Popes in Fox Holes

Never quite understood why but the phrase “No atheists in foxholes” is often used as a trump card in favor of religion. I guess it’s supposed to be good to spend part of your time in fox holes.

So how many popes have been in fox holes? Presumably in combat. I realize that is probably a bit unfair since popes tend to be old. How about cardinals and archbishops? Probably too old as well.

Maybe bishops? Some of them seem quite young and in good heath. Any examples?

Just seems that if spending time in fox holes is a plus then the Church’s mid and upper management appear to be failing the test.

It’s an expression. The foxhole, as I understand it, means any time of real danger; not necessarily a literal foxhole.

I think the point is to remark how many otherwise non-believers will ‘soften’ a bit when confronted with their own mortality by circumstances.

Maybe some research before asking such questions?

Philip Hannan

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, Hannan enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as a chaplain to the 82nd Airborne Division. He parachuted into Europe with the rest of his division and ministered to the paratroopers during the Ardennes Offensive. Hannan was also with American soldiers during the liberation of a concentration camp.

After the war, Hannan served briefly as pastor of the Cologne Cathedral during the American occupation of Germany.


Francis J. Beckman

Roman Catholic Bishop. The Archbishop of Dubuque, he served during the Great Depression and World War II years. He worked for peace in the years before the Second World War. (Bio by: Jesse)


The Most Reverend Francis X. Roque, D.D.
Retired Bishop in Residence, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of United States of America, Military Services

Bishop Roque entered the Army as a chaplain on October 9, 1961, at the height of the Cold War. He served as a U.S. Army Chaplain for 22 years, from 1961 through 1983. His military service as chaplain began at Fort Gordon and with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. He served on the DMZ in South Korea from 1965-1966 with the 2nd Infantry Division. In 1968 he was assigned to Pleiku in the Republic of Vietnam and later with the 4th Infantry Division. During that time, he served as Assistant Division Chaplain USA, until 1969.

For his service in Vietnam, Bishop Roque was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He would later receive Meritorious Service Medal (2) and Distinguished Service Medal.


Are just a few found with a simple search for " Catholic Bishops who served in War"

I hope this helps:)

Thanks but the topic is fox holes and not serving in war.

I think parachuting into Europe qualifies as being “dug in”.

He parachuted into Europe with the rest of his division and ministered to the paratroopers during the Ardennes Offensive. Hannan was also with American soldiers during the liberation of a concentration camp.

Fr. Kapaun received the Bronze Star Medal for heroism in action on August 2, 1950, near Kumchon, where he rescued a wounded soldier despite intense enemy fire. This chaplain raised on the farm in Kansas was becoming a legend to many in the Eighth Cavalry Regiment for his heroism and faith.


I gave you evidence that disproved your claim.

How about you giving counter evidence supporting your claim - or are you just attempting to troll?

Hey now. I know you are a warrior and stuff. Probably spent many hours in fox holes. But is there really any reason for name calling?

I’m sure Fr. Kapaun was a very brave man but he never made bishop.

Just stick to the topic please.

Angelo Roncalli - later to become Pope John XXIII - was a chaplain in the Italian army. There are pictures of him in uniform - wearing a moustache I believe.

What test? Who is administering it? What is the minimum score for passing?

The expression “there are no atheists in foxholes” is not a teaching of the Church. If we’re failing someone’s test, I doubt it has any relevance for us.

Whether a military chaplain advanced to the rank of bishop seems irrelevant to the question. The idea you’re criticizing isn’t “there are no senior atheist leaders in foxholes,” it is the much more broad “there are no atheists in foxholes.” Anyways, the expression isn’t limited to service in combat operations. I’ve heard firefighters, police officers, even a paramedic make the same claim. Equites Christi already summed up what it means and it is not limited to literal foxholes or “presumably in combat.”

As for additional examples, Archbishop John Ryan was present with the US Marines when they landed at Okinawa. Archbishop Edwin O’Brien was a chaplain with an airborne unit in Vietnam. They both also served as archbishops of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

The world went through two devastating World Wars. no atheists in foxholes was not coined to slur atheists, it expressed how many young felt about their own experience when they were actually in combat and in a foxhole. These young men were afraid for their lives and often turned to God at those moments of fear or horror.

Popes usually are not soldiers because they enter into seminary and religious life at the age of 18. Pope Benedict I think had to serve in the mandatory youth corps in Germany as did his brother. These young men were often forced to load anti-aircraft shells.

I won’t be surprised if we see future popes who either saw war in their homeland or served in some capacity in a time of war.

Both Pope John Paul 2 and our current Pope experienced war in their homelands and were affected by it.

Define foxhole.
Some bishops and even archbishops have stood up to totalitarian regimes: future pope John Paul II, Bl. Archbishop August von Galen who spoke out against the Nazis so forcefully they had a plan to kidnap him, Archbishop & Martyr Oscar Romero*, assassinated while celebrating Mass.

[FONT=Arial][size=2]Yeah, yeah, the Congregation won’t admit it but ++Romero has a much better claim to be a martyr than Becket.

“No atheists in foxholes” is a metaphor for showing just how in a time of great need, even men of sceptical religiosity will turn to God. However, to ask how many priests, or bishops, have ben in foxholes is rather trite. You don’t need to be in a foxhole to discover God, just like you don’t need to stick your head in a gas oven to know it’s not good for your health. “Foxhole” can also be representative of a whole lot of situations which arise in life which are not war related.

Pope John Paul II is an excellent reference. He saw war firsthand.

OP rather snarkily asked, “how many popes have been in foxholes?” as if – by mere assumption that none had been – Catholicism, and/or religion as a whole, was somehow suspect –

–but instead several posters identified at least 2 popes, and numerous other Catholic priests who had, in fact, experienced war, or the military, firsthand…

…whereupon OP made demands that others “stick to the topic.”

We did, since OP asked a question and it got answered (even if he/she didn’t expect). In short – there are many, many Catholic priests who have experienced war firsthand - period.

One of my favorites is Charles Watters, a Catholic chaplain in Vietnam who was awarded the medal of honor – postumously – for saving the lives of several wounded soldiers, at the cost of his own life. There’s a great painting of him I’ve seen, wearing his medal of honor.

How fitting, on this July 4. RIP, Fr. Watters, and all others who gave the last full measure of devotion.

Hi cerad2!

The saying “no athiests in foxholes” is an expression meant to point out that when people are faced with imminent danger, they suddenly turn to God. For example, after 9/11 there was a huge rise in Church attendance for a little while.

It’s not in any way mean to imply that it’s “good” to be in fox holes. I think you are taking the expression too literally and missing the point.

Hopefully that helps!

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