Delegates at a national Boy Scouts of America (BSA) meeting will vote today on whether local troops may allow gay scouts. The issue is controversial in the Catholic community, which serves as the third largest host of all scout troops nationwide, with some people using their faith to urge inclusion and some using faith to urge exclusion.
Though the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) issued a neutral statement on the topic last week, this week a more positive statement was issued. Bishop Robert Guglielmone, of Charleston, South Carolina, who is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ liaison to the NCCS, made public a letter about the topic in which he stated:
“With regard to a possible BSA membership change, we will continue to uphold the truths of the Church’s teaching and strive to maintain our ties with the BSA.”
He also stated:
‘The Catholic Church in the United States has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the BSA, and I hope that relationship can continue.”
A passionate plea for a gay-inclusive policy came from Catholic theologian Richard Galliardetz, in a National Catholic Reporter commentary this week. Galliardetz, the father of four scouting sons offered personal experience of the discriminatory exclusionary policy the Scouts currently employ:
“My own family has been deeply involved in scouting for years. I have four sons, three of whom are Eagle Scouts and the fourth soon will be. My son Andrew is not only an Eagle Scout; he served as senior patrol leader of his Catholic troop. He also spent three summers as a leader at a Boy Scout summer camp where he shared responsibility for the daily operation of the camp. Because of his reputation for relating well to the younger scouts, whenever boys became homesick or there was a disciplinary issue, more often than not they were sent to Andrew for counseling and support. Unfortunately, because of current Boy Scout policy, that is a role he can no longer play. During his freshman year of college Andrew publicly acknowledged his same-sex orientation and was therefore no longer allowed to serve as a scout leader.”
Galliardetz argues for inclusion based on Catholic principles:
“The official position of the Boy Scouts of America is irreconcilable with the Catholic teaching on the dignity of gay and lesbian persons and its careful distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior. Allowing gay youth to join the Boy Scouts and allowing gay and lesbian adults to serve as leaders is not condoning homosexual behavior; it is a matter of recognizing the fundamental dignity of gays and lesbians and their right not to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Catholic teaching insists, as [Cardinal] Dolan reiterated, that homosexual persons are created in the image and likeness of God and are deserving of our love and respect.”
What is needed, he argues, is for Catholic bishops to speak out for an inclusive policy:
‘The Boy Scouts of America are in the midst of a reconsideration of their longstanding opposition to gays as scouts and scout leaders. Consequently, a public statement by Catholic bishops supporting a change in scouting policy would go a long way toward demonstrating that church teaching does not justify discrimination against gays and lesbians.’
Galliardetz is right. A statement from the Catholic bishops supporting inclusion would be very powerful. Moreover it would be an example of finally putting some action behind their oft-stated anthem that they care about the dignity of lesbian and gay people, and oppose unjust discrimination in their regard. Though they often employ that statement, without any real enactment of it, it ends up sounding like an empty line.
Let’s keep the delegates to the Boy Scouts’ meeting in our prayers today, and let’s hope that they act for dignity, respect, and inclusion.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry