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Gay Boy Scout Denied Eagle Rank

NPR (et al) reported yesterday that 17 year old Ryan Andersen has been denied the rank of Eagle Scout by the Boy Scouts of America. Here's the organization's statement:

"This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. "Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."

First, I am not questioning the BSA's legal right to exclude anyone from its ranks, on the basis of whatever criteria they wish. Private organizations can do that.Second, I don't know what the substance is of Andersen's failure to do his "Duty to God," but I suspect that the two objections of Duty to God and sexual orientation are connected. However, I could be wrong on this count. Further, I don't know Andersen's religious faith or denomination. However, I think this would be a fine opportunity for Catholic leadership to speak out in support of kids like Ryan, and urge the BSA to welcome gay Scouts. Here are a couple reasons why:1. Official Catholic teaching, unlike that of many right-wing evangelical churches, draws a distinction between sexual inclination/desire (the official teaching tends not to use the word "orientation,") and sexual acts. Homosexual acts are condemned, while homosexual desire is not. I suspect the BSA does not encourage sexual activity for any of its members, but rather encourages them to remain sexually abstinent, at least until marriage or responsible adulthood. (A quick googling didn't answer this question for me. My searches yielded reports about sex abuse and poor responses to sex abuse within this all-heterosexual group.) Why wouldn't the Catholic Church want to encourage all interested kids to join groups calling for responsible chastity? Not to mention the fact that scouting might help them find the kind of solid friends that Church teaching says is helpful for gays in dealing with homosexual desire? Catholic magisterial teaching says that no unjust discrimination of any kind should be practiced against LGB people--wouldn't involvement in a group that helps form responsible and thoughtful men be a good thing for gay kids? (Since I am talking about a response by Catholic leadership here, I am not calling into question the Church's teaching on same-sex relationships here. There's no need to change Catholic teaching in order for Church leaders to support scouting for gay kids.)2. We've heard a lot about religious liberty from Catholic leadership this year. Many Christian denominations and other religious groups are supportive of LGBT people and (when appropriate) same-sex relationships. It may well be the case for Ryan--and it is undoubtedly the case for many scouts--that Duty to God as they understand God REQUIRES them to be open and affirming of LGBT people. In their own well-formed consciences, such scouts are put in a difficult position of having to decide whether their membership in a group that excludes gays is in conflict with their promise within that very group to be reverent and to serve God. Wouldn't a call for an inclusive stance point to the bishops' sense of the urgency of protecting religious freedom for all and the importance of obeying conscience?So these are two reasons for Catholic leaders to call on the BSA to change their exclusive policy. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that they boot out Boy Scouts from church buildings unless they do so--such strictures are reserved for punishing Girl Scouts because of their association with insidious groups like the Sierra Club. But it is in keeping, istm, both with current magisterial teaching regarding LGB people, and would be a resounding reiteration of our leaders' own call for greater respect for religious freedom in American society.Again, this is not a legal matter, but a moral matter. Shouldn't Catholic leaders support the inclusion of gay kids in scouting?

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Since Mr. Andersen has already earned the rank, I see no reason to deny it to him now unless he deliberately lied about his sexual orientation previously and is coming out now to embarrass the BSA.The author is on-point with his explanation of the Catholic teachings regarding the distinction between sexual inclination and sexual acts and the charity due to all, including homosexuals; however, he makes no mention of the potential that overnight camping trips, a common activity for many scouts, pose for the near occasion of grave sin for those with same-sex inclinations. The Catholic Church wouldn't (or shouldn't) endorse heterosexual boys and girls camping together; nor should they endorse those with same-sex inclinations sleeping with those they may be sexually attracted to.This is one case where fostering inclusion in common activities may be far from charitable.

I am willing to bet that more than one gay priest and gay bishop was, at one time, a Boy Scout, and may have even been gay at that time.Goose. Gander.

" -- unless he deliberately lied about his sexual orientation previously ---"Are you encouraging a Don't Ask, Don't Tell program for BSA?Do you really think that an adolescent gay boy scout, most likely very nervous about his orientation being discovered, will actually make a sexual advance under sleeping or any other conditions while camping? BTW, you might want to read the history of Robert Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts.

