St. Louis archbishop pushes for switch to Girl Scout alternatives

| Jennifer Brinker | March 2, 2016 | 25 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Louis has formed a new Catholic Committee for Girls Formation that is being charged with ministry to all girls in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson announced the new committee in a Feb. 18 letter to priests, scouting leaders and the faithful of the archdiocese. The letter reiterated the ongoing concerns with the values and policies of Girl Scouts USA, which he said are “becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values.”

“While continuing to serve our Catholic girls involved in various scouting programs, this committee will also reflect our ongoing commitment to educating and forming all young women,” he wrote.

Archbishop Carlson appointed Barb Hussey and Katie Cannavan as co-chairs of the new committee. Hussey, a member of St. Gerard Majella Parish in Kirkwood, was chairperson of the recently disbanded Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts. For years, she has promoted nearly a dozen faith-formation award programs offered to youths in the archdiocese. Cannavan is coordinator of an American Heritage Girls troop at St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville.

“I’m looking forward to a sense of cohesiveness and moving forward for the good of the girls,” Hussey told the St. Louis Review, archdiocesan newspaper. The faith-formation programs, which teach youths about Mary, the saints, the Holy Spirit and the rosary, among other topics, are open to all youths, regardless of affiliation with a scouting organization.

“They come together and sit at the table, and they don’t know who has what affiliation,” Hussey said. “They just know that they share the same faith.”

Prior to getting involved in American Heritage Girls, a Christian-based scouting organization, Cannavan didn’t know much about the faith-formation programs available to girls in the archdiocese. Now she’s looking forward to promoting them.

Cannavan said her troop at St. Joseph has refocused its efforts this year to require her girls to complete at least one faith-formation program. “It really is about building a new generation of Catholics, in leadership and in faith. (The programs) are there to serve as a resource and link the church together.”

In his letter, Archbishop Carlson said Catholic officials at both the diocesan and national levels have expressed concerns about Girl Scouts USA and the London-based World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, known as WAGGGS.

Concerns include, he said, the world association describing itself as advocating for the education of girls and young women and promoting “sexual and reproductive health/rights.” He also said Girl Scouts USA makes financial contributions to WAGGGS, based on number of registered Girl Scout members.

The archbishop said another concern was that Girl Scouts USA promotes and partners with organizations that “conflict with Catholic values,” such as Amnesty International, Coalition for Adolescent Girls, OxFam and others. The groups, he said, advocate for “reproductive rights” among other things.

In previous statements Girls Scouts USA has said it does not have “the ability or purview to criticize, explicitly distance itself from, or change particular advocacy positions within WAGGGS.” It also said its contributions to WAGGGS are only from investment income and not from cookie sales, dues or registration fees.

The Girl Scouts’ national office has a neutral policy on sexuality and contraception but it doesn’t “prohibit individual councils or troops from taking a position or sponsoring programming on human sexuality or other topics” if the troop has parental consent and other approvals.

In a response to Archbishop Carlson’s letter, Bonnie Barczykowski, head of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri chapter chief, told The New York Times it was a “misrepresentation of “how Girl Scouts serve girls in the community.”

In the letter, the archbishop asked parishes to evaluate the effectiveness of Girl Scout troops in promoting the Catholic faith and forming young women of virtue. Specifically, he asked pastors to meet with troop leaders and review the concerns and discuss implementing alternative options for girls’ formation.

Catholic Youth Apostolate executive director Brian Miller explained the apostolate remains committed to its ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of its programs.

“This is all about good youth ministry,” said Miller. “In the same way that we have evaluated Girl Scouts’ effectiveness to form our young Catholic girls as women of virtue, we should be evaluating the effectiveness of all of our programs and whether they are accomplishing the mission: to bring the message of the Gospel to young people.”

Brinker is a staff writer at the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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  • DebraBrunsberg

    This should be nation wide, not just in St. Louis. The same goes for the Boy Scouts. Parents can choose to keep their children in these groups, but the churches need to quit supporting them. It makes me sad to see these groups selling their wares in churches after Mass. When their profits go to supporting organizations that are clearly against God, they need to take their marketplace elsewhere.

    • JG

      The Girl Scouts do tremendous good. In this Year of Mercy, who is this Bishop to judge? He is not showing mercy. Who shops at Target or eats products made by General Mills? These companies invest their profits in causes that “conflict with Catholic values.” What about the owners of your local pizza place? What do they support? As Catholics, we cannot discriminate. If the Girl Scouts conflict with Catholic values, so does the rest.

