Faith/Spirituality Forum: Female chaplains
Female chaplains QUESTION from Tom July 30, 2001 In regards to women chaplains I am rather confused. I know of a lady who is catholic and wants to become a chaplain in a hospital. Is this wrong in the eyes of the catholic church? Are only priests allowed to be chaplains in hospitals? Please help me in this area. Thank you and God bless.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on July 31, 2001 Dear Mr. Tom:
Women cannot be Chaplains in the canonical sense. A Chaplain must be a priest. Not even a deacon can be a Chaplain. The law on this is detailed in Canon Law #564.
Further, in the official Vatican INSTRUCTION ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING THE COLLABORATION OF THE NON-ORDAINED FAITHFUL IN THE SACRED MINISTRY OF PRIEST (August 1997) which is binding under law, we read in Article 1, section 3:
It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as pastor, chaplain, coordinator, moderator or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest. Thus Church law is that only a Priest can be a Chaplain (no matter where that Chaplain is assigned or works -- hospital, nursing home, third order, etc); and it appears that Catholic laity CANNOT take on the name of Chaplain.
Now this is probably within the context of working for the Church and assigned to a hospital. I don't know, and doubt, if this applies to a person who is independently employed by a hospital and in which their employment has no connection with the Church and no connection with the Catholic Chaplaincy, yet the HOSPITAL calls the position Chaplain.
Nevertheless, even in such independent and non-church related employment, a good Catholic, in my view, will avoid the confusion and possible scandal and not use the term Chaplain.
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