Scouts’ Honor

9 Mar

In “Scouts’ Major Failing” (Kansas City Star, 3/8/12), commentator Mary Sanchez issued an open letter to Robert Mazzuca, an executive with Boy Scouts of America who was in town earlier this week for a prayer breakfast. The purpose of her letter was to call upon Boy Scouts to change their policy prohibiting openly homosexual men from serving as scout leaders and volunteers.

Sanchez uses the pronoun “we,” as though she speaks for all or even most KC-area residents, which clearly is not the case.

She says that there are many among the 2.7 million young men currently involved in scouting “who now or later will identify as gay,” and that the Boy Scouts “is failing them.” She does acknowledge that Boy Scouts have chartering organizations, most of which are churches, which presumably have moral reservations in this area. Therefore she is “insistent” that Boy Scouts’ leadership needs to be proactive in making its organization more accepting of homosexuality.

When it comes to homosexuality, the Catholic Church makes some very important distinctions. A person with same-sex attraction must always be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. However, homosexual acts, as consistently taught in Scripture and throughout Christian history, are gravely sinful. Because homosexual acts are sinful, the inclination to commit such acts is considered a disorder. In that sense, any inclination to commit immoral acts is a disorder. The term used for this in Catholic theology is concupiscence, and all of us struggle against inclinations to various sins.

Sanchez, meanwhile, uses the commonly accepted term “gay,” which in today’s parlance refers to someone with same-sex attraction who identifies himself according to that attraction and who has embraced it as a good thing. While most people still accept in some fashion “the other commandments,” our sexually promiscuous culture has gone to great lengths to legitimize sexual activity that our Judeo-Christian culture has traditionally regarded as sinful, including homosexual acts.

Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, and many others therefore do not think it is healthy or wise to encourage developing, adolescent men who may experience same-sex attraction to identify themselves as “gay” and to become part of the “gay culture.” Sanchez disagrees, and that is her right. But she does not stop there, but rather lectures the Boy Scouts and Christian churches for not agreeing with her–for not abandoning their deeply held beliefs and buying into the spirit of the age.

Sanchez begrudgingly acknowledges that the Boy Scouts have the right to prohibit openly homosexual men from leading groups of young men because of the U.S. Supreme Court (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale), but she openly questions whether the Boy Scouts–and by extension, the Christian churches with whom they closely work–should continue to have this right. In an age where the government is trying in unprecedented ways to take away our right to the free exercise of our religion, one cannot help but be disturbed by attempts to tell Christian churches, organizations, and parents what we must teach our children regarding homosexuality.

We are not that far removed, if we are not vigilant, from having the expression of Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality considered a criminal offense. An article appearing this week at National Review tells the story of a Canadian gentleman who took out an advertisement in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, and he and the paper wound up getting fined $9,000 for “exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule.” Here is the entire text of the offending advertisement:

Romans 1:26
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
1 Corinthians 6:9

That’s right: three Scripture passages on homosexuality. The Bible is now considered hate speech, and those who teach what it says can expect to be prosecuted if the United States follows the lead of other secularized Western nations.

For those of us who hold, as a matter of faith and/or science, that same-sex attraction is a disorder, it is eminently sensible not to place someone who openly embraces such a disordered inclination in a position to mentor
impressionable, pubescent boys who are in the process of developing
their own sexual identities.

It would also be unwise to send an openly homosexual man on overnight outings with adolescent boys in the same way that it would be foolish to send a heterosexual man on overnight outings with adolescent girls. It’s a matter of prudence, not discrimination.

Sanchez acknowledges the great effects the Boy Scouts have had on her own siblings as well as on the greater Kansas City community. The Boy Scouts have developed a formula based on Christian values that has withstood the test of time. God bless them for remaining true to their principles in a society that needs their principles and values now more than ever.

5 Responses to “Scouts’ Honor”

  1. Nicole March 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    There’s a question that I always wanted to ask, but never knew who to ask regarding the Boy Scouts. In light of what the Holy Father Pius XI wrote in his Encyclical on Christian Unity (Mortalium animos) why are boys and men who profess to be Catholic involved in the Boy Scouts?

