By: Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, Chief of Navy Chaplains
What you say to a Navy chaplain stays with the chaplain, unless you decide differently. You hold the key. Your chaplain is available to provide you a safe place to talk, without fear or judgment, and we are committed to caring for all with dignity, respect and compassion, regardless of an individual’s beliefs, if any. One of the ways we do this is through complete confidentiality.
• Service members and families have the right and privilege to confidential communications with a Navy chaplain.
• Chaplains have the obligation and responsibility to protect and guard the confidential communications disclosed to them.
• Commanders honor and support the unique, confidential relationship between an individual and a chaplain.Confidentiality can be particularly important when Sailors, Marines and families feel they have nowhere to turn during a personal crisis, or if they’re concerned about command involvement or an impact on their career if they disclose sensitive issues.
In a recent poll on Navy Personnel Command’s website, 63 percent of respondents did not believe that what they say to a chaplain is confidential, and 65 percent believe that Navy chaplains are required to report certain matters to the command.
In view of those results, we saw the need to make sure our Sailors, Marines and families are clear about their rights and our responsibility to uphold the sacred trust they place in us.
Upholding this sacred trust with our people has been a standard practice of the Chaplain Corps since our inception, and it touches every part of what we do. In order to better communicate this benefit and better protect everyone involved, the Navy made it official policy on Feb. 7, 2008, in SECNAVINST 1730.9: Confidential Communications to Chaplains. Under this policy, chaplains cannot be compelled by the command, medical professionals, or others to disclose what a service member or family member shares in confidence.
We are acutely aware of the responsibility and obligation that comes with the sacred trust of complete confidentiality. We remain committed to the ultimate goal of both the commander and the chaplain: to get our people the support they need during times of crisis and before matters escalate. This unique relationship between an individual and a chaplain can serve as a valuable safety valve to the commander in support of the increased readiness and resilience of our people.
In addition to a Message to the Fleet on confidentiality (featured above), the Chaplain Corps has established a resource page devoted to confidentiality on its website: www.chaplain.navy.mil. Click on the confidentiality tab to view frequently asked questions, a fact sheet, a flyer, as well as a link to the policy.
Want to know more? Introduce yourself to your command chaplain today. Don’t know who your chaplain is? Contact Navy 311 for support in your area: 1-855-NAVY-311 or text to: Navy311@navy.mil.
About the Author:
Rear Admiral Tidd is the 25th Chief of Navy Chaplains and assumed his duties on Aug. 27, 2010. He comes from a career Navy family and is a graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. He received his Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.