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Chaplains & Pluralism Essay

2523 words - 11 pages


Chaplains, the Constitution, and Pluralism

Submitted to Dr. Paul B. Greer, in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the completion of the course

CHPL 500 – B03
Introduction to Chaplaincy


William K. Resor Jr.
February 26, 2014


The foundation of chaplaincy can be traced as far back as biblical times. Dr. Steve Keith shares in his video that the Old Testament has examples of priests going into battle, marching alongside the soldiers, sounding the horns, and carrying the Ark of the Covenant. He mentions biblical heroes such as Aaron and ...view middle of the document...

However, the Roman emperor may have carried out many a chaplain or priest because separation of church and state was not an issue, thus the Roman emperor would also be the head of the Roman state religion. "As pontifex maximus, or chief priest, the emperor had supreme responsibility for maintaining the pas deorum (peace of the gods) and ensuring that the gods who oversaw the welfare of the state continued to do so."[3]
Other religious responsibilities may have been delegated throughout the ranks but these simple positions hardly required full-time commitment and none of these individuals were called "a priest or could qualify as a chaplain."[4] This simple conclusion does not come without question. The evidence, although slim, shows evidence "for priests-qua-priests who functioned within the context of Roman army units."[5] It is difficult to trace the roots of chaplaincy during this period. The examples are sparse and accompanied with minimization. Yet, it can be argued "that soldiers acting in the capacity of priests occasionally represented military units in religious ceremonies of a local nature..."[6]
It is also noted that this era had many eastern nonstate cults that were becoming popular within the ranks of the army. The religious ceremonies of these cults were never accepted as being official. Nevertheless, they existed side by side with the traditional state and local cults of the third century.
The emergence of Christian clergy coming onto the scene in the fourth century is often referenced in his Life of the Emperor Constantine. During engagements in war he would have a tent constructed in the shape of a church so that his army would have a sacred place for praise and worship. Priests and deacons followed along to help facilitate the law of the church.[7] There are, however, that show no other evidence that Christian clergy accompanied Roman armies in the early fifth century. Furthermore, in The Life of St. Martin of Tours, it states that the army units did not have Christian priests, and during Martin's service in the 350s, "his activities were carried out in a solitary fashion."[8]
The beginning of the middle of the fifth century shows evidence of Christian clerics being attached to military units. Letters from bishop Theoderet of Cyrrhus (393 - ca. 460), Pope Pelagius (555-60), also give credence to the use of priests to accompany the military to tend to their spiritual needs.
Mathisen concludes by admitting that evidence for priests serving in the Roman army is minimal. The late Roman period does show an occasional Christian cleric attached to non-mobile army units, but it was not well established throughout. On the other hand, Barbarian army units seem to have used Christian clerics on a regular basis. "In both cases, Christian clerics serving with army units presumably carried out the same functions as priests in civilian life, and therefore would certainly seem to qualify as "chaplains."...

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