The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has recently come under fire for the inclusion of LGBT scouts and leaders within their organization, as well as the inclusion of girls within troops. However, their Italian counterparts have had mixed gender scouting experiences for the last fifty years, but have just recently started grappling with LGBT people in the Catholic church run organization.
Crux reports that the co-ed Italian, Catholic run version of Boy Scouts named Agesci (an acronym for the Italian translation of Association of Italian Catholic Guides and Scouts) easily came to the inclusion of mixed gendered troops, LGBT people were not as readily welcomed. In 2017, the head of a scouting troop in the town of Staranzano, Marco Di Just, entered into a civil union with his partner. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to step down by the pastor of his parish.
While Di Just was supported by leaders in Agesci and his associate pastor, Bishop Carlo Roberta Maria Redaelli of Gorizia wrote in support of the pastor’s decision, saying:
“We are before new and complex issues where the ecclesial reflection is still at its early stages or anyway not fully matured, opinions are not in agreement, pastoral practices are not yet well defined.”
Di Just and other potentially LGBT scout leaders also had the support of many scouts and leaders in Agesci. In 014, over 30,000 scouts and leaders signed“The Charter of Courage,” a document that affirmed the inclusion of LGBT members in the organization, and asked for the Church to be more open.
At least one other influential member of the Italian hierarchy has expressed a message of inclusion for Agesci. Crux reports that Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the head of the Italian bishops’ conference recently invoked Pope Francis when speaking to the Italian Association of Catholic Guides and Scouts of Europe. He asked members:
“[To join Pope Francis in a Church] that does not fear to be contaminated, but inserts itself in the arduous march of humanity as a whole.”
Others in Italy agree with Bishop Galantino’s vision for a more welcoming and inclusive church run organization. Crux reports that:
“The bishop’s call for a Catholicism prone to welcoming and inclusion could be interpreted as a sign for Italian scouting to broaden its horizons, and young scouts have stated that they are inspired by Francis’s perceived opening toward homosexuality.”
While some in Italy have been slow to accept LGBT scouts and leaders, the statement by Bishop Galantino and the support of other Italian Catholics are promising first steps to a more inclusive church-run scouting experience.
—Kaitlin Brown, New Ways Ministry, June 16, 2018