The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on Catholics and Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts name rainbowThe Boy Scouts of America’s decision in May to admit gay youth as members has had a lot of repercussions in the Catholic world, where many parishes sponsor Scout troops.  We’ve reported on some of the early and more high profile responses–both positive and negative–that the decision sparked.

Yet, there have been many more responses that developed over the last two months.  We’ve compiled a list of articles about Catholic responses, with each item containing a link to the original article.

You’ll notice that the list contains some references to Catholic parishes which have severed ties to the Scouts because of the new policy.  I’m waiting for a parish to sever ties with the Scouts because they did not extend the new policy to allow gay men to be Scout leaders.  That will be a great day when a parish or Catholic organization decides to take such a stand!

Here’s the list:

1) One Catholic parish in Wisconsin is considering joining a possible alternative scouting organization, to be called the Catholic Scouts of St. George, which will not admit gay youth, reports the Kenosha News.

2) Similarly, a Christian lay leader has formed “,” as an alternative to the Boy Scouts, reports The National Catholic Reporter .  Like the Catholic group mentioned above, it will not admit gay youth.

2) “The change in the Boy Scouts’ membership standard, in itself, does not seem to me to be in conflict with Catholic teaching,” wrote Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in an op-ed in that city’s News-Sentinel.  Rhoades said he has been inundated by inquiries about the matter.

3) Monsignor E. James Hart, pastor of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Keller, Texas, has cut parish ties with the local Scout troop because of the new policy, reports The Dallas News.  Hart wrote a letter to his parish explaining his decision, in which he stated:

” . . . do you honestly expect me to believe that when the time comes in the life of the Boy Scouts of America that there are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 year old boys put together in over-night situations, some of whom with a self-professed same-sex orientation and attraction, that nothing undesirable is going to happen? Would you have me run the risk, and use the souls of the boys involved, some of them likely your sons and grand-sons, as part of the experiment? I cannot. I will not!”

4) The Catholic bishops of Washington State issued a letter stating their support of the Boy Scouts’ new policy, reported the Kitsap Sun.  The letter, in part, stated:

“The Catholic Church teaches that all people are to be treated with dignity and respect. The recent change in the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America does not affect the teachings of the Catholic Church or the manner in which the Catholic parishes in Washington state conduct the scouting program under their sponsorship.”

5) A Catholic parish in Bremerton, Washington, was one of the first to  sever its ties with the Boy Scouts, sparking Catholics United, a political organization, to deliver more than 5,500 signatures on a petition to Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain, requesting that he support gay scouts. A news article in The Seattle Times quotes Catholic United’s Executive Director James Salt’s comments about the parish severing ties:

“It’s a startling reminder that the Catholic Church is drifting from its long-held teachings against discrimination.”

6) A Knights of Columbus chapter in Bennington, Vermont, will vote in August on whether or not to renew its sponsorship of a local Scout troop, reports The Troy Record.  A local K of C official had already stated that if the Boy Scouts of America allowed gay youth as members that the chapter would end its sponsorship.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

5 replies
  1. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
    Fran Rossi Szpylczyn says:

    I can’t hit like on the star for this post – there is nothing to like, and that is not because of Bondings! It is because of all of this hairsplitting rejection nonsense. Ah, the hermeneutic of reduction, church and scouting style.

    Ironically, I am fine-tuning a short reflection on Acts16:11-15 and John 15:26-16:4. I am exploring the welcome offered to Paul by Lydia in Acts, and the warning of Jesus in John that some may kill the disciples and think that they are worshipping God by this killing.

    Ironic indeed.

    Where I am particularly struck is with the words of Monsignor Hart from TX, when he says: (emphasis mine, if html code works in comments, and I think it does.)

    … do you honestly expect me to believe that when the time comes in the life of the Boy Scouts of America that there are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 year old boys put together in over-night situations, some of whom with a self-professed same-sex orientation and attraction, that nothing undesirable is going to happen? Would you have me run the risk, and use the souls of the boys involved, some of them likely your sons and grand-sons, as part of the experiment? I cannot. I will not!”

    Seriously, Monsignor? I lack the language to address that particular irony. The only thing missing would be “scare quotes” around “experiment.”

    God have mercy.

    PS – Dear people who think like the Monsignor and others mentioned… Straight people have a pretty terrible history around the issue of inappropriate contact. Please don’t forget that. That’s why most abuse happens in homes, among families and other trusted adults.

    *sigh* God have mercy, indeed.

  2. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    Are there married boy scouts? No? Well, then all scouts are covered under Catholic expectations to live chaste lives–none of the boys should be having sex! And the Catholic teaching is that homosexuality is not a choice, and that all people should be treated with dignity and respect. There is no conflict, even if gay boy scouts come out and state that they are gay.

    The bigger issue for me is that all this in-fighting, pontificating, and petty nonsense is keeping the faithful from our obligation to one another. We should be working on feeding the hungry, correcting the prison systems, and educating our children. Some organized churches have moved past this issue. They have declared that all people are worthy of full inclusion should be treated with dignity. They are now working on that basis to change discriminatory laws, to welcome immigrants–to love. The Catholic church has kept my generation “in conversation” about allowing women priests for my entire lifespan! In the meantime, Catholics have needed the church to be there in times of personal pain and suffering. At times, the church abandoned the faithful. The loyalty and attention is on the institution, not the people. And that is what is wrong. Jesus is clear: love one another. Minister to one another. Fighting about whether gay children should be included or banned from a community?! Are you kidding me? It is shameful. It is not Catholic, it is not christian. It is not of Jesus, and everyone knows that.

    The Catholic church cannot require discrimination as a moral tenet. Period. To do so requires the faithful to disobey Jesus Himself. Those church leaders who demand us to discriminate are committing grave and immoral sins.

  3. Janet Hanson
    Janet Hanson says:

    My son was a boy scout and one of our Troop adult leaders was also Council President. He said, quite wisely I think, that BSA tries to manage risk. So my son, as part of scouting, got to canoe in the Canadian wilderness, hike in the mountains of New Mexico, climb a wall at the World Jamboree, fly to the world Jamboree, sleep in tents with peers, and go on local campouts in extremes of weather. All of these events were events that carried inherent risk. But through policy and training the scouting organization seeks to manage risk.

    The monsignor’s idea that the most risky think a scout does is to sleep in a tent with a peer means he understands little about the scouting organization. ‘Tis a pity.

    My son’s scouting experience was overall successful because our troop understood the risk management piece well and was willing to actively question whether we should be out there in those weather extremes, etc. Sometimes we advanced with caution; sometimes we retreated. ALL of the those experiences contributed to my son’s abilities and confidence. They were part of why he is proudly for me, an Eagle Scout.

    I am hoping that the National Scouting organization will follow its international peers and quit shying away from the LGBT leadership issue. Honestly, the risk management piece already has it covered.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] However, this situation is atypical. Aside from a few high profile incidents in Illinois and Washington where priests cut ties with the Boy Scouts, most Catholic leaders spoke positively of the Boy Scouts’ decision and Catholic churches have continued hosting troops. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting came out in support of welcoming openly gay boys as well. A partial rundown of Catholic responses from summer 2013 can be found here. […]

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