"However, I think this would be a fine opportunity for Catholic leadership to speak out in support of kids like Ryan, and urge the BSA to welcome gay Scouts."I agree 100%. Many scout troops are affiliated with Catholic school communities. The church must assert strongly here what it teaches: that "men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies ... must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." (CCC 2358)The BSA's policy is a policy of unjust discrimination.

Maybe the ghost of Lord Baden-Powell (pronounced bay-dun pool), the Hero of Mafeking (haha) posted the introduction to the thread.http://www.forvo.com/word/baden-powell/ (Pronunciation.)Imho, the Church should divorce itself from the Boy Scouts for MANY reasons.Christopher Hitchens' article gives a few bits of information about the founder of the organization. From that:When it came to Germany, B-P was equally boneheaded. He actually upbraided one official of the Scout movement who did not want to be associated with the Hitler Youth. The head of his International Bureau, Hubert Martin, reported that a German scouting leader named Riecke had been dispatched to a camp for the offense of proposing an independent, non-Nazi movement. B-P responded testily that Riecke had been sent there "not for international tendencies, but for homosexual tendencies!" This is the only reference to that dread subject that I know of in his writings; an accusation repudiated with indignation when madeoften unfairlyagainst British scoutmasters was taken at face value when made by Hitlerites. It's pleasant to record, however, that B-P was outvoted on this question, and that the BSM never recognized the Hitler Youth as a model or as a partner.http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2004/06/hitchens.htm

How do Baden-Powell's political beliefs or personal life relate to the character of the organization today? Even when I was in Boy Scouts in the US 40+ years ago, the only mention of B-P I recall was in the history section of the handbook. Is there more focus on him personally in the UK?

@Jim Pauwels -- How do you suggest dealing with the morality issue viz a viz overnight camping, where the homosexual boys are sleeping with other males? In terms of temptation, this is the equivalent of teenaged heterosexual boys and girls sleeping in the same tents. Neither the Church, nor any prudent adult, would condone such activities.For this reason, I do not see the situation as one of unjust discrimination. Unfortunate, yes; but not unjust.

If Ryan Anderson is only 17 years old, how can the BSA possibly know that he has a homosexual orientation? Did they secretly follow him around and find him engaging in homosexual activity?

Homosexual acts are condemned, while homosexual desire is not.Lisa:More to the point, the Church defines homosexual inclination as "intrinsically disordered" . Males with such a disorder, while deserving compassion, ought not to be allowed to disrupt the wholesome spiritual/psychological development that the Boy Scouts organization seeks to instill in it's members.

@Mark Proska - the first line of this article contains a link to a n NPR report fin which the following quote appears:"This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. "Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."The NPR report also states the scoutmaster was aware of Mr. Andersen's sexual inclinations.

Jerry: If the BSA and you are fretting about gay boys hitting on other males during the night, there is an obvious equipment solution: don't use two-person tents. But I'll go with Jim McCrea @4:08 pm.

Sometimes in the dark hours, when my too small candle of brotherly love burns low, I wonder about folks who speak so airily of other people being intrinsically disordered. Please don't mistake us, they say, we love homosexuals as God's children. They just need to suppress and crush a central aspect of their humanity. Then they will be deserving of our compassion.So kind, so understanding, so Christlike.

Jerry--Thanks, don't see how I could have missed that. If the young man in question has proactively disavowed a principle of the BSA, why are we even talking about whether the Catholic Church should chastise the BSA for not feting the young man?The Church does not teach and, as far as I know, has never taught that any person is intrinsically disordered. I think she teaches that, since The Fall, we all have intrinsically disordered desires of one form or another. It seems sometimes people misrepresent what the Church teaches so they can play the victim. One wonders if that's a sign of disorder itself.

Are you sure you want to go around claiming the victim pose is a sign of disorder?

@Jim Pauwels How do you suggest dealing with the morality issue viz a viz overnight camping, where the homosexual boys are sleeping with other males? In terms of temptation, this is the equivalent of teenaged heterosexual boys and girls sleeping in the same tents. Neither the Church, nor any prudent adult, would condone such activities.Sounds like the same argument that we couldn't repeal DADT because people would be sleeping and showering in the same barracks. The argument didn't work then, either.

