Women Chaplains


I am wondering if anyone could tell me if Catholic women can be Chaplains in the military. I am looking at going back into the service but as an officer. The option of being a Chaplain presented itself as I have a degree in Christian studies, but I know I cannot be a Catholic Chaplain since I am not a priest and cannot administer the sacraments. Would it be a problem to be a non-denom or other Christian chaplain as long as I am still performing my obligations with the church. I want to do what is allowed by the Magisterium and I do not know if this would be permitted.



Here’s a link where you can find out more about your question.



To my knowledge, the US military will only take priests as chaplain (not even deacons), because of how vital the sacraments are for Catholic life.

You may want to contact the Archdiocese of the Military and talk about opportunities as a Chaplain’s Assistant, or another role, where you’d assist a Catholic priest who was ministering to a particular area. This would most likely be on a base somewhere.


No. Catholic chaplains are priests, and women cannot become priests.

On a related subject, many people are not aware that Bl. Pope John Paul II infallibly stated that women can never become priests in ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS :

  1. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.


Key sentence: " I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful."

Key word: “definitively”

THAT, ladies and germs, was an act of Papal Infallibility.



As far as I know military chaplains have to be considered members of the clergy for their religion. Chaplains in the military are essentially pastors and lead worship services among other things. To be a nondenominational chaplain would be like working as a pastor at a nondenom megachurch, but attending Mass on Saturday evening.

Either you are Catholic or you aren’t; you can’t change religious identity to suit your desires or goals. I do not see a way that a Catholic woman could be a chaplain without compromising their religious identity.


It depends where you live.

I know that the Canadian the military has at least 1 Catholic woman “Chaplain”. I was on course with her. I expressed surprise and she told me that it was because they couldn’t find enough priests to have one on every ship. I don’t know how the Military Ordinariate squares the use of lay people as Chaplains with Canons 264-272 and 1997’s[FONT=Arial][size=2] document ***"***[/size][/FONT][FONT=Georgia][size=2]***On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests"***. [/size][/FONT]


Meanwhile – thank you for your service.


To be a chaplain you need sponsorship by your church. In this case, that’s the Catholic Church who only places priests in those positions because of the importance of providing sacraments to Catholic service members. If they did otherwise, then they would risk depriving Catholics of the sacraments.

If you mean to seek a sponsorship from a Protestant church, without violating your Catholic faith, then I think you would probably be in grave sin since you would be required by that sponsor to spread a heresy. Furthermore, I doubt a Protestant church would want to sponsor a Catholic chaplain.

There does exist a job called a Chaplain assistant, but that job is enlisted. You might be able to do that.


Hold your horses, buck. No one was talking about woman’s ordination, it was a question if a woman could act as a chaplain (I know lay chaplain was specifically mentioned, but I thought it was implied).


Sometimes God leads us down a path with many turns. We take the path and eventually get where God is leading us.

Maybe God is calling you back to the military as an officer. However, most likely it is not as a Chaplain.

A Chaplain’s “job” includes holding “church services.” Of course, as you mentioned, for Catholic Chaplains that is as a priest offering Holy Mass.

As Catholics, we spread the Gospel in Catholic teachings.

If it were possible for you to become a “Protestant Minister” who does not embrace Protestant teachings - how would the Protestant “members” of the chapel embrace a Minister teaching the Catholic Faith.

So, it seems God would not be calling you, a faithful Catholic in the fullness of His Church, to be a Protestant Chaplain in the Military.

Continue to pursue being a military officer, in a different branch than the Chaplain’s Corps.

Chaplain’s Corps

Army Officer

On the other hand, maybe this path God is leading you down, is not about being a military officer. Maybe it is about your degree in Christian Study in another area.

Keep walking down the path that God is sending you. Keep praying. Keep your heart open to where he is leading you. Sometimes it takes following several smaller paths to get to the main path.


The Canadian military has non-priest Catholic Chaplains.



As a retired U.S. Marine, I can tell you that women do serve as Military Chaplains…they have for some time now. Most that I came into contact with or saw were Army or Air force…I only recall one in the Navy’s Chaplain Corps…which serves both sailors and Marines. The military Departments (Army, Navy and Air Force)…through the Service branches…go to the various denominations…and ask for them to provide…they rely on the denominations to certify the individual candidate’s ministerial qualifications in their specific faith groups…the Services don’t question their qualifications once they are certified by their church or Faith group.

