Although the National Catholic Committee on Scouting has recommended that Catholic parishes support the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) new inclusive policy of admitting gay scouts, and some bishops have even already announced support for the new measure, some parishes are taking steps to end their relationship with the scouting organization rather than include gay kids. Last week, we reported on the first known parish to sever ties with the BSA, which was in Bremerton, Washington. Over the weekend, a pastor in a Chicago-area parish also announced that he would be closing down the parish’s scouting programs rather than admit gay scouts.
The Chicago Tribune reported on Fr. Brian Grady’s decision for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Fr. Grady’s reasoning as reported in the paper seems based on myths and stereotypes and clearly inaccurate knowledge of homosexuality and youth:
” ‘For a young boy to (have to) share a tent or be exposed to other boys who are openly homosexual is not only unjust, but immoral,’ Grady wrote. ‘As a former Boy Scout, I know how uncomfortable it would have been to have to be in close proximity with boys that would perhaps be looking at me as more than just a friend.’
“Grady said he was saddened to be ‘forced to make this decision.’ In an interview, he said: ‘We welcome those individuals … but we also recognize certain actions are not to be encouraged.’ “
His reasoning makes it sound like he is placing his own anxieties about sexuality onto both the gay and straight youth who would be involved in scouting.
The leaders of the scouting program are of the opposite opinion of the pastor. According to The Tribune:
‘Troop 550 Scoutmaster Charlie Payseur said he and his assistant leaders were “livid” about the move. Grady has been very hospitable, Payseur said, but had not discussed the issue with them.
” ‘It has never been an issue, nor would I turn a Scout away,’ Payseur said. ‘I treat everyone the same. It’s bothering me that people can’t just accept people for who they are.’ “
The Crystal Lake Patch offers even stronger comments from the scoutmaster:
” ‘I am fuming,’ Charlie Payseur said. ‘We’ve been affiliated with that church for over five years, and to not even tell the people who founded the pack? It would have been common courtesy (for Grady) to tell us himself.’ “
In response to the ban on scouts by the Bremerton, Washington, pastor, Fr. Derek Lappe, on which we reported last week, Catholics United, a political organizing group, has launched a petition campaign for Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain to condemn the bigoted behavior of the pastor. The petition text reads:
As Catholics and people of faith, we know that Jesus instructs us to be a loving and inclusive community. These values are shared by the Boy Scouts.
We ask that you publicly remind the priests of your diocese that Catholic social teaching prohibits discrimination against gay people.
When religious leaders like Fr. Lappe promote discrimination, it only hurts the Church.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quotes James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, as to what they hope the petition will accomplish:
“The Catholic Church has long held that individuals with same-sex attractions should be respected and protected from discrimination. Catholics United calls on Fr. Lappe’s superiors to condemn this kind of bullying from a man who is supposed to be a witness of Christian love and acceptance.”
The Post-Intelligencer quotes from Fr. Lappe’s letter explaining his decision, in which he displays an amazing lack of accurate knowledge on homosexuality:
“The letter sought to refute the generally accepted genetic origin of same-sex attraction. Lappe listed other ‘groups’ including: ‘Mother was overprotective (boys).’ ‘Mother was needy and demanding (boys).’ ‘Lack of rough and tumble play (boys).’ ‘Dislike of team sports (boys).’ ‘Sexual abuse or rape.’ ‘Extreme shyness.’ ‘Parental loss through death or divorce.’
“As well, said Lappe, the parish’s programs ‘are well equipped to help cultivate authentically masculine and feminine identities.’ “
The statements by Fr. Grady and Fr. Lappe reveal they are not in possession of accurate knowledge about homosexuality. Let’s hope that other pastors have a better understanding than these two do. It would be a shame if Catholic parishes ended their relationships with scouting programs, particularly when the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is encouraging Catholic parishes to support the new policy.
The examples of these two parishes illustrate not only why pastors need better education about homosexuality, but also why lay people need to be involved in the decision-making processes of Catholic life.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
June 3, 2013: Religious groups who supported gay Scout ban now are okay with changing it. Why?, The Washington Post
June 3, 2013: The Boy Scouts, Gay Youth and Catholic Teaching , Huffington Post
June 4, 2013: The church’s Boy Scout dilemma: Should they stay or should they go? , U.S. Catholic