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So long, Catholic Boy Scouts?

Surprising news:

Boy Scouts of America Says Discussing End to Ban on Gay MembersBy REUTERSDALLAS (Reuters) - Boy Scouts of America is discussing ending a longstanding ban on gay members and whether to allow local organizations to decide their own policy, a spokesman said on Monday.Lifting the ban would mark a dramatic reversal for the 103-year-old organization, which only last summer reaffirmed its policy amid heavy criticism from gay rights groups and some parents of scouts."The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation," spokesman Deron Smith said in an email to Reuters."The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue," the spokesman said.The organization, which had more than 2.6 million youth members and more than 1 million adult members at the end of 2012, "would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents," Smith said.

That would effectively put an end to Catholic-sponsored scout troops, which account for 10 percent of all troops. Mormon-sponsored groups account for more than a third of all troops, and religious organizations sponsor two-thirds of all troops, according to this article.The Girl Scouts are already in the Catholic dock over charges (or an "urban legend," some say) that their cookies support contraception and abortion programs. (Catholics make up a quarter of the nations 3million Girl Scouts.)Is this the end of Catholic scouting? Or are there alternatives?

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David, I don't understand this sentence: "That would effectively put an end to Catholic-sponsored scout troops". Perhaps I am missing something, but why would permitting a gay teen to be a Boy Scout be something that a Catholic-sponsored troop couldn't do?

Oh gosh, just allow the gay scout troop leader to take the boys on weekend camping trips. As Hillary would say 'What difference does it make?' . . . do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Yeah whatever - what difference does it make?" Why is it so easy to get the great unwashed masses all worked up?;-)

As I commented on your RNS posting, why would this be the end of RC troops if the sponsoring organization could keep a no-gays policy, unjust though it may be?

Perhaps I am missing something, but why would permitting a gay teen to be a Boy Scout be something that a Catholic-sponsored troop couldnt do?Jim,One might also ask why permitting Catholic adoption agencies merely to consider same-sex couples as parents would be out of the question.

RC troops are small peanuts. The LDS stranglehold on BSA will be the determining factor.If religious sponsors can't enter the 21st century when it comes to not discriminating based on sexual orientation, then they should NOT be allowed to sponsor BSA troops, Girl Scouts or Cub Scout Packs.

I was just wondering the other day what the bishops learned from their investigation of the Girl Scouts. I don't see why parents want their children to be in "troops" and wear uniforms. But it's nice to see that the Boy Scouts may reverse its discrimination policy. I wonder if they will now celebrate the gift of homosexuality which their founder, many believe, had received.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/opinion/scoutings-gay-founder.html?_r=0

Eugene Pagano (and Jim P), pardon the cut-and-paste (!) but as I just responded over at RNS, in the case of the RC Church, the bishops have opposed cooperating with groups that promote positions they consider morally wrong, so affiliating with the BSA -- if the gay ban is dropped -- would be problematic. Moreover, Catholic leaders have supported the BSA's gay ban. So it's hard to see how they could keep their ties in the event of a change. I can provide some links later, but in recent years there has been a long-running battle to ensure that the church severs any ties with agencies or organizations that have any ties whatsoever to other agencies that endorse or allow contraception, abortion, or gay rights. The CCHD has been a big target, as well as separate Catholic ministries for immigrants, the homeless, etc, where the church might partner with an offending group.

David G - right; but simply allowing a gay teen to be a boy scout doesn't seem to be the same sort of thing as paying for abortions in the developing world.Gay teens attend Catholic high schools. Gay parishioners belong to Catholic parishes. A gay teen joining the Boy Scouts doesn't seem any different to me.

Thank you, Mr. Gibson.

Jim P, I agree. But those distinctions are not often made these days. Of course there is also the chance that this could lead to lifting the ban on gays as scout leaders (that doesn't seem to be part of the deliberations here) which would be a definite deal breaker, I think.

