Congratulations to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for voting to allow openly gay scouts in their troops! Let’s continue to pray that this experience will pave the way for also allowing openly gay scout leaders to be accepted by the organization. The same Catholic principles of justice and human dignity apply in both cases.
So far there has been no official Catholic response to the Boy Scouts’ decision. Last week, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) said that it was taking a wait and see approach to the decision, and would issue a statement after the vote. Bishop Robert Guglielmone, the U.S. bishops’ liaison to the NCCS offered a more hopeful statement this week, noting:
“With regard to a possible BSA membership change, we will continue to uphold the truths of the Church’s teaching and strive to maintain our ties with the BSA.”
Noted Catholic author Father James Martin, SJ, posted the following reaction on his Facebook page:
“As a former Cub Scout and Webelo I support the Boy Scouts’ welcoming everyone into the Scouts. As a Catholic I support the recognition of the fundamental human dignity of every person..”
Interestingly, the conservative Mormon church had already expressed support for including gay scouts, even before the vote. According to The New York Times,
“The Mormon Church has declared its support for the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to end a longstanding ban on openly gay youths, while continuing to bar gay adult leaders.”
The Times story links to the Mormon Church’s statement in support of gay scouts, which reads in part:
“The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the on-going dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.
“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”
According to USA Today:
“About 70% of all Scout troops are run by faith-based organizations, according to the Boy Scouts of America. About 37% are Mormon, 10% Methodist and 8% Catholic.”
Kevin Kloosterman, a Mormon bishop from Illinois, reflected on his church’s support of inclusion:
“I look forward to a day when our LGBT sisters and brothers will be judged not by orientation or gender identity but on the content of their character. We still have not come to that day yet, but I do see progress. I hope my faith community and the BSA will continue to make progress towards inclusion and acceptance of our gay neighbors and loved ones, and that scouting will return to its honored tradition of developing leadership and values in all of our youth and the ban against gay leaders will be lifted.”
Wouldn’t it be great if our Catholic bishops followed the same course as the Mormons, not only tolerating the Boy Scouts’ decision, but welcoming it, and look forward to the day when Gospel justice is an active principle for all in society, including gay Boy Scouts’ leaders.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry