Aug 31, 2006

Catholic Military Personnel -- New Data

Two young grandsons visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this summer and were very, very impressed with the marching cadets and drums. The parachuting exhibition also helped to inspire them to ask how old they have to be to enter the Academy. Their parents answered '18' and said that they needed very good grades to be selected.

Since the boys' question, I've been curious about the percentage of Catholics in active military service. The recruiting site for Catholic chaplains states that:
40% of those in the Navy, 28% in the Air Force, and 25% in the Army are Catholic, currently, there are a little more than 140 priests in the Navy, 90 in the Air Force, and 105 in the Army.
The active military force is 1.4 million, including 366 thousand in the Navy, 178 thousand in the Marines, 359 thousand in the Air Force, and 512 thousand in the Army. If 40% of the Navy and Marines are Catholic, then there are 218 thousand Catholic sailors and Marines for 140 priests--approximately one priest for every 1,550 active duty personnel. If 28% of the Air Force is Catholic, then there are 101 thousand active duty military for 90 chaplains--approximately one priest for every 1,120 active duty military. If 25% of the 512 thousand Army members are Catholic, then there are 128 thousand Catholic soldiers for 105 chaplains--approximately 1,220 soldiers for each chaplain.

From the calculations above, the total number of Catholics in the active Armed Forces of the U.S. is approximately 447 thousand out of 1.4 million--32 percent. How does this figure compare with the percentage of Catholics in the U.S.?, which specializes in statistical data on religions in the world, says the U.S. has 61 million baptized Catholics for 26% of the population. Obviously, if the military services of the U.S. are composed of 32% Catholics, then Catholic military personnel are contributing more than their fair share--especially in the Navy and Marines.

[It should be noted that military chaplains serve more than just the active military force described above. Catholic chaplains are stated to serve a total of
1.4 million Catholics, including spouses and other family members, and other personnel.]



Interesting question, Dusty. All I can say is that when I was in basic training for the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss, Texas, in the late 1980's on the first Sunday, 80 precent of the recruits went to Mass. I know that most of them were not Catholic and had little idea of what was going on. Perhaps they just wanted to get out of the barracks. But they went to the Mass and not the simultaneously offered non-denominational service. No doubt there were many unworthy recteptions of the Blessed Sacrament that day, but it seems to me, as I look back, as a twice-removed variation of the idea that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Radical Catholic Mom said...

Interesting topic. When I can, I will scan a picture from my brother's time in Iraq of him and a few guys with the priest out in the field. My brothers, both Marines, go to Mass and when I asked them how many were Catholics they said they were in the minority. I would be interested to know the stats as well.

Anonymous said...

My brother taught at Westpoint where the chaplain told him the military academies are in competition with the seminaries for the same type of men. Sometimes both win, as in our new associate chaplain and his brother who became priests after graduating from military academies and serving the required years.

Dust I Am said...

That's an excellent final comment to this post. Can't get any better!