Oh Jim, we are toying with more than just the idea of pushing Catholic Boy Scout troops aside. As a society we are via the HHS mandate looking at closing Catholic schools, hospitals, charities and social services. Some states have already forced Catholic Church out of the adoption services. Catholic-owned businesses will have to work out some other arrangements; maybe shadow owners or something like that. Maybe the Vatican will help them by calling the Familglia de Medici for advice on how to be shrewd.While the abortion/contraception HHS thing is the biggest factor, as the normalization of homosexuality efforts proceed, if Leftists succeed in that, as a secondary factor, it will also hasten the exit of Catholic and other religious groups from social services like charities, schools and hospitals.After the court battles are fought and the government wins, I see it going more or less like this.1-The bishops will close the Catholic schools, hospitals, charities, etc..2-The communities will see they really needs the school desks, the hospital beds, etc..3-The government will urgently want/need to buy the buildings/facilities from the diocese and will pay whatever is necessary.4-The bishops will smile, try to be helpful, and will rake in the money on the many sales.5-The nuns will go back into the convents, and the bishops and priests will retreat behind the doors of churches and cathedrals and study Latin. On the bright side, this might facilitate more Latin in the Novus Ordo or maybe even more use of the Tridentine mass.In any case though, while the Leftists/Statists will naturally be overjoyed, and while some businessmen will make a bit of extra dinero on the situation and will be happy, in general the public will not be well served, and the price of all this will be very high.

Jim: You mean the local Brownie Troop is actually a front for international abortionists?

jbruns, I have heard the allegation that Girl Scouts and Brownies are fronting for the abortion agenda made seriously by the kind of every-week Mass-going Catholics upon whom the bishops are staking the future of the church. So don't laugh.I have also heard from a pastor that we can't support the Race for the Cure because it supports Planned Parenthood. I think I stood off that threat by pointing out that we would also have to boycott the electric company, the Ford Motor Company, the local newspaper, a TV station and other sponsors of the Race for the Cure -- to say nothing of the NFL teams with their pink shoes and pink towels.The Scouts seem to be moving toward a don't-ask-about-neighboring-troops set up for the Scouts. Catholic-sponsored Scouts could discriminate against gay kids or make them feel uncomfortable without losing their charters. My problem with that is that kids of Boy Scout age often don't know WHAT they are, sexually, and I don't think it is particularly brilliant to force them to choose one just to get into Scouting.

MEDIA STATEMENT Boy Scouts of America Monday, Jan. 28, 2013Attributable to: Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations For more than 100 years, Scoutings focus has been on working together to deliver the nations foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve. Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organizations mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families. The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organizations mission, principles, or religious beliefs. ###http://www.scouting.org/MembershipPolicy.aspx

There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue within the scouting community (I have been an active volunteer Scouter for over 20 years).The "between the lines" here is that a vote is going to be taken by the national board. With this "leak" I am sure all the voting members are going to get an ear-full from various constituencies. It is not a foregone conclusion that anything will actually change.

jbruns - No.

If normalization of homosexuals means allowing them to go to school, go to church, play football, join the Boy Scouts, and maybe after graduating, get a job or join the Navy, I guess I support that agenda.

After the court battles are fought and the government wins, I see it going more or less like thisKen,Could you give us a time frame? If none of this happens in, say, five or ten years, are you going to say, "Just wait. It's coming eventually."

So as not to put Ken on the spot, I will also give what I think is a reasonable timeframe for what is currently unfolding. I expect the liberals and the homosexuals to have destroyed the Catholic Church in America by 2018 or 2019that is, by the middle of Obama's third term.

...and the bishops and priests will retreat behind the doors of churches and cathedrals and study Latin.Well, Ken, if more folks are reading Plautus, Petronius, and Apuleius, then I'm all for it.

Ken --Once more, because you associate certain groups in your thinking about them, you infer that there is some causal relationship between them. That's illogical, Ken. Association is not causality.

Jim Pauwels wrote: "David, I dont understand this sentence: That would effectively put an end to Catholic-sponsored scout troops. Perhaps I am missing something, but why would permitting a gay teen to be a Boy Scout be something that a Catholic-sponsored troop couldnt do?"I agree. The "Media Statement" posted above says that individual troops that want to continue to exclude gay scouts and scout leaders can continue to do that. The difference is that they will have to accept individual responsibility for those decisions - they won't be able to claim that the national BSA is forcing them to do it. It will be interesting to see how individual Catholic Parishes and their scout troops will deal with this - and whether the USCCB will publish a statement on what they should do. Hopefully, not DADT.

