Catholic Responses to the New Boy Scouts Policy

Here's an intersting article on the reaction of various religious groups to the new Boy Scouts policy, admitting gay youth Scouts but still prohibiting gay people from adult roles in the organization.  It's hard to imagine why a Christian, even one who believes homosexuality to be a sin, would favor barring gay boys and young men from even participating as a member in a youth group like the Scouts, and yet some churches have taken that position.  The response to the new policy by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is more encouraging, but some of the reponses by individual Catholic priests and even a bishop are baffling and disturbing:

      A Catholic pastor in Bremerton, Wash., the Rev. Derek Lappe of Our Lady Star of the Sea, wrote an open letter to his parishioners announcing that the parish would cut its ties with the Scouts and develop new youth programs of its own.  "I am very aware that my objection to the change ... is increasingly considered bigoted and backward," Lappe wrote. "But I won't put public opinion ahead of the good of the boys and young men in my parish."
     In the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake, the pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church notified local Scout leaders that the church would no longer sponsor a Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop. In a letter conveying the decision, the Rev. Brian Grady wrote that it would be "not only unjust, but immoral" for straight boys to have to share tents on camping trips with gay Scouts.
     And in Arlington, Va., Catholic Bishop Paul Loverde issued a statement saying the new membership policy "forces us to prayerfully reconsider whether a continued partnership with the BSA will be possible."  "It is highly disappointing to see the Boy Scouts of America succumb to external pressures and political causes at the cost of its moral integrity," said Loverde, who predicted the policy change will bring "continuing controversy, policy fights and discord."
     However, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting — which works with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to coordinate the church's involvement in Scouting — has taken a more positive view of the policy change.  "We should be encouraged that the change in BSA's youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching," Edward Martin, the committee's chairman, wrote last week in an open letter to Catholics involved in Scouting.  Martin, an Eagle Scout with five children who've been Scouts, said his committee would form a task force to work with Catholic dioceses and parishes on how best to go forward in light of the change.
"Our youth don't want to leave Scouting. Scouting is still the best program around," Martin wrote. "Let's continue this important journey together."

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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