Denver, Colo., Apr 26, 2017 / 03:04 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has announced that parishes in his diocese may continue to charter Boy Scout troops, as long as they follow requirements to ensure that Catholic identity and teaching are upheld.
In his latest column in the Denver Catholic, the archbishop said that individual pastors may continue allowing their parishes to charter a scouting troop, as long as they meet the guidelines laid out by the archdiocese’s code of conduct. Leaders and members should support the Catholic Church and her teachings; refrain from approving or engaging in conduct that contradicts Catholic doctrine or morals; and promote and respect the dignity of the human person and human sexuality according to natural law and Catholic teaching.
The archbishop’s column came in response to the Boy Scouts of America’s decision in January to allow transgender scouts – biological girls who identify as boys – as well as the organization’s decisions in 2013 and 2015 to allow openly gay members and leaders, respectively.
“These decisions are social experiments that are rationalized away without accounting for the impact on the clear majority of boys who do not have gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction,” the archbishop said. “Indeed, it is not hard to see that there will be lasting consequences for current and future generations of American boys as they try to understand their own sexuality in their formative years.”
Despite these unfortunate decisions, he said, the Boy Scouts insist that they will allow Church-sponsored troops to operate in accordance with their faith and will defend these troops if lawsuits arise.
Archbishop Aquila recognized that “the core elements of Boy Scouting remain praiseworthy,” and that many men for more than a century have received meaningful formation from the organization. And since non-Catholic members and leaders who accept the troops’ Catholic character can also participate, parish troops are a chance to witness and evangelize.
After consulting with leaders of diocesan troops, he said that he had made the decision to continuing allowing both Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, while calling for all parish-sponsored troops to “reinforce their commitment to forming boys and girls into virtuous Christian young adults.”
For those who would like an alternative to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, he recommended American Heritage Girls, Little Flowers’ Girls Clubs, the Federation of North American Explorers, Columbian Squires, Trail Life USA, and Fraternus. He also encouraged prayer for “the strengthening of the moral foundations of our society, especially those institutions that provide formation to youth.”
The Denver archbishop’s decision echoes that of several other bishops in responding to the Boy Scouts of America. When the Boy Scouts first admitted openly gay members in 2013, the Diocese of Lincoln said that it would continue allowing parish-chartered troops, but would continue to evaluate the situation. After the July 2015 decision to allow openly gay leaders, Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville announced that his diocese would continue to charter scouting troops but would carefully monitor them to ensure that no ideology contrary to the Catholic faith was present.
Similarly, Bishop Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois said that his diocese would continue to charter scouting troops, but stressed the need to be vigilant in upholding Catholic values. Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C., who serves as the episcopal liaison for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting told CNA that the committee was “cautiously optimistic” that Catholic organizations could still be involved with Boy Scouts, but said that great care was needed.
After the January announcement this year, the Archdiocese of St. Louis said that it would remain in dialogue with the Boy Scouts, but noted its concern that “the latest in a troubling pattern of behavior” by the organization suggested that it is “becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values.”
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting has stressed on several occasions that according to the charter rules under which the Boy Scouts operate, “A Catholic parish can establish a membership guideline that follows Catholic teaching.” The Diocese of Phoenix and the Archdiocese of New Orleans have also voiced an intention to maintain Catholic troops that present models of Church teaching.
One prelate, Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, North Dakota, said that his diocese would disaffiliate from the Boy Scouts after their 2015 decision to allow openly gay leaders.
In his column, Archbishop Aquila stressed Catholic principles of committing to “the dignity of the human person, the understanding of man and woman as made for each other, the virtue of chastity and the protection of children, especially from different forms of abuse, which includes enabling and/or encouraging gender dysphoria.” He recognized the importance of not leading others – especially children – into scandal, and reiterated that “discussions about sexual attraction, orientation, and lifestyle choices have no place in scouting” but should be addressed by parents instead.