A small Catholic church in Chesterfield, Missouri, became the subject of national criticism after inviting young men to join a pro-church militia, according to The Christian Post.

The ad was in the church bulletin on June 16.

Ascension Catholic Church has since apologized, stating that the ad was accidentally printed in their bulletin. Church leaders also said they have not been threatened (as the ad claimed) and that the ad was “inappropriate and unhelpful.”

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What did the church militia advertisement say?

The advertisement called for men aged 18 to 29 to join a militia meant to “protect the holy eucharist, congregation, clergy, and church grounds from violent and non-violent attacks,” per Fox 2 Now. The print featured the words “join now” in a bold font.

The ad explained that militia members would receive military, fitness, business and medicine training.

It wasn’t long before church members noticed the odd ad and started asking questions. The church responded swiftly by releasing a statement denying the need for a militia and explaining that the ad’s original poster did not speak for the church.

The ad was from “an individual who was recruiting members for a group he called the Legion of Sancta Lana,” said Ascension Catholic Church’s official statement.

“To be clear,” continued the statement, “there is no militia being formed, and we regret that this item as included in the bulletin. Furthermore, the suggestion that our community might require a militia in order for us to celebrate the Eucharist is both inappropriate and unhelpful. Please be assured that there have been zero threats made against our community.”

Backlash to the church

The advertisement and subsequent apology ignited backlash against the church.

“So... crusades? Are we doing crusades now?” commented one Reddit user.

“It was no mistake. They just got caught,” said another.

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Parishioners, however, have stated that while the incident was regrettable, it was accidental.

“It was sort of a mistake,” said an anonymous member of the church to Fox 2 Now. “It was an advertisement that was printed without any review by the parish, and I think it slipped through the review process cracks, if you will.”

Members of the church who were interviewed for Fox’s report said that Ascension uses an external company to print its bulletins. Nevertheless, they expressed shock that the review process had failed in such a critical way.

“It was just kind of a surprise, because it’s contradictory to everything that the school and the church preaches in the parish,” said another parishioner, according to Fox 2 Now.

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