Catholic leaders in the Archdiocese of Louisville are in involved in a case of a Boy Scout leader being forced out of his Scoutmaster role in a Catholic parish because he is gay.
The Courier-Journal newspaper reports that Greg Bourke, the adoptive father of a son and a daughter, and a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Louisville,
“was forced to resign last week, about three months after he wrote to Boy Scouts of America executives, told them he was an ‘openly gay person’ and asked, ‘Am I welcome or not?’
“Bourke, who has lived with his partner for 30 years and has worked 18 years as a systems analyst for Humana Inc., had to resign under a Boy Scouts policy, enacted in 1991 and reaffirmed last month, that bars gays from being Scout leaders or members.”
Bourke recentkly informed the local Scout Council of his orientation:
He also said he and his partner attend Our Lady of Lourdes and it is widely known that they are gay.
“He contacted Scouting officials in part, he said, because he was no longer comfortable hiding his sexual preference in his role with the Boy Scouts when he was open about it everywhere else, including at Humana, where he has been involved in an organization of gay and lesbian employees.
‘I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep a low profile and stay ‘in the closet’ with the Boy Scouts,’ he said in a June 22 letter. . .”
Catholic officials initially refused to request Bourke’s resignation. Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Fr. Scott Wimsett and archdiocesan Scouting liasion Fr. Jeff Gatlin both supported Bourke’s disclosure of his orientation. Later, however, higher archdiocesan officials decided to support the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy:
“In a statement,[Cecelia Price, archdiocesan spokesperson] confirmed that the Boy Scouts contacted Wimsett and Gatlin and that both responded that they believed it was up to the Boy Scouts to enforce its policies.
“Price said the archdiocese later concluded that the charters signed by church pastors require them to conduct Scouting programs according to policies set by the Boy Scouts of America, as well as Catholic Church policies.
“Her statement also said that ‘it is the expectation of the Church that adult leaders — whether heterosexual or with same-sex attraction — in any ministry strive to lead chaste lives and seek to both accept and witness to the full teachings of the Church on chastity and charity, including teachings on the sanctity of marriage.’ ”
Bourke stated that he decided to resign to protect his parish’s Scouting charter:
“Bourke, who initially refused to quit, said in an interview that he decided he had no choice after the . . . pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, told him Thursday that the parish might lose its Scouting charter unless he left.
“Bourke, who has been a registered Scout volunteer for five years and an assistant troop leader since 2009, said he thinks the Boy Scouts’ policy is ‘hateful’ and ‘outdated,’ but he didn’t want to put the church’s charter at risk.”
Interestingly, Bourke will remain a leader in his daughter’s Girl Scouts’ troop since the Girl Scouts of America do not have a parallel anti-gay policy. Local Girl Scouts’ leaders condemned the Boy Scouts’ decision:
Co-leader Kim Haydon said in a July 23 email to [Boy Scouts officials] Mazzuca and Oxley that to ‘discount all that he has done for our youth only because he is gay is absurd. Shame on you and your small mindedness.’ ”
Other local leaders also supported Bourke:
“ ‘He upheld the highest ideals of Scouting,’ said Donald E. Overton, a fellow assistant Scoutmaster in Boy Scout Troop 325 and an Episcopal priest.
“Rick Tonini, chairman of the St. Matthews Fire Protection District, described Bourke as ‘a dignified leader and role model’ who led troop members door to door each year helping the fire department raise money for the WHAS Crusade for Children.
“And Brooke Hinkle, whose son, Seth, was in Bourke’s Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop, said, ‘Greg made Seth the person he is,’ teaching him responsibility. . . .
“Tom Clark, who leads [Our Lady of Lourdes'] Cub Scout pack and earned his Eagle Scout badge in 1974 as a member of Troop 325, said in an Aug. 9 email to Oxley that ‘if you continue to pursue your efforts to remove Greg Bourke, you can expect my Eagle Scout badge to be returned to you and my resignation as an adult scouter.’ ”
“Clark also said he would ‘welcome the opportunity for my son to be associated with Greg Bourke.’ ”
“Hinkle said her son, a freshman at Trinity High School, was angry and disappointed when he found out why Bourke was on the way out, asking, ‘Why do I want to be a part of this program?’
“ ‘To him,’ she said, ‘Greg is a leader.’ ”
With testimony like that, one wonders how much reason is guiding the Boy Scouts’ policy. Kudos to the two priests who refused to participate in this policy’s enforcement. Their actions are a testimony to the fact that such decisions should be made at a local level, and not by some higher authority. This is the Catholic social justice principle of subsidiarity which says that decisions should be made at the most appropriate local level.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry