Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview


By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 13, 2003

Stars and Stripes has published a fascinating three-part article (go here, here, and here) discussing allegations of bias and corruption centered in the Navy Chaplain Corps.

There are now five separate lawsuits -- including two class-action cases that are being heard together and represent about 2,000 current and former chaplains -- filed against the Navy claiming bias against evangelicals, or simply against theologically conservative chaplains of any denomination. ...

The class-action suits allege that the Navy staffs its mostly Christian Chaplain Corps with about one-third Roman Catholics, one-third liturgical Protestants and one-third evangelicals. The suits claim that's unfair because so many sailors come from evangelical backgrounds and that good chaplains are run out of the service to keep the ratio in place.

The accusations are especially interesting because they involve parallel bureaucracies -- ecclesial and military -- whose interests overlap in large measure but not completely. Each has good reasons and bad for squelching public criticism; each has good reasons and bad for secrecy; each has good reasons and bad for demanding strict obedience. As a consequence, the article is in large measure a series of charges made by disaffected chaplains and ex-chaplains, countered by official refusal to comment or blanket denials of institutional bias.

The complaints voiced by the plaintiffs include bias in assignment and promotion, active hostility to evangelical initiatives, and toleration of gross misconduct by Roman Catholic and liturgical Protestant chaplains.

An internal Navy review from 1999 obtained by Stars and Stripes revealed that chaplains over several years had more incidents of disciplinary action than did the service's entire line officer community. Most were disciplined for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. ... "I'm calling it Chaplaingate," [Southern Baptist Rev. Billy] Baugham said, "and the gates are not pearly."

The series recounts a truly bizarre case involving Fr. John Lyle, OSFS. Lyle was a Naval Reserve chaplain with the rank of lieutenant commander and principal of Paul VI High School in Fairfax, VA, in which capacity he admitted as a student a man who claimed to be the nephew of producer Stephen Spielberg. It turns out that "Jon Spielberg" was in reality a 27-year-old Iranian crook named Fakhran:

The man parked his BMW, license-plated "SPLBERG," in Lyle's parking space. The impostor had told the school he was researching a teen movie. ... In January 2000, Fairfax police arrested Fakhran on charges of forgery and submitting false documents to the high school, misstating his age on a name-change petition, and for possessing a book police said contained child pornography.

It gets weirder. At the end of that academic year the Oblates decided to "withdraw their presence from the school community," and Lyle was rescued from the embarrassment to come by getting himself shifted from reserve to active duty, illegally bumped up to the rank of commander (he should have come in as a lieutenant), and issued orders that deceitfully assigned him duty as a "flight surgeon" in order to justify the rank he was given.

Lyle, contacted at his current post at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., declined a request for an interview. "Since this matter is still in the court, it would not be appropriate for me to make any comments," Lyle wrote in an e-mailed response.
Interesting, isn't it, how often clergymen will display a fastidious regard for appropriateness when it comes to scrutiny of their grossly inappropriate decisions.

"When you pick up a rock," Baugham said, "the bugs run."

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.