After taking a neutral stance on the debate regarding the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) allowing gay youth in their organization, a few leaders of the Catholic Church have finally spoken up to say that the new policy “is not in conflict with Catholic teaching.”
“Scouting is still the best youth-serving program available to all youth,” said the Chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS), Edward Martin, in a public letter. “We should be encouraged that the change in BSA’s youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching.”
The letter, released on May 29, was addressed to all Scouts who identify as Catholic. Other members of the Catholic Church expressed their opinion on the new policy.
“We have a real obligation to stay in dialogue and to stay connected to the program,” NCCS’ official adviser, Bishop Robert Guglielmone, said in an interview with the National Catholic Register. “[I’m] not particularly encouraged [but]we can live with it. If it gets to the point where some of our basic issues are threatened—such as being able to pick leaders for Catholic chartered groups or in diminishing the role of religion and God—then we will have to re-evaluate our participation in the program at that time.”
On May 23, over 60 percent of the BSA council voted in favor of allowing gay Boy Scouts, but have not yet changed their rules on allowing gay adults to be Scout leaders in the organization.
“At the BSA’s National Annual Meeting, the 1,400 voting members of our National Council will vote on a proposed resolution that would end the restriction on gay youth membership,” BSA President Wayne Perry wrote in an op-ed piece for USA Today. “That’s the right decision for Boy Scouts.”
Before the decision occurred, Scouts for Equality gained 1,815,304 signatures petitioning to include gay Scouts, while The Family Research Council gathered 30,361 signatures against an LGBT-inclusive policy.
The Catholic Church is the third largest sponsor for the BSA, next to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United Methodists. After the new policy, all three sponsors will continue to support the BSA, as they have no objections to the change. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the United Church of Christ spoke against the ban before the change, with the former posting signs reading “We Welcome ALL Boy Scouts.”
“We interpret the bible to say that God loves all God’s children, and at this church, all of God’s children are truly welcome,” said Reverend Chase Peeples of the United Church of Christ.
Unfortunately, the Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christian groups objected to the change and are currently searching for substitute organizations. The Catholic Church may be divisive, as other members of the Catholic Church do not share the same opinion like Martin or Guglielmone.
Father Derek Lappe of Our Lady Star of the Sea referred to gay men as “loser men” and closed the parish’s Scouting program after the decision was made.
Unlike Lappe, American Catholics appear to be changing their opinions on LGBT issues. According to a 2013 poll from the Washington Post, 59 percent of Catholics support marriage equality, a full percentage point more than the 58 percent of the general American population that feels the same.
President Obama also spoke positively of the new BSA policy.
“My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunities the same way that everybody else does, and in every institution and walk of life,” Obama said in February. “And, you know, the Scouts are a great institution… and I think nobody should be barred from that.”
Regarding the Catholic Church’s views on allowing gay scouts, the NCCS hopes to create a plan to ensure “a consistent message is delivered to dioceses, parishes, Catholic Scouters and the media.”
The BSA policy will take effect in January 2014.