Established in 1985 by Pope St. John Paul II, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA is unique among dioceses in the United States. Whereas in civilian dioceses, the Christian faithful are subject to their diocesan bishop because they live within the territory of the diocese, the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) are subject to the Archbishop because of a quality or characteristic that is personal to the Christian faithful themselves. That quality is spelled out in the Archdiocese’s statutes, which have the approval of the Holy See.
Article XV of the statutes states:
The following faithful are members of the Military Ordinariate:
- All the faithful who serve in the active-duty component of the military services of land, sea, air, or space; the faithful who serve in the Reserve component during the time that they render their service; or the faithful who are bound by the civil laws made for the same.
- The faithful who serve on active duty in the Coast Guard.
- The faithful who serve in the National Guard, Air National Guard, or Civil Air Patrol, while they are on active duty under a federal mandate.
- The faithful who habitually undertake a ministry in the Military Ordinariate, according to its particular law.
- The families of those listed in (1), (2), and (4), namely, the spouses, children, even those who, though independent, live in the same houses; also, relatives and domestics living as well in the same houses; likewise, the Catholic family of a non-Catholic service member under the same circumstances.
- All the faithful, including members of institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who attend official military, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine academies, or who live in military or Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, or are engaged in the service of the same with residence there.
- All the faithful who dwell on military installations or in homes reserved by the civil government for military personnel and their families. Included are any Catholics, regardless of military affiliation or lack thereof residing in these same places.
- All the faithful who are employed overseas by the government of the United States, whether in a military-connected employment or otherwise; members engaged in diplomatic or similar missions in foreign countries; the members of the above-mentioned persons residing with them.
Because of his personal jurisdiction over these Christian faithful, the Archbishop for the Military Services can act in their regard and for their benefit wherever they are in the world. It should be noted, however, that the Archbishop’s jurisdiction is in addition to that of the civilian diocesan bishop, if the faithful live in a civilian diocese.