Two Catholic bishops have weighed in on the Boy Scouts’ policy of including gay youth among their ranks, and these two prelates take distinctly different approaches. While the first bishop shows himself guided by Catholic principles, the second one is guided by a complete lack of true information about lesbian and gay people.
Bishop David Choby, of Nashville, approved of the Scouts’ decision. In USA Today, he stated:
“The policy in its form is not inconsistent with church teaching, which upholds the dignity of each and every human being, regardless of sexual orientation. It does not communicate in any way an approval or support for sexual activity between scouts.”
Indeed, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting took this position in its official response to the policy.
Bishop Edward Slattery, of Tulsa, expressed reservation about the new policy. The Tulsa World noted Slattery’s opinion:
“ ‘I think the Boy Scouts do wonderful work, and should continue to do so,’ he said. But he said he was not happy about the decision to allow openly gay scouts.
“ ‘What do they mean by openly gay? I assume that means they are sexually active.’ . . . .
“ ‘This culture of ours is crazy, no rules,’ he said.”
Bishop Slattery’s comments reveal a false assumption that I think operates in the minds of many bishops who oppose homosexuality: “openly gay” = “sexually active.” Does he assume that all who are “openly heterosexual” are also all sexually active?
Bishops like Slattery need to dialogue more with lesbian and gay people to understand that acknowledging a homosexual orientation does not indicate one’s participation in any sexual activity. The need to be known honestly by one’s true identity is most often the reason that someone wants his or her orientation to be known.
Moreover, if Slattery dialogued with lesbian and gay people, he would come to know that they are quite often very ethical people who live by very high moral rules. Clearly, the ignorance of lesbian and gay reality that the bishop’s statements indicate explain why he would be opposed to the new policy. He does a disservice to lesbian and gay Catholics, the Boy Scouts, himself, and the entire church not to educate himself better on these issues.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry