ST. MARYS, Ga. -- Bloggers and congressmen are flogging Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, accusing it of shutting down Catholic services.
Kings Bay spokesman Scott Bassett acknowledged that Catholic Mass is not being offered on base, but said nearby Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in St. Marys has added a Sunday service for base personnel and families.
The problem is that the Rev. Ray Leonard was to have begun working under contract as the base Catholic priest on Oct. 1, the day all new contracts were put on hold by the government shutdown, Bassett said.
Federal law does not allow him to volunteer his services, Bassett said.
“Contractors can’t volunteer to do their jobs because that’s a gift. The federal government can’t accept gifts,” Bassett said.
Some have accused the base of discrimination against Catholics by allowing Protestant services to continue.
The Protestant services are being conducted by active-duty Navy chaplains, Bassett said. Unlike civilian contract workers, members of the military on active duty are not affected by the shutdown, he said. Some civilian administrative workers who were to have gone to work Oct. 1 are also on hold, Bassett said.
The criticism has been somewhat overblown, Bassett said.
“Our chapel is not closed. We didn’t chain up the door,” Bassett said. “We want the Father to come to work. It wasn’t at our level it was turned off.”