Kansas City Archdiocese ditches the Girl Scouts: thoughts from a former Girl Scout

I had been commenting a little on this on Facebook, but a friend of mine sent me this article and recommended I write about it (thanks, Emma!).

My Experience in Scouts

I think it is important to give you some background of my experiences with scouting. I was in Girl Scouts from kindergarten through high school. I attended summer camp. I was on a youth leadership board. I was an alternative representative for the council. I earned the highest award a Girl Scout can receive, the Gold Award. I had some positive experiences in Girl Scouts, and genuinely enjoyed my time with them.

I also participated in Venture Crew (a co-ed branch of Boy Scouts) in High School. I preferred Boy Scouts for a number of reasons which aren’t really relevant to this post. I just bring it up to share that I have had the privilege of being involved in both major scouting organizations.

I was involved in both these organizations before college, and it is important to note that college was a huge turning point in my faith. I think this is worth mentioning because my values have also changed since I was in these organizations.

What did the Kansas City Archbishop do?

Statement

On May 1, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann released a statement “cutting ties” with Girl Scouts.

Simply put, families can’t start new Girl Scout troops in the parish, and troops can’t hold meetings there. Girl Scouts can no longer sell cookies at churches or parish schools after the 2016-2017 school year.

 It is up to pastors if they will immediately stop troops, but Archbishop Naumann has offered the option for existing troops to continue until the currently involved girls “graduate” out of the program.

Background

It is worth noting that this isn’t the first bishop to express concern about Girl Scouts. For example, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson encouraged young women to seek other options, stating

Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values. We must stop and ask ourselves — is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?

The USCCB answered some basic questions about Girl Scouts and basically left it up to the dioceses to determine what is best.

The Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas expressed concerns for a number of years. Archbishop Naumann has communicated with leaders at the local and national level.

Take a Deep Breath

I want to be empathetic to the girls who will see the end of their troops and to families who have a long-standing relationship with GSUSA. At the same time, I saw some strong claims, especially from people who aren’t in the Diocese, that I would like to address.

This wasn’t a random, unresearched decision. While I don’t know the archbishop, the communication surrounding this topic leads me to believe that he even tried to communicate with Girl Scouts at a national level on changes that needed to be made.

This isn’t some cruel vendetta against girls. As the archbishop, his job is to shepherd his flock. While I recognize this is an emotional issue, we need to trust that he did his due diligence both in research and prayer to come to the decision that this is the best course of action for his flock.

He isn’t banning girls from being Girl Scouts. As with all other social issues, Catholics should use their properly formed conscience to make decisions. At the same time, as archbishop, he needs to help guide people. As I explained above, he is doing what he believes is best for his flock. If girls still want to be involved in Girl Scouts, that is still an option, but it can’t be done through the parishes in the Diocese.

As the archbishop, his job is to shepherd his flock. Click To Tweet

Why the Catholic Church could have issues with Girl Scouts

Overview

These two sources summarize the concerns about Girl Scouts from a Catholic perspective: Catholic News Agency and Life Site News.

This website lists pro-life concerns about GSUSA.

You can read official answers to questions regarding social issues from Girl Scouts on their website.

Abortion and Contraception

WAGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts)

While the Girl Scouts state that they do not take a stance on these issues, GSUSA is a member of WAGGS. WAGGS does support abortion, contraception, and sexual “rights.”

No funds from dues or cookies sales go towards WAGGS. Girl Scouts are not required to wear a WAGGS pin on their uniform.

To me, it seems like girls interested in participating in Girl Scouts can properly be distanced from WAGGS, but that isn’t the only source of concerning information.

Resources

To be fair, I haven’t looked at the Journey books, and from what I skimmed through on their website, I didn’t see any clear points. However, other sources said that Girl Scouts provides resources that link to questionable websites. It is those websites that have links to Planned Parenthood or support things that are in contradiction to Church teaching.

Bad role models

Girls deserve strong female role models. While I don’t think we should only focus on women who led sinless lives (which would be impossible save one woman: Mary), I do think it is fair to be concerned if the women were actively involved in movements or activities that are in conflict with the moral teachings of the Church.

Girls deserve strong female role models. Click To Tweet

Offensive Materials

Again, without access to Girl Scouting resources, I cannot say what the Archbishop felt was offensive and age-inappropriate. While I do respect that GSUSA made some changes,  I do think Archbishop Naumann raised a valid point when he said, “it is disturbing such an intervention on our part was necessary.”