There are gay/bi/uncertain kids in every Catholic and non-Catholic school in the country also sharing locker rooms and showers. It's just not an issue in the real world. And the alternative--a witch-hunt to oust gay kids from schools--is a horrific prospect for many reasons. This is unjust discrimination.

Kids in Scouts are passing through a transient stage of dynamic formation. They are malleable, uncertain, and variable in diverse ways, sometimes from day to day. The BSA knows and understands this and aims to contribute to the good in the young adult that is coming soon. What a kid says should be heard and respected, but to move on to official quasi-certification of an allegedly intrinsic property with the long-term implications and consequences that follow is a gross misapplication of moral certitude. My memories of my Scout days are long gone, but I would hate to have been held for the sixty years since then to whatever properties and convictions may have been deep-seated in me at the time. That includes with respect to the gravely immoral Church-condemned sexual activity which was of high common interest in a bunch of boys stumbling into puberty.

This kid openly and defiantly contradicts the requirements to be an Eagle Scout. Yet Lisa focuses only on his alleged homosexual orientation. Todays readings about human sexuality and marriage provide a pretty definitive answer to that focus.

SFGate reports:

But Ryans mother said hed never said he didnt believe in a higher power. The Boy Scouts of Americas statement that Ryan does not agree to Scoutings principle of Duty to God is inaccurate, she said in a statement released Friday. Ryan has never said that he does not believe in a higher power, and the only reason hes being denied the rank of Eagle is because the Boy Scouts of America has a problem with Ryan being gay.

Nothing has been said, or alleged, about this young man regarding illicit sexual behavior, which would put him at odds with current official Catholic teaching. His exclusion seems to be only about his orientation. Unjust discrimination.

Thank you for your comment at 2:58, John Prior.There's something more than a little stomach-churning about the claim of many of those who continue to designate gay and lesbian persons as intrinsically disordered that they are doing so as an act of love.Just as there's something a little nausea-provoking about the mendacious claim that the Catholic magisterium hasn't designed gay and lesbian persons as intrinsically disordered in their personhood--in their inclinations, as Bob Schwartz helpfully puts it. Or that the Catholic church has always spoken of, well, everyone as intrinsically disordered in their inclinations, so that the magisterial intent in designating gay folks as disordered in their inclinations is not really about fostering particular prejudice against those who are gay.I sometimes think it might be a valuable teaching moment for those who claim that gay folks invent stories of their own victimization in a culture that's, after all, not prejudiced in the least to do what John Howard Griffin dared to do in 1959: live a year or so presenting yourself as an out gay person in a committed, publicly acknowledged gay relationship anywhere in the U.S.And then come back to report at the end of the year what kind of experiences you've had of widespread acceptance and affirmation. (Be sure to include, among your experiences, some experiences of going into a variety of church-oriented settings including Catholic ones, in which you apply for jobs that have been advertised as open, and inform your prospective employer that you're openly gay and in a committed relationship--as you will have to do when asking about partner benefits.And then see what happens.)

A correction of a mistake in the first sentence of the second paragraph of my previous posting:It states, "Just as theres something a little nausea-provoking about the mendacious claim that the Catholic magisterium hasnt designed gay and lesbian persons as intrinsically disordered in their personhood . . . ."And I had intended to write, Just as theres something a little nausea-provoking about the mendacious claim that the Catholic magisterium hasnt DESIGNATED gay and lesbian persons as intrinsically disordered in their personhood . . . ."

So, let me get this straight: the bishops should not oppose the HHS mandate or gay marriage, but should make a point of denouncing the Boy Scouts?

ThorinYou know that you are conflating these issues...Love the scouts... relject their prejudices..."No Merit Badghes for Bias.No Medals for Ignorance."

Let's not forget that the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" is clear on this: "[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." This is a clear-cut example of "unjust discrimination," and so Catholics should be opposed to it.

