Catholic Opinion Split on Boy Scouts’ New Policy Continues to Widen

Further reactions from Catholic leadership are emerging two weeks after the Boy Scouts of America decided to allow openly gay youth participate in the organization, Bishops, priests, and theologians are split in their responses.

Two more dioceses, in Kentucky and in Illinois, released statements affirming a continued relationship between the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts. reports that the Diocese of Lexington will not withdraw parish sponsorships for local scouting troops, quoting spokesperson Thomas Shaughnessy:

” ‘According to Catholic teaching, any kind of unjust discrimination against people who feel a same-sex attraction is never justified…

” ‘Within the frame of Scouting, there’s nothing to do with sexual activity…So it’s really a non-issue. The Catholic Church also teaches that any heterosexual person should not engage in any sexual activity outside of marriage. All people are called to live a chaste life.’ “

The Chicago Tribune reports the Diocese of Rockford similarly welcomed the Boy Scouts’ decision, contrasting with a Rockford diocesan priest, Fr. Brian Grady, who wrote a letter about his decision to expel St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s parish troop last week. Bishop David Malloy of Rockford stated:

” ‘At this time, it is my hope that we, in the Diocese of Rockford, will not need to discontinue partnering with the Boy Scouts of America in the healthy formation of young men.’ “

The bishop’s words may not help Jeff Nacpil, a Scout leader and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner, who is now planning to leave the parish with his family because of Fr. Grady’s anti-gay actions and told the Tribune:

” ‘It’s really a shame…We really liked the church outside these issues. But I don’t agree with its discriminatory practices. Part of Catholic teaching is showing everyone respect.’ “

For their part, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting backed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has  endorsed the Boy Scouts’ new policy, while bishops seem split so far.

Commenting from the pews, several Catholic voices are speaking out about their dissatisfaction with the new policy because it does not extend far enough since gay scout leaders are still prohibited. Richard Gaillardetz, a father of four Scouts and Catholic theologian, wrote in the National Catholic Reporter about why the Scouts’ decision remains problematic:

“Catholic bishops and parishes should reassess their support because the Scouts continue to ban gay and lesbian leaders. It is the latter policy, not the former, that stands in conflict with Catholic teaching…

“The official position of the Boy Scouts of America is irreconcilable with the Catholic teaching on the dignity of gay and lesbian persons and its vital distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior…[welcoming LGBT youth and leaders] is a matter of recognizing the fundamental dignity of gays and lesbians and their right not to be discriminated against simply because of their sexual orientation.”

Mike Sweitzer-Beckman, another columnist at National Catholic Reporter compared the unequal policy about youth and leaders to a “glass ceiling” rooted in an ignorance about homosexuality, but also offered a glimmer of hope:

“It seems this mismatched policy would imply there is a hope that boys would outgrow homosexuality or that maturity would lead them to realize they are not gay. Similar to the bishops’ “Always Our Children,” there is a “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach, but not a complete respect for the idea that sexual orientation is not something a person chooses. There is a glass ceiling for how far gay Scouts can go before they have to chart their own path outside of the organization…

“One thing the Scouts and the church can certainly agree on is having glass ceilings for certain members based on identity categories. With Pope Francis bringing a breath of fresh air to the Vatican…We may be seeing it trickle down as a new sense of welcoming enters the Vatican, and perhaps some of these glass ceilings will be shattered to allow those who feel called to a role to play that role.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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  1. […] America’s (BSA) National Executive Board overturned the ban last August, a follow-up to its 2013 decision allowing openly gay Scouts. In the proceeding months, the Albuquerque […]

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