AF Family Complains about Goodfellow AFB Catholic Chaplain’s Sermon

Gina Harkins at says the Air Force is “looking into” a complaint about the content of a Catholic chaplain’s sermon last month [emphasis added]:

Capt. Antonio Rigonan, an Air Force chaplain at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, said during an Aug. 19 service that many priests who’ve abused children were “homosexuals” and “effeminate,” according to a military officer’s spouse who attended that morning.

In context, “looking into” appears to mean nothing more than “find out about,” since the Air Force had no idea there was a complaint until the press asked:

Goodfellow officials said they were not aware of Rigonan’s comments before inquired about them.

Further, in a reassuring if uncommon move, the article is replete with the Air Force reiterating the religious rights of chaplains and their responsibilities to their religious bodies:

When chaplains like Rigonan are conducting mass or other services, they are performing duties in accordance with the requirements of their religious institutions, according to official Air Force guidance updated in January.

Chaplains are also protected by a host of religious rights put in place by Congress, said Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

In other words, the theological content of a chaplain’s sermon is protected by regulation, law, and judicial precedent (Mikey Weinstein’s incorrect opinion notwithstanding).

The Air Force’s response is an outstanding reliance upon the general theme of AFI 1-1, which presumes religious liberty as a priority.

There are two other points to make about this “nontroversy.”

First, a “concern” by the anonymous spouse [emphasis added]:

I want young people in the military to feel welcome when they’re on base. How is the military affecting how they feel about their new home if they hear comments like that?

That’s a good question: How is a young Catholic going to feel if he hears his military chaplain priest speak a message consistent with the Catholic church?

He’ll probably feel outstanding!

He’ll feel welcomed by the fact his spiritual support within the military isn’t watered down by political correctness and that the core tenets of his faith haven’t been made “illegal.”

It seems that while the anonymous spouse may not agree with her own Catholic beliefs, she’s forgotten there are a great many Catholics who do. They, too, have rights — and they also have the “right” to “feel welcome” — especially if that means hearing basic Catholic tenets from a Catholic chaplain in a Catholic mass.

The second is the unspoken, inconvenient truth about the Catholic church “scandal” that’s captured the headlines recently.

It’s about homosexuality [emphasis added].

“There is no question that the crisis of sexual abuse by priests in the USA is directly related to homosexuality,” Broglio wrote. “[Ninety percent] of those abused were boys aged 12 and over. That is no longer pedophilia.”

…the issue of “homosexual attraction” cannot be ignored since most of the victims of sexual abuse by priests in the last century were committed against males 12 and above.

“Otherwise,” the [Catholic] spokesman added, “would one not expect that the victims would have included more females?”

The spouse and her officer husband weren’t bothered by the Catholic doctrine that condemned the sexual misconduct within the church, because they agreed it was reprehensible. They were bothered by the idea the sexual scandal in the Catholic church was connected to homosexuality — because, for some reason, they don’t find that reprehensible.

Interestingly, the article indicates the family first wrote to Archbishop Broglio, which seems reasonable given his religious organizational oversight of Catholic chaplains.

But why did the family feel the need to call the press (and then stay anonymous after doing so), especially without talking to the Air Force first?  Seems publicity was the intended outcome.

In the end, the spouse did what any other person in the military would do in her position:

The officer’s family hasn’t been back to mass on base and won’t be attending future services at Goodfellow, the spouse said. Instead, they’ll find a church off base.

She found a church whose teachings with which she was in agreement. Sitting in a military chapel and being “surprised” by the beliefs expressed has happened before; it will happen again (though it admittedly happens to generic “protestants” more often). It’s a product of the pluralistic environment of the US military — one made possible by religious liberty.

Some might think it funny, though, that it seems to only become newsworthy when the complaint is about religious beliefs that don’t affirm homosexuality as an appropriate lifestyle choice.

Apparently, if you disagree with or walk out of a chapel sermon that supports modern interpretations of human sexuality, you just have to deal with it.