Catholic leader: 'wait and see' approach to Boy Scouts

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Members of the Boy Scouts wait to march in the Veterans Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York November 11, 2014. The decision of the BSA's national leadership to allow openly homosexual adult leaders has many religious denominations questioning their ties with the historic group. Some say they will cease cooperation with the Boy Scouts. Others, such as the Catholic Church, are "evaluating" their options. | REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – A leader in Catholic scouting has claimed it isn't time for Catholics to leave the Boy Scouts of America, in spite of the organization's adoption of new policies allowing homosexual adult leaders, the Catholic News Agency has reported.

According to Bishop Robert Guglielmone, former chaplain for Catholic Scouts worldwide and an executive board member of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, the church is taking a wait-and-see approach to the BSA. Guglielmone says he is facing the change with "cautious optimism."

"We're willing to see how this policy can work and how we can remain consistent with our Catholic teaching and continue to charter troops with the Boy Scouts of America. We think we can do that," Guglielmone told CNA.

We're willing to see how this policy can work and how we can remain consistent with our Catholic teaching and continue to charter troops with the Boy Scouts of America. We think we can do that.

The bishop also said he hoped the church would still be able to use BSA programs for youth ministry, but only if the teachings of programs align with Catholic teachings. The church still regards marriage as a union of only one man and one woman and homosexuality as a sin.

On July 27, BSA leaders voted by a large margin (79 percent) officially to lift the organization's ban on gay adult leaders. The group said homosexuals may not be "denied registration on the basis of sexual orientation." The resolution passed also said homosexual relationships should be "moral, honorable, committed and respectful," CNA reported.

The change in policy comes two years after the BSA lifted its long-time ban on gay Scouts in 2013. The move in 2013 resulted in the founding of Trail Life USA as a conservative, Christian alternative to the BSA.

Catholics have 8,100 troops and 259,000 Scouts enrolled in BSA programs, according to figures provided by the Boy Scouts. Their departure could significantly cripple the BSA.

After the decision July 27, the Catholic Committee on Scouting issued a letter claiming it was deeply concerned "about the practical impacts of this resolution, especially for our young people in scouting, and whether the term 'sexual orientation' will be correctly understood and applied only in reference to sexual inclination and not to sexual conduct or behavior. We also express concern that the resolution articulates a position on adult sexual conduct that does not make clear that sexual behavior should be reserved to a husband and a wife in marriage."

That letter, however, did not say Catholics would leave the ranks of the BSA.

Now, Bishop Guglielmone says he does not fear being forced to accept a homosexual Scout leader in a Catholic troop. Under the new BSA policy, religious charter organizations are reportedly allowed to maintain the ban on homosexual adult leaders if the practice conflicts with the group's theological views.

Guglielmone said Catholic-chartered scouting units are "the only way we can have a direct influence" on Catholic youth involved in scouting. He added, however, that there is little the church can do to control the material produced by the BSA.

"According to the discussions that we've had with the Boy Scouts of America, we're looking to leave the areas of sexuality, sexual conduct, et cetera, in the hands of parents and churches," Guglielmone told CNA.

"We're just going to have to see how that all plays out. Certainly, we hope that that's exactly what they will do."

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