Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia

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Military Ordinariate of Australia
Ordinariatus Militaris Australia
Coat of arms of the Catholic Diocese of the Australian Defence Force.svg
Coat of arms
Country Australia
Metropolitan Immediately subject to the Holy See
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Rite Roman Rite
Established 6 March 1969
Patron saint Mary Help of Christians
Current leadership
Bishop Max Davis

The Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia, is a Latin Church suffragan military ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church immediately subject to the Holy See. It was established in 1969 and managed for administrative purposes by the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Its ordinary (bishop) and his chaplains serve the members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their families in all three services; the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) regardless of location.


Catholic chaplaincy has been provided for Australians serving in the military since the 1901 contribution of forces to fight in the Boxer Rebellion. However, it was not until 1912 that a bishop, Thomas Carr, the then Archbishop of Melbourne, was delegated by the Catholic bishops of Australia as the bishop of the Australian Armed Forces.

From 1912 until 1969, Catholic armed servicemen and women were in the care of a bishop delegated to them who was also a bishop elsewhere. In 1969, Pope Paul VI created the Military Vicariate of Australia. In 1984, Pope John Paul II elevated the vicariate to a military ordinariate with its own bishop. The diocese was officially established under an apostolic constitution, Spirituali Militum Curae, on 21 July 1986 and given final approval in 1988.


Although the headquarters of the diocese is located in Campbell, Australian Capital Territory, the diocese is attached to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, while being immediately subject to the Holy See. Unlike conventional dioceses, which are restricted to a geographical area, the Catholic Diocese of the ADF covers all of Australia and its 30 Defence bases, and any Australian military facilities or units overseas or off-shore.


The Catholic Bishop of the ADF is a member of the ADF's Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS), and holds status equivalent to a two-star officer (NATO rank code OF-7). RACS advises the Federal Minister of Defence, the Chief of the Defence Force and the three chiefs of the services on matters pertaining to religion, worship and chaplaincy. The Catholic bishop is the head of the Catholic denomination recognised in the Defence Instructions (General) of the ADF.

The following individuals have been elected as Bishop of the Armed Services:[1]

Name Term Other appointment
Bishop of the Armed Services
Thomas Carr 1912–1917 Archbishop of Melbourne: 1886–1917
Daniel Mannix 1917–1963 Archbishop of Melbourne: 1917–1963
Thomas Absolem McCabe 1964–1969 Bishop of Wollongong: 1951–1974
Military Vicar
John Aloysius Morgan 1969–1985 Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn: 1969–1985
Military Ordinary
Geoffrey Mayne 1985–2003 -
Max Davis 2003–present -

Principal chaplains[edit]

Army and Air Force has three principal chaplains; one each to represent Catholicism, Anglicanism and ProtestantismIn January 2018 Navy removed the requirement to have three principal chaplains. They are accorded the rank relevant to the Division Five chaplain for each branch. Principal chaplains oversee the chaplains of their service—managing matters such as appointment, training and assignment of chaplains within their branch—and are the primary religious advisors to the chief of each branch, except with the Navy where the single Principal Chaplain (DGCHAP-N) speaks on behalf of all faith groups.

Catholic priests who are promoted to principal chaplains of the ADF are traditionally nominated for and receive the title "Monsignor" from the Pope. The current Catholic principal chaplains of the ADF is Monsignor Glynn Murphy OAM (Army) and Monsignor Peter O'Keefe AM (Air Force), while Monsignor Stuart Hall RANR (Navy)is the Episcopal Vicar for Navy. Currently all Catholic Principal Chaplains are in the Reserve. The Air Force Catholic principal chaplain is employed part-time. The Catholic principal chaplains are the mains means by which the Catholic Military Bishop recruits, posts and deploys his chaplains in the ADF within the structures of Army and Navy, except for the Navy.


Chaplains are charged with the responsibility to care for the religious, spiritual and pastoral (welfare) needs of Defence members and their families. For Catholic chaplains, this includes providing the sacraments, especially to Defence members isolated from civilian Catholic churches/parishes or on war operations. Chaplains, especially those appointed to training establishments, conduct classes on ethics, morals, values and character development with their military units. Chaplains in the Navy, Army and Air Force undergo the same training as other ADF officers.

