A valued part of my childhood was my participation in the boy scouts movement, in a troop associated with my local Catholic parish. Every Friday night we met in the church hall, for which we paid in kink by spending part of the evening folding parish newsletters. In addition to standard scouting activities, part of the annual programme included “church parade”, where for selected dates in the church calendar, we assembled for the main Mass of the day as a troop, in scout uniform – alongside the younger cubs, girl guides and brownies. One of the first merit badges I earned, not available to other troops, was the Chiro badge, demonstrating some knowledge of Catholic teaching and practice and positioned in a place of honour over my heart., not on the sleeves with the more ordinary badges. Whenever we went away for the scout camps I so much enjoyed, whether a week – end or for a longer three week camp at the coast we knew that our devoted scoutmaster would have done his homework on local parishes, and would ensure that we all attended Sunday Mass, somehow squeezing the entire troop into his Volkswagen Kombi van to get us there. My scouting experience was inextricably bound up with my childhood parish experience, with the scouting emphasis on service to the community echoing the message that I was internalizing from my education at Catholic schools – that the heart of Christianity includes a commitment to love, inclusion and justice for all, demonstrated in community service.
Fascinated, I have been observing from a distance the unfolding the US Scouts’ debate over including gay scouts, and in particular the threats from some Catholic sources that a policy of inclusion could lead to the Catholic Church distancing itself from the movement: an idea that I find frankly incomprehensible. Catholic teaching is absolutely clear that simply to be “homosexual” is not in any way sinful or objectionable, that those who have a same – sex orientation should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and that all forms of unjust discrimination or violence should be strenuously opposed. From that perspective, the logical position for the Catholic Church should have been to oppose, vigorously, the previous policy of exclusion, not the newly adopted one of inclusion for young scouts (but not for adult scouters).
It should not be necessary to take note of a formal confirmation from the Catholic Church the new policy welcoming gay Scouts is not in conflict with teaching – but it is. There are reports that some parish priests are proposing to shut down their associated scout troops rather than run the risk of having them contaminated with gay youngsters. What on earth for? Their current scouts will already be mixing with gay friends and classmates at school, and in their neighbourhoods, without any ill – effects (and with a beneficial growth in mutual understanding). What possible point was served by the previous policy of exclusion, beyond a simple and un – Catholic motive of discrimination? And so, I take note and welcome what should be obvious to anyone familiar with the whole of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and not just the bit about genital acts. Inclusion for all, and non – discrimination, is part of Catholic teaching – and not in way in opposition to it.
The U.S. Catholic Church’s top liaison to the Boy Scouts of America is telling Catholic Scout leaders and troop sponsors that the BSA’s new policy welcoming gay Scouts “is not in conflict with Catholic teaching” and they should continue to support scouting programs.
“Scouting is still the best youth-serving program available to all youth,” Edward P. Martin, chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, wrote in a May 29 letter addressed to “fellow Catholic Scouters.”
“We should be encouraged that the change in BSA’s youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching,” Martin said, asking that “Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment.”
Martin said that despite some concerns, the NCCS had taken a neutral stance on a resolution adopted on May 23 by the BSA’s National Council.
In balloting that was seen as a potential watershed in the culture wars, more than 60 percent of the 1,400 members of the BSA council voted to allow gay Scouts while still barring gay men from being Scout leaders. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.
Martin said that in the week following the vote, he and his colleagues consulted with the BSA, with other faith-based Scouting groups and with Catholic experts, and weighed feedback on social media before declaring themselves satisfied that the new policy would not conflict with Catholic teaching.
- Pastor: Parish ‘to part ways’ with Boy Scouts after vote to allow gays (q13fox.com)
- Catholic leaders urge support for Boy Scouts after shift on gays (religionnews.com)
- National Catholic Committee on Scouting Supports Boy Scouts’ Inclusive Policy (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Gay Boy Scouts, Catholic Response, and Welcome of Gays: Keeping Catholics Doors Open (or Slamming Them Shut?) (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)