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A Scouting We Will Go…Or Not

December 4, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By MIKE MANNO

“Our greatest responsibility as a church is to the children and young people in our care. We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs in our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.”
So said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kans., announcing his decision to terminate the archdiocese’s relationship with the Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) in a statement May 1.
Fifteen months earlier, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson made a similar decision — not banning the scouts — but asking pastors which allow Girl Scout troops to meet on parish property to review concerns arising out of several years of questions about the organization’s program.
So what is it with the Girl Scouts? Their cookies are great and don’t they teach independence, responsibility, and leadership skills to our daughters? Isn’t that want we want them to do? Well, yes; and well, no. It’s kind of complicated.
What makes it complicated are the issues of abortion, contraception, support of same-sex marriages, and what one wag has described as the normalization of “other forms of sexual perversion.” Topics that the Girl Scouts don’t officially endorse, but give a tepid, if not warm approval for, and it’s not a new concern.
The problem stems from the Scouts’ affiliation with an umbrella organization, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Through its affiliate national organizations, WAGGS has approximately 10 million members, 2.8 million are from GSUSA — each American Girl Scout is automatically a member of the worldwide body — and GSUSA pays about $1.5 million in annual dues to WAGGGS. Through its partnership with UN conferences and other educational programs, WAGGGS, on behalf of its members, promotes youth sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion.
In 2013 a youth delegation from WAGGGS participated in a conference sponsored by Women Deliver, an advocacy organization promoting investment in reproductive health including abortion. The conference featured presentations by WAGGGS — in partnership with Planned Parenthood — which included the notorious late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, and Princeton University Professor Peter Singer, a noted proponent of euthanasia, abortion, and infanticide.
A year earlier WAGGGS representatives were instrumental in the formation of the Bali Youth Forum Declaration which called for unrestricted abortion and comprehensive sex education “free of religious intolerance and the decriminalization of sex work.”
Of course all of this presents a public relations problem for the Girl Scouts. GSUSA claims that the affiliate councils it charters are independent organizations and can adopt their own programs, policies, and programs to fit the needs of the girls that they serve as articulated by the girls themselves and their parents. The problem, however, is that GSUSA has done a lot internet inking and publishing that girls can access on their own. While many are non-objectionable, others continue to provide information about such things as emergency contraception and the costs of the pills — “between $10 and $80 but many family planning clinics (such as Planned Parenthood) may charge much less.”
These concerns led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to seek answers to several matters involving both WAGGGS and GSUSA. The committee released a report in April of 2014 in question and answer format. In it the committee found that the Girl Scouts organization has no formal national policy on the topics of human sexuality, contraception, or abortion. It reported that “the national office (GSUSA) does not have the authority to prohibit local councils or troops from collaborating with or forming their own local relationship with Planned Parenthood (or other organizations) as long as parental consent and other necessary approvals have been provided.” There was no mention of what the “necessary approvals” might be, but the committee did find this “to be an area of serious concern deserving close attention at the local level.”
It further suggested that “attentiveness and initiative at the local level could offer positive opportunities. For example, religious recognitions programming and other initiatives at the troop level could provide opportunities to advance healthy formation in chaste living and sound education in human sexuality.”
While tending to accept the GSUSA’s disclaimer of no formal relationship with Planned Parenthood and others of its ilk, the committee did raise the concern about its affiliation with WAGGGS. It urged that local troops discourage promoting events or fundraising for WAGGGS.
The committee concluded with five suggestions to parents, school administrators, and scout leaders on how scouting can be fostered in a Catholic atmosphere:
1. Strengthen the connection between scouting and youth ministry and religious education programs.
2. Provide guidance and formation for priests and seminarians on scouting’s relationship to the pastoral life and Catholic identity.
3. Foster clear communication and understanding at the local level between appropriate diocesan personnel and local scouting officials.
4. Strong and active parental involvement. Parents and other leaders and volunteers should know about the leadership of local councils and be aware of those who serve on the councils’ board of directors.
5. Consider various alternative scouting arrangements as they become available.
The last point was seized upon by Kansas City Archbishop Naumann. His archdiocese will transition from the Girl Scouts to American Heritage Girls, an organization the archbishop describes as “a program based on Christian values, [which] we believe is a much better fit for our parishes.”
Archbishop Carlson in St. Louis has taken a slightly different approach, seeking input from parishes, scout leaders, and parents on the proper course, but noting in a February 18, 2016 letter that the “Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic view.”
In that same letter, Archbishop Carlson announced: “Effective immediately, I am disbanding the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts and instead forming a Catholic Committee for Girls Formation that will be charged with ministry to all girls in various organizations. While continuing to serve our Catholic girls involved in various scouting programs, this committee will also reflect our ongoing commitment to educating and forming all young women.”
So what is a bishop, pastor, or parent to do? Do we stick with the Girl Scouts and try to pick the good away from the bad; or do we stop patronizing the scouts and look for better alternatives?
This is clearly an issue that we must all ponder, especially the parents of young girls. I can’t answer for you, perhaps, but all I know is what I would do.
If I opened a new gallon of milk and found a dead bug in it, I would pour it out and get something else to serve my little girl.

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