As I see it, the American bishops are worse than the Vatican on the matter of gay rights. At least the Vatican continues to affirm the rights of gays (as the Vatican sees them, e.g., to jobs and housing). To affirm the right of gays to be part of a community is not the same thing as approving of gay sexual relationships. Further, straight people are not thrown out of the community for their sexual sins, why should the homosexual ones be ostracized? Sadly, too many Catholics would simply ostracize ALL gays out of unfounded fear. As far as the Boy Scouts are concerned, it is grossly unfair to assume that all gay men will be abusers of kids in their charge. My gay men friends are horrified by the abuse of kids, just as the decent straight ones are. Further, if the Scouts explicitly outlawed gay scoutmasters, that would be counter-productive. If they did, the predatory gay men will only pretend to be straight. I'll grant you, there are some. (Just look among the Catholic clergy.) But most aren't anymore than straight men.Grow up, Scouts and bishops!

Ken: do you live in Washington State? I suspect so because your post @ 4:49 reflects the effects of ample use of the newly-legalized weed."As I see it, the American bishops are worse than the Vatican on the matter of gay rights."Ann: the Vaticanes already have their place assured in clericalist heaven. The US wannabes still need to prove that they can be More Catholic than the Curialists ... in the worst possible way, of course.

Surely the invidious discrimination against gay teens was in contradiction with Catholic teaching?the contraception issue has created financial problems for bishops, but don't worry, money trumps morals every time: http://www.pressherald.com/news/uh-oh-bishop-what-have-you-gotten-yourse...

From the USCCB"Said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "The bishops hope the Boy Scouts will continue to work under the Judeo-Christian principles upon which they were founded and under which they have served youth well."http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_BOY_SCOUTS_GAYS?SITE=RIPRJ&SEC... as if she was answering a question from the AP reporter - not as if the USCCB is mounting a big campaign - so far, at least.It raises the question as to whether excluding gay kids from scout troops is a Judeo-Christian principle.

Apparently, Southern Baptists are up there with Catholics, Mormons And United Methodists as sponsors of Scout troops:"Southern Baptist leaders who consider homosexuality a sin were furious about the possible change and said its approval might encourage Southern Baptist churches to support other boys' organizations instead of the BSA. The Southern Baptists are among the largest sponsors of Scout units, along with the Roman Catholic, Mormon and United Methodist churches."http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/Under-pressure-Boy-Scouts-may-ea... believe I heard a Southern Baptist Minister on NPR this morning saying that the problem would be Scout gatherings, where different troops come together.

Southern Baptist leaders who consider homosexuality a sin were furious about the possible change and said its approval might encourage Southern Baptist churches to support other boys organizations instead of the BSA."Let's suppose, for the sake of discussion, that the Catholic bishops are not furious about the possible change and won't look for other boys' organizations to support.That means that there will not be perfect unity on this issue among the constellation of Christian denominations that frequently make common cause on social/sexual issues.In my view, it would be important for the Catholic Church to differentiate itself on this: to make it clear to the public that our views on homosexuality are not the same as that of Southern Baptists. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be perceived as being the same as 'all the other social conservative Christians' on this issue.

Jim,You said something above that I think would be helpful to seize on. You said, "If normalization of homosexuals means allowing them to go to school, go to church, play football, join the Boy Scouts, and maybe after graduating, get a job or join the Navy, I guess I support that agenda."What so many people are fearful of is the "normalization of homosexuality." That is different, or should be, than the "normalization of homosexuals." It seems to me the Catholic Church and many other groups who do not approve of homosexual behaviors have got to make a greater distinction between homosexuality and homosexuals. We disagree, I think, on the interpretation of the "no unjust discrimination" passage in the Catechism. I think you tend to interpret it to mean what I think it should mean but doesn't.