Obviously you could not be certified for Catholic Chaplaincy…and to be certified as say as an Assembly of God or Lutheran or Episcopalian minister for chaplaincy…you would have to convert to that faith group…The Church…your bishop or the Magisterium…would never sanction or encourage to do this…since you would have to leave your Catholic Faith…a very high cost…and perilous step to take.

I applaud your desire to serve in this very special way…but maybe you could consider an Officer social counselor career path…(counseling individuals service members…families, marriage counseling and children). With the effects of war time stresses…and today’s confused (at best) world that our service members (and all of us) grow up in…the need for counseling…outside of pure spiritual counseling…is greater than it has ever been.

It sounds like the Holy Spirit is calling you to a sacrificial service vocation…my strongest recommendation…find a good priest spiritual director and let him help you discern what it is and how you can answer the Lord in your Catholic faith/Church’s missions. I also recommend that you call the Military Archdiocese (Maryland…just across the river from Washington D.C.)…and talk to them about your desires and situation…they may have some specific suggestions. They provide…through the individual Diocesan bishops and Priest Orders Superiors ( Franciscan, Jesuit, etc)…the Catholic Chaplains for all the Services…they know all the “nuts and bolts” of how it works. They also serve the VA Centers and Military hospitals…you may be able to work in a Lay Apostolate ministry with/for them…for which they have responsibility to minister.

Prayers and all the best success in your journey
Pax Christi

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No horses to be held. The question is about a woman being a Catholic chaplain in the armed forces for the USA. The answer is no for the reason given. Only priests serve as US military Chaplains and women cannot be ordained priests, therefore women’s ordination is an issue.


Thank you all for your responses. As some of you saw (and others did not seem to get) I was NOT asking to be ordained but was asking if it was scandolous to serve with another denomination while remaining Catholic since I know I cannot serve my faith. I will consult the archdiocese of the Military as several people mentioned. I appreciate everyones imput and right now, I am taking this as my will not God’s will so after I speak to the archdiocese, I will rest in peace with the answer. Thanks.


I guess I didn’t comment on that aspect because I thought it was mentioned for hyperbole affect. The answer to that question is no. You cannot claim to be Latin Rite Catholic then go on to represent “another denomination”. That is not consistent with living the life of a Catholic. That is like allowing your kids to go to the local ND because they feel more at home there rather than the Mass. This is not something a faithful Catholic in good standing does. Please reconsider your thoughts of being a military chaplain, you are Catholic and only Catholic priests are placed in these roles.

If you go to the Catholic Archdiocese of the military and ask that question, don’t be shocked if you do not receive an answer further than a blank stare.

I do not mean to be disrespectful, but this thinking is not in line with Church teaching.


Women of Catholic faith cannot be Catholic chaplains in any capacity. However, male/female active duty/reserve military personnel may be eligible as a Lay leader participating in a limit role as designated and approved by the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) and a commanding officer on a military installation where there is no priest–this is usual in deployed remote military installations/war zones/-Here is the link with the information–


You must already be active duty/reserve military personnel and meet the eligibility requirements(referenced in the link),complete an application, then selected by AMS from the pool of applicants and complete thetraining-It is a very lengthy process–There are female military personnel of Catholic faith who are actively participating in this role–you will need a strong recommendation from your local priest/archdiocese–to be successful in the role as a lay person-remember this is a calling from God so if this is the path God is leading you towards speak to your priest and the AMS office in Wahsisngton D.C.–God Bless


I know this thread was started long ago, but I felt the need to put in my two cents.

There are, indeed, Catholic lay women who are in the role of “chaplain,” although I would argue that their role is NOT to the degree as laid out by Canon Law, which explicitly says it must be that of a priest, and that’s because it involves duties that only an ordained priest could provide.

The issue is that there is a need (and a calling) for lay person to provide pastoral care in the health care industry, and “chaplain” remains the title of the PROFESSION with certification requirements.

The National Association of Catholic Chaplains has dealt with this inconsistency this way (see link) in order to be “faithful” to the Canon Law:


They are called “chaplains” for the sake of the “profession,” but are in effect “lay ecclesial health care ministers.”

closed #18

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