It's interesting that nobody here sees the scout's refusal to include "Duty To God" in his oath as being a central reason for denying him his Eagle award. (I'm not saying it's a legitimate reason, but I think it might be a very real reason). The Girl Scouts, which is an extremely inclusive organization and one which does not discriminate based on sexual orientation (to the dismay of some fundamentalists) includes duty to God as part of the Girl Scout Promise. I was told at a training that girls can substitute some other acceptable (unspecified) word for God when they say the Promise but they must indeed say the Promise to be invested as a Scout. I was further told that, when written, the Promise must always use the word God, it can't be left out or substituted. I think the scout's inability to promise Duty to God might be an actual obstacle.

[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.As far as I can tell, this boy is accepted and belongs to the Boy Scouts. They have simply refused to award him an earned honorific rank - Eagle Scout - because he will not complete two requirements: endorsing a 'Duty to God' and satisfying a membership standard on sexual orientation. Refusing to 'accommodate' this boy by holding him the same standard for an award is not 'unjust discrimination' under the Catechism or otherwise.

This is a clear-cut example of unjust discrimination, and so Catholics should be opposed to it.Fr. Martin,I wish what you say were the case. However, based on various official Catholic statements on "unjust discrimination" (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, and Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons), the Church makes it clear that it is opposed to policies or laws that would specifically protect homosexual persons from discrimination, lest they become a protected class. Also, the Catechism refers to homosexual persons, which is not, it seems to me, a synonym for "gay people." According to the Church, "homosexual persons" are supposed to consider their orientation "intrinsically disordered" and are discouraged from making it known. The Church's position is that if homosexual persons stay in the closet, where they belong, they won't have to worry about discrimination. Gay people, on the other hand, embrace their sexual orientation rather than rejecting it and hiding it. To put it bluntly, whatever the Church may say about "homosexual persons," it never discusses "gay people" because it has no use for them.

Homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons including the right of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity (cf. no. 10). Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory. This would obtain moreover not only in the case of culpable behavior but even in the case of actions of the physically or mentally ill. Thus it is accepted that the state may restrict the exercise of rights, for example, in the case of contagious or mentally ill persons, in order to protect the common good.

"Objectively disordered external conduct," as I understand it, could be living with a same-sex partner, entering into a civil union or a same-sex marriage, or fighting for fair treatment in the Boy Scouts which has a policy excluding gay people. I am grateful that many people try to apply the Catechism's prohibition against unfairly discriminating against homosexual persons to situations like this, but it is clear to me that it is misguided. You can't read the Catechism in isolation, and the Church's other pronouncements about homosexuality rule outor so it seems to meclaiming that statements about unjust discrimination against homosexual persons have anything to do with the rights of self-proclaimed, self-affirming gay people.

Apart from the moral question put to Catholic leaders: Why are the Scouts skittish? Take a look at Patrick Boyle's Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution.

Another kid who has sadly been led by contrarian eggheads to believe that following the gay lifestyle will be acceptable to the average person, eventually discovers that in general, most people do not think homosexuality is normal or very acceptable. And the same contrarians want to blame the common man for daring to believe in something, for daring to have an opinion - Yawn.

"To put it bluntly, whatever the Church may say about homosexual persons, it never discusses gay people because it has no use for them.""has no use for them"? That is the most unChristian attitude I've ever seen exemplified on this blog. Shame, shame, shame.

has no use for them? That is the most unChristian attitude Ive ever seen exemplified on this blog. Shame, shame, shame.Ann,Apologies for answering in kind, but shame on you for trying to whitewash the position of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church does not even talk about gay people. It won't even use the word gay. Gay people, to the Church, are people who engage in "acts of grave depravity" . . . "behavior to which no one has any conceivable right." When the Catholic Church talks of refraining from "unjust discrimination" against "homosexual persons," it is not talking about gay people. Reread the passage I quoted above. "Nevertheless, these rights [if homosexual persons] are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct." Being gay is objectively disordered conduct in the eyes of the Church. I am amazed that you accuse me of an un-Christian attitude and say nothing about Ken's odious remarks directly preceding yours.