  2. suprenant March 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    Hi Nicole! I will be happy to look into this for you. Would you mind first setting forth a little more specifically the nature of your concern about Catholics’ participation in Boy Scouts? The Boy Scouts have been exemplary in their wholesome approach to scouting and generally have the full support of the institutional Church.

    • Nicole March 12, 2012 at 3:44 am #

      There are mainly two or three things:

      The Holy Father states in Mortalium animos that the Church is a perfect society and that Christ, His Divine Majesty, instituted the Church as such. If that is the case, then why must boys and men who profess to be Catholic go outside of it to find personal satisfaction and fulfillment as rounded human beings, such as in Boy Scouts?

      He also makes it clear that Catholics cannot support or work for such enterprises which involve pan-Christian or universal Christian motives to my understanding…so how could a man or boy in good conscience belong to the Boy Scouts, which is, at least in part, such an organization?

      When the Holy Father Pius XI is quoted as stating this: “So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it.” how is it then that mothers and fathers who profess to be Catholic can send their sons to participate in the Boy Scouts?

      Like I said, I never knew who to ask on this, but it applies equally in my mind to Girl Scouts as well. I will look forward to seeing whatever it is you find. Thanks, Mr. Suprenant.

  3. Leon Suprenant March 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Hi Nicole,

    I thought this was probably where you were going with your comment, but thanks for elaborating. I’ll offer a few quick thoughts.

    First, I have nothing against Pius XI (the Pope who brought us Casti Connubii, after all!) and Mortalium Animos, but we still have to acknowledge that a lot of water has passed under the ecumenical bridge since 1928!

    Specifically, over the past 50 years the Church has taken a fresh approach to Christian unity, and we have to read older Church documents on the subject in light of Vatican II’s Decree on Christian Unity, the Ecumenical Directory put out by the Vatican, and Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism (Ut Unum Sint), not to mention all the work that has been done in the area of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue on the regional, national, and diocesan levels.

    I suppose one can say that the Church is emphasizing one side of the coin in the earlier document and the other side more recently, as there is a marked difference in approach and tone, based in part on changing pastoral circumstances. It should be noted, however, that the Church’s more positive approach to ecumenism tends to be rejected by ultra-traditionalists who have problems with Vatican II and more recent Popes. That’s another case in point as to why Pope Benedict is calling for a “hermeneutic of continuity” in our approach to Vatican II as we prepare for the upcoming “Year of Faith.”

    Second, I think what Pius XI is getting at there is Catholic participation in Protestant worship. There’s been a lot of work in that area in recent decades in terms of what might or might not be appropriate. However, Boy Scouts is not a non-denominational “church” but an organization that has some Christian principles. Catholics participate in a lot of organizations in our pluralistic society that may have some Christian elements/participation but wouldn’t constititute “church worship”–from labor unions and credit unions to soccer leagues and public schools/PTAs, to 12-step recovery programs. Catholics aren’t systematically excluded from some participation in those sorts of things, but rather should serve as a leaven in them.

    Third, my understanding is that while Boy Scouts is a national organization, the individual troops are chartered by particular organizations, often churches. Catholic Boy Scouts are typically chartered within the parish, with the pastor and ultimately the bishop having oversight in spiritual matters. Of course, it still wouldn’t be good if Boy Scouts were to espouse positions on a national level that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals, but happily that is not the case. Rather, the Catholic Church has had a very positive working relationship with the Boy Scouts organization for many years.

    Girl Scout troops are set up differently, and Girl Scouts’ national/linternational leadership raises some concerns that are not present in Boy Scouts, but Mortalium Annos in general doesn’t preclude the participation of Catholic youth in scouting programs.

    • Nicole March 18, 2012 at 5:04 am #

      Hi, again, Mr. Suprenant,

      Thanks for your time in looking into this for me. I appreciate your replies.

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