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

Yet again, I can only trust what (admittedly biased) sources have said, but it seems that again, some of the resources recommended by GSUSA are concerning in regards to sexuality and sexual expression.

GSUSA allowing transgender individuals in on a case-by-case basis could also be a concern. To be honest, I’m not sure what the Church’s perspective is on this. There are a number of clear teachings on gender from the Church, but I cannot speak to how that translates into organizations allowing in individuals who identify as a gender that is not the same as their sex.  Ben (my husband) summarized it really well: this reflects the values of the organization, we have to ask if those values align with the values of the Catholic Church. To be clear: I am not saying that transgender people should be excluded from everything. They are no different from anyone else in the eyes of God. 

However, an organization that is supposed to be developing girls and young women should be limited to biological female. I say this because the Catholic Church acknowledges that God very intentionally designed two sexes. There are differences between the sexes. We should embrace and celebrate those differences because it is the combination of the two that gives us insight into the perfection of God. 

 I am not advocating for “traditional gender roles,” nor is that what the Church is teaching. What I am trying to say is that allowing biological males into an organization specifically designed for females is encouraging those biological males to reject who God created them to be; it is a rejection of what makes them uniquely masculine.

Age

People are leaving the Church at a younger age that past generations. Children are involved in scouting at a critical, formative age. The children should be involved in organizations that positively shape their lives. If the organizations encourage values that encourage values that are in conflict with the faith, that could be dangerous. Children should be getting messages that are consistent with Church teaching.

While I think we should interact with people from a variety of backgrounds and belief systems, I do think we need to be cautious regarding what kids are exposed to.

Catholic Girl Scouts

Promise and Law

The Girl Scout Mission, Girl Scout Promise, and Girl Scout Law actually promote ideas that the Catholic Church also supports.

Our Mission

Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:

    To serve God and my country,

   To help people at all times,

   And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be

   honest and fair,

   friendly and helpful,

   considerate and caring,

   courageous and strong, and

   responsible for what I say and do,

and to  

    respect myself and others,

   respect authority,

   use resources wisely,

   make the world a better place, and

   be a sister to every Girl Scout.

 

GSUSA supports Faith

In addition to mentioning God in their promise, GSUSA talks about their relationship with the Catholic Church and has programs supporting growing in faith.

But it’s a secular organization

I know some critics say that the Church shouldn’t talk about secular organizations, but I disagree. While the Catholic Church can’t dictate how secular organizations should run, they have the responsibility to guide Catholics in every aspect of their life.  That includes involvement in secular organizations.

I work as an engineer at a secular company, but I must make sure that the company doesn’t perform actions that or unethical or immoral. If they did, as a Catholic, I would need to seriously evaluate my job. I also recognize that as a Catholic, my faith encourages me to be an honest, hard-working individual. As a Catholic, I value human life so I identify with my company’s focus on safety. While these values aren’t exclusive to Catholicism, my faith does inform them.

Simply put, we need to make decisions that reflect our faith. If we are involved in an organization that supports values that are in conflict with our faith, we probably shouldn’t be involved in these organizations.

My Perspective

The project for my Gold Award had religious undertones. I established a youth group that would have participants go through a program to learn about social issues and do volunteering that puts them in front of the people they were serving. I had to do some convincing for them to allow me to proceed with my project. When I explained that it was open to anyone but would have a Catholic perspective because the source of support was a church, my local Girl Scout council accepted it. At the ceremony where I was recognized, another girl earned a lower award for a project related to making rosaries.

I have vague memories of a controversial event I attended. I was a pre-teen, and I remember there was some mention of LGBT issues. 

Since my mother was my troop leader (thank you, Mom!), and my troop disbanded before I was a teenager, so there was a lot of control over what I was exposed to.

Honestly, if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her in Girl Scouts. I actually questioned how much I liked Girl Scouts when they started rolling out the Journey program. I also preferred my time in Boy Scouts, and rather than recognizing some opportunities for learning from them, the Girl Scout leadership viewed them as competition, at least on a local level. Those problems are not enough on their own for me to dissuade my daughter from joining scouts.

I am very concerned about some of the points I brought up earlier, but without getting more information, I don’t think I can fairly say that no Catholic should be involved in Girl Scouts. I can say, however, based on what I’ve seen, the girl should not wear the WAGGS pin, and the parents would need to be heavily involved.

What do you think?


 

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