With only a few exceptions, ordained Catholic chaplains (priests and deacons) are "on loan" to the Defence Diocese from a "civilian" diocese for an agreed period of time, which may or may not be renewed. The Bishop of the Military relies on the other Australian bishops for the supply of enough clergy to meet the chaplaincy needs of Catholics in the ADF. It is possible for a priest or deacon to be ordained solely into (incardinated) the Defence Diocese/Military Ordinariate and thus he fully belongs to the Defence Diocese until his death. The Archdiocese of Melbourne currently supplies more full-time priests than any other diocese to the Australian Defence Diocese.

ADF chaplains are generally addressed by their first name by officers of superior rank or as "Sir" by those of lower ranks, however Catholic chaplains are often referred to as "Father" or as "Padre" by soldiers, sailors, and RAAF personnel irrespective of their rank.


Chaplains in the ADF are organised into five divisions:

Division Army RAN(1) RAAF NATO rank code Chaplain Title
1 Captain (Army) Commander Flight Lieutenant OF-2 Chaplain
2 Major Commander Squadron Leader OF-3 Chaplain
3 Lieutenant Colonel Commander Wing Commander OF-4 Senior Chaplain
4 Colonel Captain Group Captain OF-5 Senior Chaplain
5 Brigadier Commodore Air Commodore OF-6 Principal Chaplain
^(1) Australian Navy Chaplains do not wear any rank insignia (instead wearing a cross and anchor emblem copied from the British Royal Navy), but under Defence Instructions - Navy, they are accorded a status equivalent to the rank listed in the table. Although differentiated by Division, Navy Chaplains in Divisions 1 to 3 are all given the status of a Commander (OF-4).

Current chaplains[edit]

In 2009, there were 13 full-time priests, three full-time married deacons and one full-time married non-ordained pastoral associates (lay people) serving as commissioned chaplains (officer rank) in the ADF. There were 25,614 Roman Catholics in the ADF out of a total of 102,764 (full-time and reservists). Although Catholics constitute the largest religious group in the ADF, the diocese struggles to recruit enough chaplains to serve the Catholic defence population.[citation needed]

Current ADF chaplains, as of 2018 are:

  • Monsignor Stuart Hall, RANR - Transferred to Navy Reserve. Principal Catholic Chaplain
  • Father Giles Artherton HMAS Cerberus, Crib Point, VIC.
  • Father Paul Stuart, RAN, Fleet Chaplain - Fleet Base East, Sydney
  • Monsignor (Brigadier) Glynn Murphy OAM DCL, Canberra ACT.
  • Father (Major) Damian Styles, QLD.
  • Father (Major) Damien Ellis, Royal Military College, Duntroon, ACT
  • Father (Captain) John Vergara, 1 Recruit Training Battalion, Kapooka, NSW.
  • Deacon (Captain) Brenton Fry, QLD.
  • Deacon (Captain) Leo Orreal, QLD.
  • Father (Wing Commander) Stephane Sarazin (RAAF Base, Amberley, QLD)
  • (Squadron Leader) Kevin O'Sulivan (RAAF Base, Tindal, NT)
  • (Flight Lieutenant) Raphael Abboud (RAAF Base, Williamtown, NSW)

There are a small number of Reserve Defence Force chaplains who are mostly full-time parish priests in civilian parishes or married deacons ministering full-time in their dioceses.

Bishop stood aside and reinstated[edit]

Max Davis, serving as Bishop of the Australian Defence Force, was arrested in June 2014 and charged with a sex offence dating back to 1969, before he was ordained. From 30 June 2014, he stood aside from his office and roles while the matter was dealt with by the courts.[2] Davis denied the allegation[3] and was acquitted of all charges on 15 February 2016.[4] The vicar general, the Rev. Monsignor Peter J. O’Keefe,[5] was responsible for administration of the diocese in the absence of the bishop.[3] Davis resumed his public ministry in November 2017.[6]

Noncombatant status[edit]

See: Military chaplain#Non-combatant status


The Catholic Church has many chapels located on Defence Force establishments, primarily but not exclusively for the use of Catholic personnel. Some chapels are "non-denominational" and are shared with other Christian denominations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Military Ordinariate of Australia, Military". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 19 February 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2007.
  2. ^ "Catholic Bishop Max Davis charged with sex offence dating back to 1969". 29 June 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Diocesan Statement" (PDF) (Press release). Catholic Military Ordinariate Of Australia. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2016.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "WA bishop Max Leroy Davis acquitted of child sex abuse". Fairfax Media. 16 February 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Whos Who". Catholic Diocese of the Australian Defence Force. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  6. ^ "I'll be home for Christmas" (PDF). Serving faithfully. Catholic Diocese of the Australian Defence Force. December 2017. p. 2. Retrieved 2 October 2018.