Military Wiki
Diocese of the
Australian Defence Force
Coat of Arms for the Military Ordinariate of Australia
Country Australia
Metropolitan Immediately subject to the Holy See
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Latin Rite
Established 6 March 1969
Patron saint Mary Help of Christians
Current leadership
Military Ordinary Max Davis
The Catholic Diocese of the Australian Defence Force

The Roman Catholic Diocese of the Australian Defence Force (also referred to as the Australian Catholic Defence Diocese or the Military Ordinariate of Australia) is a Latin Rite suffragan Military Ordinariate, immediately subject to the Holy See, 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.


Australian Catholic chaplaincy have 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, the then Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Reverend Thomas Joseph Carr, was delegated by the Catholic bishops of Australia as the bishop of the Australian Armed Forces.

From 1912 until 1969, Australian 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, and in 1984 Pope John Paul II elevated the Vicariate to an Ordinariate with its own bishop. The Diocese was officially established under the 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
Most Reverend Thomas Joseph Carr 1912–1917 Archbishop of Melbourne: 1886-1917
Most Reverend Daniel Mannix 1917–1963 Archbishop of Melbourne: 1917-1963
Most Reverend Thomas Absolem McCabe 1964–1969 Bishop of Wollongong: 1951-1974
Military Vicar
Most Reverend John Aloysius Morgan AO DD RFD ED 1969–1985 Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn: 1969-1985
Military Ordinary
Most Reverend Geoffrey Francis Mayne AM DD 1985–2003 -
Most Reverend Max Leroy Davis AM DD 2003–Present -

Principal chaplains

Each service branch of the ADF has three Principal Chaplains; one each to represent Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestantism. 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.

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 are: Monsignor Brian Rayner OAM, RANR (Navy); Monsignor Greg Flynn (Army) and Monsignor Peter O'Keefe AM. As of 2011, all of the Catholic Principal Chaplains happen to be part-time and members of the Reserves of their respective Service, however this is not always the case and in the past and in the furture they can be full-time Principal Chaplains. The Catholic Principal Chaplains are the chief means by which the Catholic Military Bishop recruits, posts and deploys his Catholic chaplains in the ADF within the structures of the three Services.


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, Catholic-ordained 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

As of 2009, there are 13 full-time priests, three full-time married deacons and two full-time married non-ordained pastoral associates (lay people) serving as commissioned chaplains (officer rank) in the ADF. There are 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.

Current ADF Full-time chaplains, as of 2011, are:

  • Reverend Father Stuart Hall, RAN - Senior Chaplain located at Naval Chaplaincy Head Quarters, Canberra ACT
  • Reverend Father Krys Gebski, RAN HMAS Kuttabul
  • Reverend Father Paul Stuart, RAN JP STL HMAS Creswell, Jervis Bay ACT, also providing Catholic chaplaincy to HMAS Albatross (naval base), Nowra, NSW
  • Reverend Father Greg McGregor, RAN - Fleet Base East (currently serving on HMAS Melbourne)
  • Reverend Father Thi Lam, RANR HMAS Cerberus, Crib Point, VIC
  • Reverend Monsignor (Lieutenant Colonel) Glynn Murphy OAM DCL (Army barracks at Cabalah, Canungra, Enoggera, and Oakey, QLD)
  • Reverend Father (Captain) Damian Styles (currently deployed to Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan).
  • Reverend Deacon (Captain) Brenton Fry (1 Recruit Training Battalion, Army Recruit Training Centre, Kapooka, NSW)
  • Reverend Deacon (Captain) John Lim (Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra, ACT)
  • Reverend Deacon Leo Orreal (Captain)
  • Reverend Father (Squadron Leader) Pat Woods (RAAF Base Edinburgh, SA)
  • Reverend Father (Flight Lieutenant) Walter Czszepaniak (RAAF Base Wagga, NSW)
  • Reverend Father (Flight Lieutenant) John Healy (RAAF Base Amberley, QLD )
  • Reverend Father (Flight Lieutenant) Stephane Sarazin (RAAF Base, Williamtown, NSW)
  • Flight Lieutenant Joseph Johns (Chaplain, RAAF Base Richmond, NSW)
  • Flight Lieutenant Jean Johns (Chaplain, RAAF Base Richmond, 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.

Noncombatant status

See: Military chaplain#Noncombatant status


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

See also


  1. "Military Ordinariate of Australia, Military". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 19 February 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2007. 

External links

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