed Rainbow Forces of America. I pray that the next step in this progression isn’t loss of national sovereignty and losing the war entirely, both on the military and moral fronts.

    And what do I hear from our Orthodox and other Christian pulpits of pusillanimity? Crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing in the wind. Enough is enough. Monomakhos.

  2. alexis banias :

    TMatt’s aforementioned article encourages me to refer the AOI bloggers and readers to the following two books: “More Spirited Than Lions” by Sarah Elisabeth Cowie and “Women in the Military: Flirting with Disaster” by former U.S. Army Captain R. Mitchell.

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

      Thank you for the plug, Alexis. “Women in the Military” is still in print, though the author’s name is Brian (Patrick) Mitchell, not R. Mitchell.

      On the subject of feminism and sodomy, a good quote to keep handy is:

      “O ye subverters of all decency, who use men as if they were women and lead women out to war as if they were men! This is the work of the devil, to confound and subvert all things, to overlap the boundaries which God had appointed from the beginning, and remove those which God had set to nature.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on Titus, NPNF1, 13, 539

      • alexis banias :

        Thank you very much for the St. John Chrysostom quote. I will send that to some of my friends. In addition, thank you very much for the correction, as I had known definitely that your last name is Mitchell. I had no idea that you were in the Orthodox Church. Did you also write “The Scandal of Gender?”

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

          I did. I have also written a lengthy article in the current issue of St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly entitled “The Problem with Hierarchy: Ordered Relations in God and Man,” which presents, I think, the best “theology of gender” available. The article goes well beyond gender to cover all interpersonal relationships and draws on the theory presented in my 2006 book Eight Ways to Run the Country, a work of political theory.

  3. On a side note, it’s great that America has at least one Hierarch that doesn’t mince words when it comes to these issues.

    • Well said, Chris. Your quantitative analysis of the hierarchy’s involvement is quite an indictment; however, it is with hope that that will soon change with this excellent website along with George M.’s new blog called Monomakhos.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Alexis, because of your unique perspective as retired military, I would ask that you keep on contributing. I don’t mean to be unkind to Fr Mark Arey, who assured us that “the day of the blogger was over,” but that fabulous remark shows how scared the Ruling Class is of the Blogestant Reformation.

    Most of us here have a vested interest in making sure that the colonialist narrative of ghetto Orthodoxy doesn’t succeed in displacing the missionary narrative. But I think that many of us are also worried about the state of our military. It’s the last, best institution in the US, and the same miscreants that have demolished mainstream Christianity, the Academy, and almost everything else, won’t be satisfied until they’ve laid waste to the military.

    • alexis banias :

      Thank you very much, George. I would refer you to the great historian and current professor at the University of California, Victor Davis Hanson. He wrote an excellent book called “The Soul of Battle,” focusing on three great generals throughout world history: Epaminondas, William “Tecumseh” Sherman, and General George S. Patton. The basic premise of the book is “that the moral vision they imparted to their troops was as significant as any military strategy. Each general aimed at salvation rather than conquest; and each one led largely untrained forces to striking victory over tyrannical enemies.” I believe that in order to have a “moral vision,” a soldier has to know what moral absolutes are – where to draw the line between what is right and what is wrong. However, a society that continually cultivates a pluralistic relativism in which moral absolutes are being diluted with clouded boundaries, then it births the same type of military and the individuals therein. An effective fighting unit has to be comprised of those conformists of like mind in order to accomplish the mission.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Alexis, Hanson is the best writer on military and Western Civilization alive today.

        • alexis banias :

          I am happy to see that you know him, and a man of your stellar erudition, I am not surprised. It is such a blessing to converse with people such as yourself, George. Monomakhos!

  5. Alexis, the problem you see with admitting gays already exists with other faiths due to the pluralism of the military. What do Christian chaplains currently do about their conviction that Christ is the only path to salvation in the midst of non-Christian or unorthodox faiths such as those of the Mormons, Jews, Christian Scientists, Buddhists and even Muslims?

    Naturally Christians applaud this recognition of the individual’s right to worship and of the importance of faith in all aspects of life. However, the First Amendment also dictates that all religions be treated equally, which means that military personnel from all religions are given accommodation. Christians may be uncomfortable with this idea, since one of the foundational principles of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life. (John 14:6) However, this is a case of all or nothing: if we as Christians wish to exclude other religions from the chaplaincy, then we have to be excluded as well. There can be no bias under the Constitution. If Christianity is given preference over all other religions, then that will be a reason to get rid of the chaplaincy altogether.

    Some suggest that eliminating the chaplaincy is actually the best option—better to have no religion supported by the government than all of them! Instead of paid chaplains, these people recommend that ministers in churches help the soldiers. And in fact many churches outside of the bases already do just that through fellowships and outreaches to the military.

    So, I’m unclear how ending DADT would impact chaplains in a manner they are not already impacted.

    • RobZ:

      Good point, however, the issue here I think is Natural Law and normalcy. Religion aside, science points irrefutably to the maxim of “opposites attracting.” The aforementioned religions you had mentioned have already established the fundamentals of Natural Law and recognize marriage to be between male and female and all the human problems inherent. They at least have one thing in common, whereas the whole DADT policy is an entirely different animal of its own, turning science and Natural Law upside down.

    • George Michalopulos :

      RobZ, you raise an interesting point. The problem and others like it already exist. It’s hard to rectify these things in a pluralistic society in the civilian sphere. (One could say: then why add to them?) However the military has always been exempt and labored under a hierarchical system that would be (and should be) intolerable in the civilian sphere.

      That’s why Article I of the Constitution gives the Congress the right to raise/uphold/mandate/oversee “land and naval forces.” Quite simply, the Congress could enact a statute tomorrow that only homosexuals could serve in the military. (Don’t laugh, it’s an unwritten rule that lesbians are preferred in the military to straight females. You can guess why.) Or only white people, or Christians, etc.

      Above examples are somewhat incongruous admittedly. The question is: what criteria should the Congress want for the Armed Forces? The only logical one is “unit cohesiveness,” a good morale, and battle-worthiness. Centuries of experience have told us that all of the above are met when sexuality does not enter in the equation. Even heterosexuality. One of the swords of Damocles that hangs over every subordinate’s head is “am I being sent on this mission so that I can die and the officer gets to have my wife/girlfriend?” The King David/Bathsheba scenario in other words.

      And let’s not forget, David’s action (though forgive by God) set in motion a chain of events that almost destroyed his kingdom.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      The problem is the quote you provided is the assumption that military chaplains serving in the military constitutes “support” by government. The non-establishment clause is a restriction on government, not religion, but the author’s reasoning, if taken to it’s logical end, would disallow religion in the public square altogether.

      As for DADT, it would be a victory for proponents if the issue could be reduced to one where homosexuality is just a life-style choice with no broader cultural ramifications. The fact that proponents are trying to force the military into more than tacit acceptance of homosexuality by forcing the repeal of DADT however, shows they aren’t satisfied with mere acceptance, but would like to see the military homosexualized. The military should not be a laboratory for social experimentation. The repeal of DADT in other words, is about establishing moral parity for homosexuality in the larger culture (just as the attempt to force gay marriage is).

  6. cynthia curran :

    Well, I was thinking of the Byzantines that had Eunuchs in the army and some commanded like Narius in the Italian campaign in Italy. Granted, Roman law fobid making men Eunuchs but outsiders came into the Empire when the were sold and of course later on believe it or not, wealthly families that wanted to advance their son’s careers had them castrated. Not the same as the homosexual issue but castration wasn’t something that good intended either.

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