Can neo-pagans and Catholics share the same worship space?

I am a member of the Catholic church at an Air Force base chapel. The chapel is a building shared with Protestants. Jewish and Muslim worship is also held there, though not regularly for the two, because of lack of participation. It is designed so that all the “Catholic stuff” such as holy water fonts, a crucifix, etc., fold into the walls. There is also a Blessed Sacrament chapel in a lockable room which also has a baptismal font. I have never witnessed any litugical abuse or felt anything was distasteful about the Mass held on base. My husband and I feel called to support the Catholic presence at our base, and enjoy worshiping with our military community. One of the wonderful benefits is the opportunity for joint efforts between the various religions! We often work together to have fundraisers, carnivals, etc.

I actually now have, what I feel, are valid concerns. I just read in the base paper that the “Neo-Pagan earth-based faith group will meet Aug. 28 at 7:00 PM in chapel two”… where we go to Mass! I find this disturbing! I have no problem sharing my worship space at the base chapel with Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, although I may disagree with their theology, we are at least all worshiping God, and we show respect to one another.

I find it disturbing and sacriligious that we will now be sharing space with pagans who will be worshiping gods and goddess and nature and possibly performing witchcraft and spells. I am sure that some of them are witches because I have met a few women who are in this group and practice witchcraft, they are in a coven together. I am floored. I believe in freedom of religion, even on a military base, but I feel strongly that our base chapel should be reserved for God. I feel it lowers the status of God in the minds of the military personnel for Him to be worshiped in a place were false gods and goddesses and who knows what else is worshiped. Above all I want to be pleasing to God and am unsure whether standing idly by and letting this take place would be.

They have been meeting in another location until now and the use of the chapel is a breakthrough for them because they want the accepted status of their religion. They really don’t NEED the space, they are making a statement. They have the freedom to meet at other locations. I don’t want to leave my parish, especially at a time like this! What is your advice on how I should handle this? Is it a violation or abuse for Mass to be held in the same location?

The first thing to do would be to find out who has jurisdiction over the chapel on this base. Is it provided by the military for the use of all religious groups who request it, or is it provided by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, for the use of Catholic military personnel and shared by the Archdiocese with non-Catholics and non-Christians?

If the chapel’s jurisdiction belongs to the military, your chaplain may only have three courses of action: one, to protect the Blessed Sacrament and the Catholic liturgical vessels that are stored in the chapel; two, to discern, perhaps with the help of an attorney, whether there are legal grounds to challenge this group’s claim to be an authentic religious body. If there are no such legal grounds, then all that your chaplain may be able to do in the short term is to make sure that the Blessed Sacrament and the Catholic liturgical vessels are protected.

The third course of action may have to be a long-term solution: The chaplain may need to request of the Archdiocese that separate facilities be obtained for Catholic personnel’s worship, to be under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese.

If the chapel’s jurisdiction belongs to the Archdiocese, your chaplain can petition the Archdiocese to disallow continued space-sharing in the chapel with non-Catholic and non-Christian groups, on the grounds that the Archdiocese can no longer ensure that Catholic worship will be protected if any and all non-Catholic and/or non-Christian groups are going to expect accommodation for their rituals, some of which may be antithetical to Christian sensibilities.

In any event, you should suggest to your chaplain that he consult with the Archdiocese for how to best protect the Blessed Sacrament and Catholic liturgical vessels in the interim while a long-term solution is being planned.

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