Religion News Service (RNS) reports on a letter that NCCS Chairman Edward P. Martin sent to Catholic scout leaders in which he said that his committee found no contradiction between the Scouts’ new policy and church teaching:
“ ‘We should be encouraged that the change in BSA’s youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching,’ Martin said, asking that ‘Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment.’ ”
RNS also described a bit of the process that NCCS went through to arrive at this conclusion:
“Martin said that in the week following the vote, he and his colleagues consulted with the BSA, with other faith-based Scouting groups and with Catholic experts, and weighed feedback on social media before declaring themselves satisfied that the new policy would not conflict with Catholic teaching.
“One of the experts Martin cited was Edward Peters, a canon lawyer popular with church conservatives who wrote that while he disliked the new policy it was not contrary to church doctrine.”
Bondings 2.0 readers may remember that Peters was involved with Detroit Archbishops Vigneron’s statement that Catholics who support marriage equality should not present themselves for communion.
The NCCS letter details their understanding of what the new policy means
- “A youth will not be prevented from receiving a rank award or religious emblem simply for being gay.
- “A youth will not need to hide the fact that he is gay if he doesn’t want to.
- “A youth thinking or knowing he is gay should not be afraid that he will be bullied or expelled by the Scouting community by disclosing his sexual orientation.”
There had already been some discussion about whether Catholic dioceses would support the new policy, with different statements made by different places. One pastor in Bremerton, Washington. had already announced that it would cancel Scouting programs in the parish.
The NCCS’s support is not binding on local bishops who can decide on their own policy. Accoring to RNS:
“Each bishop can decide whether the new membership policy is acceptable. Guglielmone has written to every U.S. bishop, and Martin said the NCCS would develop a plan to ensure ‘a consistent message is delivered to dioceses, parishes, Catholic Scouters and the media’ on the church’s views about allowing gay Scouts.”
New Ways Ministry applauds the NCCS statement of support, and particularly the fact that they were able to elicit endorsement from one of the country’s most conservative canon law scholars. We urge all Catholic dioceses to support the Boy Scouts’ new policy, and we hope and pray that very soon the Scouting organization will also allow gay men to be scout leaders, which the new policy did not cover.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry