The Eau Claire, Wisconsin Leader-Telegram reports that the parish, St. Mary’s in Altoona, Wisconsin, told the troop which has met on church property for 20 years to start looking for a new home:
“Bob Thill, Troop 90 scoutmaster for the past seven years, said the troop has been told it should plan on finding a new home after the current one-year agreement expires Dec. 31 because of concerns about the policy change.
“Thill called the tentative decision by the Rev. Derek Sakowski of St. Mary’s ‘very disappointing’ but said the Scouts are looking for a new site to charter the troop.”
Though the pastor has not made a final decision, he explained his reasoning:
“For his part, Sakowski said he was uncomfortable with the wording in the revised Boy Scouts membership standards indicating that no youth may be turned away ‘on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.’
“Sakowski said ‘sexual preference’ is too ambiguous, and he has written the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts seeking clarification as to what is meant by the term.
“ ‘We want to know if it fits with our Catholic values. If I don’t get a (satisfactory) response, then I can’t renew the charter,’ he said, adding that same-sex attraction alone is not considered sinful by the Catholic church.”
Local television station WEAU reported that the Diocese of La Crosse, in which the parish is located, has no problem with the Scouts’ policy:
“The Diocese of La Crosse however told us “A youth experiencing same-sex attraction should not be afraid that he will be expelled by the scouting community by disclosing the experience of such attraction.” . . .
“In their statement the Diocese of La Crosse also mentioned that Pope Francis recently said, ‘same sex attraction’ alone does not preclude active membership in the church.
“The Diocese says at this time there is no reason to believe St. Mary Parish in Altoona will end the partnership with Troop 90.”
As Bondings 2.0 reported in the spring, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting declared that there is no conflict between the new policy and Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
The pastor of the parish has said that he will meet with parents before he makes a final decision. Let’s hope that the parents will convince him to continue the program. Or perhaps the diocese will intervene.
The interesting thing is that while I disagree with Fr. Sakowski’s inclination to ask the troop to move, I do agree with him that the term “sexual preference” is not helpful. It is an old-fashioned term and implies a choice in sexuality, which more modern notions of sexual orientation say does not exist. Orientation is more often something discovered than chosen.
Other parishes have cancelled scouting programs because of the new policy. You can read about them here, here and here. What I think is hopeful, however, is the vast number of Catholic parishes are continuing to support the Scouts. That’s good news!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry