CHAPLAIN, strictly one who conducts service in a chapel (q.v.), i.e. a priest or minister without parochial charge who is attached for special duties to a sovereign or his representatives (ambassadors, judges, &c.), to bishops, to the establishments of nobles, &c., to institutions (e.g. parliament, congress, colleges, schools, workhouses, cemeteries), or to the army and the navy. In some cases a parish priest is also appointed to a chaplaincy, but in so far as he is a chaplain he has no parochial duties. Thus a bishop of the English Church appoints examining chaplains who conduct the examination of candidates for holy orders; such officials generally hold ordinary benefices also. The British sovereign has 36 “Chaplains in Ordinary,” who perform service at St James’s in rotation, as well as “Honorary Chaplains” and “Chaplains of the Household.” There are also royal chaplains in Scotland and Ireland. The Scottish chaplains in ordinary are on the same basis as those in England, but the Irish chaplains are attached to the household of the lord-lieutenant. The Indian civil service appoints a number of clergymen of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. These clergymen are known as Chaplains, and are subject to the same conditions as other civil servants, being eligible for a retiring pension after 23 years of service. Chaplains are also appointed under the foreign office to embassies, legations, consulates, &c.
Workhouse chaplains are appointed by overseers and guardians on the direction of the Local Government Board, to which alone such chaplains are responsible. Prison chaplains are appointed by the home secretary.
In the British army there are two kinds of chaplains, permanent and occasional. The former, described as Chaplains to the Forces, hold commissions, serving throughout the empire except in India: they include a Chaplain-General who ranks as a major-general, and four classes of subordinate chaplains who rank respectively as colonels, lieutenant-colonels, majors and captains. There are about 100 in all. Special chaplains (Acting Chaplains for Temporary Service) may be appointed by a secretary of state under the Army Chaplains Act of 1868 to perform religious service for the army in particular districts. The permanent chaplains may be Church of England, Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian; Wesleyans (if they prefer not to accept commissions) may be appointed Acting Chaplains. The Church of England chaplains report to the chaplain-general, while other chaplains report to the War Office direct. In the navy, chaplains are likewise appointed but do not hold official rank. They must have a special ecclesiastical licence from the archbishop of Canterbury. In 1900 a Chaplains’ Department of the Territorial Force was formed; there is no denominational restriction.
In the armies and navies of all Christian countries chaplains are officially appointed, with the single exception of France, where the office was abolished on the separation of Church and State. In the army of the United States of America chaplains are originally appointed by the president, and subsequently are under the authority of the secretary of war, who receives recommendations as regards transfer from department commanders. By act of Congress, approved in April 1904, the establishment of chaplains was fixed at 57 (15 with the rank of major), 12 for the artillery corps and 1 each for the cavalry and infantry regiments. There is no distinction of sect. In the U.S. navy the chaplains are 24 in number, of whom 13 rank as lieutenants, 7 as commanders, 4 as captains.
In the armies of Roman Catholic countries there are elaborate regulations. Where the chaplains are numerous a chaplain-major is generally appointed, but in the absence of special sanction from the pope such officer has no spiritual jurisdiction. Moreover, chaplains must be approved by the ordinary of the locality. In Austria there are Roman Catholic, Greek Church, Jewish and Mahommedan chaplains. The Roman Catholic chaplains are classed as parish priests, curates and assistants, and are subject to an army Vicar Apostolic. In war, at an army headquarters there are a “field-rabbi,” a “military imam,” an evangelical minister, as well as the Roman Catholic hierarchy. By a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda (May 15, 1906), the archbishop of Westminster is the ecclesiastical superior of all commissioned Roman Catholic chaplains in the British army and navy, and he is empowered to negotiate with the civil authorities concerning appointments.
In Germany, owing to the fact that there are different religions in the different states, there is no uniform system. In Prussia there are two Feldprobste (who are directly under the war minister), one Lutheran, one Roman Catholic. The latter is a titular bishop, and has sole spiritual authority over soldiers. There are also army corps and divisional chaplains of both faiths. Bavaria and Saxony, both Roman Catholic states, have no special spiritual hierarchy; in Bavaria, the archbishop of Munich and Freysing is ex officio bishop of the army.
The origin of the office of capellanus or cappellanus in the medieval church is generally traced (see Du Cange, Gloss, med. et infim. Latin.) to the appointment of persons to watch over the sacred cloak (cappa or capella) of St Martin of Tours, which was preserved as a relic by the French monarchs. In time of war this cloak was carried with the army in the field, and was kept in a tent which itself came to be known as a cappella or capella. It is also suggested that the capella was simply the tent or canopy which the French kings erected over the altar in the field for the worship of the soldiers. However this may be, the name capellanus was generally applied to those who were in charge of sacred relics: such officials were also known as custodes, martyrarii, cubicularii. Thus we hear of a custos palatinae capellae who was in charge of the palace chapel relics, and guarded them in the field; the chief of these custodes was sometimes called the archicapellanus. From the care of sacred relics preserved in royal chapels, &c. (sacella or capellae), the office of capellanus naturally extended its scope until it covered practically that of the modern court chaplain, and was officially recognized by the Church. These clerics became the confessors in royal and noble houses, and were generally chosen from among bishops and other high dignitaries. The arch-chaplain not only received jurisdiction within the royal household, but represented the authority of the monarch in religious matters, and also acquired more general powers. In France the arch-chaplain was grand-almoner, and both in France and in the Holy Roman Empire was also high chancellor of the realm. The office was abolished in France at the Revolution in 1789, revived by Pius IX. in 1857, and again abolished on the fall of the Second Empire.
The Roman Catholic Church also recognizes a class of beneficed chaplains, supported out of “pious foundations” for the specific duty of saying, or arranging for, certain masses, or taking part in certain services. These chaplains are classified as follows:— Ecclesiastical, if the foundation has been recognized officially as a benefice; Lay, if this recognition has not been obtained; Mercenary, if the person who has been entrusted with the duty of performing or procuring the desired celebration is a layman (such persons also are sometimes called “Lay Chaplains”); Collative, if it is provided that a bishop shall collate or confer the right to act upon the accepted candidate, who otherwise could not be recognized as an ecclesiastical chaplain. There are elaborate regulations governing the appointment and conduct of these chaplains.
Other classes of chaplains are:—(1) Parochial or Auxiliary Chaplains, appointed either by a parish priest (under a provision authorized by the Council of Trent) or by a bishop to take over certain specified duties which he is unable to perform; (2) Chaplains of Convents, appointed by a bishop: these must be men of mature age, should not be regulars unless secular priests cannot be obtained, and are not generally to be appointed for life; (3) Pontifical Chaplains, some of whom (known as Private Chaplains) assist the pontiff in the celebration of Mass; others attached directly to the pope are honorary private chaplains who occasionally assist the private chaplains, private clerics of the chapel, common chaplains and supernumerary chaplains. The common chaplains were instituted by Alexander VII., and in 1907 were definitely allowed the title “Monsignore” by Pius X.