I should add that if one really does believe that a homosexual orientation is "intrinsically disordered" and is a "more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil," and that two people in a same-sex marriage or other committed relationship are engaged acts of grave depravity and behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, then of course one ought to do whatever is in one's power to see that such people do not gain social acceptance or any but the same most basic human rights that one extends to others who engage in ___________ (fill in your own "grave depravity"). So one cannot "blame" the Church for being consistent. But those who are at all sympathetic to gay people (not "homosexual persons") can't have their cake and eat it too. The Church's attitude toward homosexual behavior is one of utter condemnation and loathing, and a few words taken out of context from the Catechism doesn't change that at all.

Ann,By the way, what precisely do you mean by "un-Christian"? I am not quite sure what to make of the charge. "Uncharitable" or any number of other uns I think I could understand (although not plead guilty to). But what is it exactly that Christians have that "un-Christians" lack? I will grant that it is somewhat un-Catholic to accuse the Catholic Church of being wrong on the matter of homosexuality, but I don't think it is un-Christian.

The sad part is kids like this fellow are routinely led to think (mistakenly) that if they embrace and follow their same-sex tendency, that society will be accepting of that almost unconditionally. This is flatly not true. The fact is that most people think it is better if a child does not turn out to be gay, just like most people realize it better for kids to be raised by a married mother and father rather than two moms or two dads, or by a single parent alone.As for people born that way, that is their struggle, their cross to bear. Sadly, people are born with various abnormalities and/or handicaps, and nobody really knows why. But regarding the person who was born with a tendency to same-sex attraction, as with the born-thirsty alcoholic, one does them no favor by encouraging them to follow their self-destructive instincts. Sure people fail and fall, that is out nature. But as with the boozer who needs to get back on the wagon, or the diabetic who love sweets and sometimes falls off his diet, we should encourage the person with homosexual tendencies to find their balance.People pity the hopeless addict, it is posisble to even admire them for their struggle. But society eternally and correctly dislikes the pusher, the one who constantly whispers to the addict things like Its ok, do as you like, it feels good, it is no problem, the world is wrong and you are right" etc.; the same sort of whispering nonsense that led Eve and Adam astray.

I meant to say "happily married mother and father"; an important qualification -

The sad part is that kids are routinely led to think that if they embrace and follow the fear and smallmindedness of the adults around them, that society will be accepting of that almost unconditionally. Which is still very often true, but not as often as it used to be."You've got to be taught before it's too late,Before you are six or seven or eight.....Oh, you've got to be carefully taught."

David N. --I apologize. I totally misread your post -- the way you expressed it I thought you were expressing your own view. I do not think that the Church's teaching about homosexual unions is true. But I also disagree with you that the Church totally ignores gays as being, in effect, garbage. I think you make too much of te official use of "homosexual person". I don't think it is always limited to the 'non-gay homosexual". As to "unChristian", c'mon. You know what that means.

the way you expressed it I thought you were expressing your own view.Ann,I am delighted to hear that you feel it is not my attitude, but the Church's, that you consider un-Christian! :-)

Where do you get one of those "Intrinsically disordered" stamps? Is there one in the Vatican? If you have one, can you just stamp certain behaviors as "Intrinsically disordered" and bingo they are?Or is there some rationale for it, like that the "unitive" aspect of the "marital act" is not present (e.g., gay people can't make babies)? If that's the rationale, it will hold up as well over time as the ban on contraception has, which is to say, not well at all.

Jeanne --I think that the "intrinsically disordered" label follows from the natural law principle that certain things have one and only one telos/goal but that in individual cases thing is defective and cannot do what it is meant to do, preventing it from reaching its prescribed end. The official Church view is that there is one dominating telos for human sexual relations, the procreation of children, and absent the possibility of procreation that there can be no other right uses for human sex. The trouble is, there is no reason to think that procreation has to be the dominant telos, and even the official Church admits that sterile people (who cannot produce children any more than gays can) can validly marry.Bad logicians, or bonkers. Or both.

Bad logicians, or bonkers. Or both.Ann,Nice alliteration. Let me continue: blinded by its own bull 'bout being the beacon and bastion of belief, blundered into bog and can't backtrack.

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About the Author

Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).