David Nickol, I don't think the church is opposed to either "homosexuals" (people) or "homosexuality" (the condition). It teaches that sex outside of sacramental marriage is wrong for all Catholics.Since heterosexual couples can receive sacramental marriage and homosexual couples cannot, that is obviously a much greater burden on some persons than others, but the basic principle is the same. Hopefully, most members of a Catholic Scout troop are not having sex with anyone, male or female. If some are encouraging others to become active sexually and persist after repeated warnings, I could see throwing them out, but I don't think it would depend on whether they were promoting sex with men or women. Obviously, anyone who forces himself on another person should be out quickly.

"What so many people are fearful of is the normalization of homosexuality. That is different, or should be, than the normalization of homosexuals. It seems to me the Catholic Church and many other groups who do not approve of homosexual behaviors have got to make a greater distinction between homosexuality and homosexuals."David - I'd like to hear your thoughts on the distinction you're calling out here. It seems to me that we have three different things to distinguish between: homosexuality (the inclination); homosexuals (the persons who have that inclination); and homosexual behavior (the behavior pursuant to the inclination by the people with that inclination).If my understanding of what the church teaches is accurate, it's only the last of these that the church considers sinful. And the church needs to stand, publicly, against discrimination and hatred directed against persons with the inclination. (I know I've said this before in these conversations, but in my view it's worth repeating).

"We disagree, I think, on the interpretation of the no unjust discrimination passage in the Catechism. I think you tend to interpret it to mean what I think it should mean but doesnt."As I have probably said before - I'd like to think that the church's specific views on this are evolving. (If I am wrong, then it's quite likely that we'll find out very quickly.)

And here's a disgusting little twist in case you didn't know it:http://www.tidewaterbsa.com/Tax%20Exemp%20FAQs.htm"TAX-EXEMPT STATUS OF BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA UNITS AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO UNITSFrequently Asked QuestionsIs our pack or troop considered tax-exempt by the IRS?That depends on who sponsors your pack, troop, or unit. The only time a unit can be considered tax-exempt is if its sponsoring organization is also tax-exempt.The BSA National Council grants a charter to religious organizations, service clubs, businesses, and others who want to sponsor a Scout unit. A unit is actually owned by its chartered organization. Chartered organizations vary widely in tax status, but the tax status of your unit is the same as that of your chartering partner. "So all of those nice little church sponsored discriminating BSA units will have donations to them being tax deductib.eNon-tax favored BSA troops that choose NOT to discriminate against gay boys and men do NOT have their donations considered as tax deductible.

If Catholics want "Catholic" Boy Scouts, form a parallel organization. Ditto for the LDS. The BSA is and should remain a secular organization that does not push a particular religious creed, doctrine or practice.

Jim McCrea: I've learned this from having my sons (formerly) in Scouts: the core Scout material isn't religion-specific, although they do have a sort of non-denominational honor-a-higher-being thing. But there is supplementary material for various faiths, e.g. there are Catholic badges that Catholic scouts can earn, Lutheran badges for Lutheran scouts, etc.

I feel I have special standing to speak about this issue, since I myself was a Cub Scout in the early 1950s. We drank lots of Coke, and none of us were obese. And we ate potato chips, too. I still love Coke (no matter what Mark Bittman and Mayor Bloomberg say) and potato chips. My Den Mother was one of the prettiest women in the world, or at least that's how I remember her. Our pack (or was it a troop) met in a condemned church. That is, the building was condemned for use as a church, but it was apparently stable enough for a troop of Cub Scouts. We were rather small and, as I said, not obese, so we didn't weigh very much. I distinctly remember once they were going to call us all up to the front. I was not sure for what, but there were cardboard boxes that said "Candles" on the sides, so I assumed they were going to burn our hair off the sides and give us Mohawk haircuts. I always look back on that and wonder why I wasn't frightened. There were no rules against gay people back then, because nobody had ever heard of them, as they had not yet begun appearing on the David Susskind show.

I do not understand this blog at all. We Catholics do not consider gays as un-persons, and there is nothing in the sponsor-troop relationship that requires or even empowers the sponsor to police the sexual orientation of troop membership.

David A. --On this blog you will find many different sorts of opinions, including many shades of an opinion. Read the ones above carefully and I think you'll find that is the case.

Jesus did not say "Let only the straight children come to me."

