Community Outcry Leads Church to Apologize for Controversial Bulletin Ad

By: Georgia | Published: Jul 01, 2024

Ascension Catholic Church in Chesterfield, Missouri, faced backlash after a controversial advertisement was found in its June 16 bulletin. 

The ad called for young men aged 18-29 to join a group named “The Legion of the Sancta Lana,” prominently featuring the words ‘JOIN NOW’ in large, bold letters, which caused concern among the congregation.

Details of the Militia Recruitment Advertisement

The advertisement included a large QR code that, when scanned, directed individuals to a membership application. 

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An image of a church bulletin featuring a bold headline 'JOIN NOW' calling young men to form a militia

Source: Ascension Catholic Church

It stated that the purpose of the militia was to “protect the holy eucharist, congregation, clergy, and church ground from violent and non-violent attacks,” which raised eyebrows within the community regarding its appropriateness.

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Church Quickly Retracts Militia Advertisement

Following the public’s reaction, the church responded by retracting the advertisement. Rev. Eugene Schaeffer, the associate pastor, addressed the issue, emphasizing that the idea of a militia affiliated with the parish was a misunderstanding. 

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A Catholic priest, wearing glasses and clerical clothing, appears concerned as he speaks in a church interior

Source: St.Louis Review/Youtube

“The advertisement, which included a QR code with an application for membership, suggests that a militia would be formed and that this group would be affiliated with Ascension parish. This is, of course, untrue,” the church explained on its website.

Church Issues Apology Over Advertisement

The church issued a formal apology, clarifying their stance on the matter. 

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A quiet and serene view inside a traditional church, showing rows of empty pews, ornate stained glass windows, and detailed architectural designs on the walls and ceiling

Source: Channel 82/Unsplash

“To be perfectly clear, there is no militia being formed, and we regret that this item was included in the bulletin,” they stated, recognizing the confusion and concern it caused within their community.

Miscommunication Leads to Community Unrest

The advertisement’s implications led to unrest within the parish community, prompting further clarifications from the church. 

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A modern church service in progress, showing a diverse congregation attending a mass, with priests in front leading the service surrounded by contemporary church architecture

Source: Mateus Campos Felipe/Unsplash

“Furthermore, the suggestion that our community might require a militia in order for us to celebrate the Eucharist is both inappropriate and unhelpful,” the church’s statement added, hoping to calm the stirred anxieties.

Reaffirmation of Church's Intentions

“We sincerely apologize for this error and the anguish it has caused,” the church stated, expressing remorse over the controversial advertisement.

A plain wooden cross stands against a twilight sky, bathed in shades of pink and purple

Source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

They emphasized that clarifying the situation aligns with the best interests of both the parish and the surrounding community, ensuring there is no support for the suggested militia activity.

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Advertisement Specifies Militia Training Requirements

The controversial ad also outlined specific requirements for militia members, including “strict physical fitness standards, classroom study, and instruction in military operations.” 

Close-up of a man wearing a tactical vest under a blue button-up shirt, set against a forest background

Source: Frederick Shaw/Unsplash

This detailed description suggested a serious commitment was expected from participants, further complicating the church’s position.

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Local Parishioners Express Shock and Disbelief

Longtime members of the parish expressed their surprise and concern over the advertisement.

Black and white image of a congregation holding hands during a church service

Source: Matea Gregg/Unsplash

One parishioner remarked on the contradiction to the church’s teachings: “It was kind of a surprise, because it’s contradictory to everything that the school and church preaches in the parish.”

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Church Assures No Immediate Threats

In an effort to reassure the community, the church clarified that the advertisement was not a response to any actual threats. 

Interior of a church showing an altar with a liturgical Eucharistic Adoration setup

Source: Matea Gregg/Unsplash

“There have been zero threats” that would necessitate such a group, the church informed parishioners and the public, trying to mitigate the fallout from the ad.

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Advertisement Oversight by External Agency

A parishioner revealed to Fox 2 that the ad was likely overlooked during the review process. 

Wide-angle view of a church interior featuring long rows of wooden pews, a high arched ceiling, and stained glass windows

Source: Debby Hudson/Unsplash

“It was an advertisement that was printed without any review by the parish, and I think it slipped through the review process cracks,” he said, suggesting a failure in oversight rather than intentional promotion.

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Church’s Educational Commitment Highlighted Amid Controversy

The incident drew particular attention because the church operates two schools, The Little School for children ages two-five and Ascension Catholic School for students in Kindergarten through eighth grade. 

Exterior view of a church with a large sign on the lawn expressing love and appreciation for teachers

Source: Ascension Catholic School/Facebook

The advertisement’s tone and content starkly contrasted with the educational and moral teachings of these institutions.

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Closure of Militia Recruitment Initiative

The QR code linked to the militia’s application form was eventually deactivated, signaling an end to the recruitment effort. 

A soldier equipped with modern tactical gear, including a helmet and night vision goggles, stands overlooking a vast mountainous landscape during sunset

Source: Frederick Shaw/Unsplash

“The application form is ‘no longer accepting responses,'” confirmed the closure of this unexpected and controversial chapter for Ascension Catholic Church.

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