"So as not to put Ken on the spot, I will also give what I think is a reasonable timeframe for what is currently unfolding. I expect the liberals and the homosexuals to have destroyed the Catholic Church in America by 2018 or 2019that is, by the middle of Obamas third term."David Nickol, I can't figure out if you're being facetious or not. In case you're playing it (dare I say) straight, may I remind you that some decidedly un-liberal cardinals named Law, Mahony and Finn, among others, have done a pretty good job of damaging the Church without help.

A commenter over on First Things has suggested that gay people form their own scouting organization.

"A commenter over on First Things has suggested that gay people form their own scouting organization"Separate but Equal?If the BSA makes this official next week, the USCCB should have a press release ready to release the same day announcing that gay kids are welcome in Catholic Scout troops - just as they are welcome in all of our parish activities. If they don't, Mary Ann Walsh is going to have to wing it when she gets the calls from reporters.

Anyone who would sever ties with an organization for not expelling a gay kid doesn't know Jesus. That people think that the bishops would do this means they need to consider why they have such a wicked reputation.

The NYTimes does some catch-up on this story talking to local leaders and parents.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/us/proposed-policy-shift-on-gays-divid..."The real world, Ms. Kreider said, just isnt that simple.It will be the small troops that decide they dont want to have a homosexual leader, and then where do they go for help? she asked. If they get sued by the A.C.L.U. or whatever organization decides to come after them, they wont have the resources or the backing of the Boy Scouts of America because of this policy. It will be the destruction of the Boy Scouts."Some people who support a new policy are worried, too.We are here for the kids, said Val Carolin, the scoutmaster of Troop 467 in Atlanta, which meets in the scout hut behind Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. Mr. Carolin said that he thought inclusion was the right value for the Scouts to pursue, and that fighting over whether to welcome gay scouts or leaders would be a distraction, or worse. If this thing comes down and causes a split, that would be very bad for scouting, he said."Other scout leaders said that because so many troops are affiliated with churches, a fractious local debate over gay membership could propel issues of faith and religion even more to the fore of scouting than they already are."

Inscrutable:"What role the churches might play in the end is uncertain. The chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, John J. Halloran Jr., said his group would make a statement only if the Boy Scouts board approved the change. Our Catholic faith remains our conscience and our guide, he said in an e-mail."http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/us/proposed-policy-shift-on-gays-divid...

Other than using a church facility as a meeting place, I have never seen religious influence in scouting activities. Most troops will do absolutely nothing because they don't need to. If your church lets a troop use its basement or hall as a meeting place do you know if it actually tracks issues like this as a condition for allowing such use? I am really scratching my head here. Literally, my child's troop has zero interaction with the church that "sponsors" it. There is no religiously themed program or activities. And if you stop and think about it, you understand why: the troop includes Sikhs, Jews and Hindus among the adherents to different Christian denominations, as well as the non-aligned. Maybe it's different in smaller communities, but my husband was also a scout in a small town and they also had no religiously oriented activities because the differences there between Baptist and Methodist were seen to be as big as the differences between Hindus and Catholics are around here. It almost seems like the BSA is hiding behind the involvement of churches, while the parents are hiding behind the BSA guidelines.

" The chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, John J. Halloran Jr., said his group would make a statement only if the Boy Scouts board approved the change. Our Catholic faith remains our conscience and our guide, he said in an e-mail."This group has a website, on which I've spent a little time looking around. I've been unable to find any indication of a formal link to the USCCB. I assume it is an independent lay apostolate.

In days of yore, when I was a Girl Scout, there was a huge ceremony at which troops from all over the city received the Marian Badge from the bishop. And the Boy Scouts had a similar event at which they received the Ad Altare Dei medal. Catholic stuff is still sold in the Boy Scout shop. Page 2 is particularly interesting, imho.http://www.scoutstuff.org/bsa/literature-media/religion.html

Gerelyn - right. As it happens, this weekend is designated Scout Sunday at our parish, and because my boys were involved at one time, I seem to be the designated guy-to-do-the-scout-recognition. There are Catholic badges that scouts can earn, and there are boys in our parish who earn them every year. Our parish doesn't sponsor a pack - nor do we have a school - so the boys and their parents pursue them independently while affililating with the local packs, which in almost all cases are sponsored by public schools.

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David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.