      Or, what about focusing on the Eucharist and mercy. Hey, I’m looking at you Bishop Carlson.

      • DebraBrunsberg

        I don’t shop at Target nor do I eat products made by General Mills. I do not buy Girl Scout Cookies nor Boy Scout Wreaths. I don’t frequent pizza places. Doing tremendous good while being involve with those who do great evil is not a trade off. No one is saying the Girl Scouts cannot exist. They should just exist without the endorsement and or funding of the Catholic Church. As Catholics, yes, we can discriminate, we do it every day. We wouldn’t think of renting out our church spaces to Satanists nor would we let homosexual activists set up booths to sell us rainbow bumper stickers to raise money for their cause. We wouldn’t take up a second collection for Isis. Each person who calls themselves a Catholic must choose who they follow, the world, or God.

        The point you are missing is that Target and General Mills are not hawking their wares, holding their CEO meetings or putting up their advertising in our churches. They are not known for their affiliation with religion, period.

        Mercy? Mercy is admonishing the sinner. Mercy is instructing the ignorant. The best thing to do for groups who have CHOSEN to tie themselves to companies that make their money murdering the unborn need to know that their groups are no longer following the Lord. That is mercy. Just pretending it isn’t happening or making allowances for evil because some good comes of it, is not of Christ, nor is it assisting souls in coming to Him. Actually, this might be a good time for all parishes to take a good look at how often their lobby looks like a flea market, something is always being sold. Maybe all businesses should get out of the churches.

        Yes, lets focus on the Eucharist and remove everything from our churches that detract from that.

        • JG

          I will pray for you.

          • DebraBrunsberg

            Thank you. Nothing is as powerful as the prayers of a righteous man. Ditto.

        • Bernie Troje

          Did you mean to equate ISIS and homosexuals? I think you should be a bit more discriminating. It’s amazing to me that the church has any right to the moral high ground – especially when it comes to matters of sexuality. I’m glad to read that since the bishop’s directives the support for the Girl Scouts has increased financially. It says a lot about what the public feels about such pronouncements.

          • DebraBrunsberg

            No, I don’t equate them equally. I just figured that one had to really put something out there in order for someone to get the point that the Church does NOT have to allow any group or organization that is working against God in their churches. Simple. I thought simple enough. Guess not.

          • Bernie Troje

            There’s a glaring problem in all five lines of your response. If you want, I’ll point each one out tomorrow when I have time.

        • Renard

          “Mercy is admonishing the sinner.” Astonishing.

      • tschraad

        JG you said “The Girl Scouts do tremendous good.” Yes, they do. But just because your neighbor took care of you when you were sick, does that mean she can commit adultery with your husband and still be known as a kind and good neighbor? Girl Scouts should get out of the business giving support to kill unborn human beings that have no choice in becoming a good Girl Scout. Any good that they do is greatly diminished when they see the dead bodies of babies not given any chance to live.

    • Fred Ford

      What data do you have to support that the Girl Scouts are against God exactly? Because they have lesbians in the group and you think we should discriminate against them? If there is an organization that goes against God, it’s the Catholic Church and you support them. The Church, by it’s own admission, gives your money to rapist’s pensions that they hid from justice. Jared Fogle gets 15 years and rapist priests get a pension. Jesus did not intend for these vile and Godless men to be protected by even more vile and Godless men.
      I will let you and Bishop Carlson know if I will support the Girl Scouts and not the other way around. I don’t need your or his permission because it’s none of your business. I will pray for your soul.

      • Bernie Troje

        First of all update your views of the church. It is suffering the consequences of its egregious mistakes, AND it is taking responsibility for them in many positive ways. Secondly, to be fair, don’t dismiss all the good Catholics and good clergy and all they have done and continue to do. As the nuns often were fond of saying, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

      • DebraBrunsberg

        Fred, As usual, you jump to your little media fed sound bites to attack the Church and Her Priests. As everyone knows, terrible crimes were committed and people have paid for that. As those crimes were committed by a minuscule percentage of priests. to label them all as evil is truly discrimination. Your anti-Catholic hatred is coming through strong and clear. So, I will share with you two points and if you want to research something, you may actually be enlightened. First the majority of sex offenses committed by priests were committed against young men between the ages of 11 and 17 and were homosexual acts. There is a reason why those who have same sex attraction are no longer able to enter the seminaries. The Second point is that the majority of all sexual abuse of children occurs in the family with the second largest amount occurring in the public schools. I know you have probably never heard that because most media coverage of sexual abuse is only Catholic oriented, and that is done on purpose. It helps those who want to fuel a never ending diatribe against the Church.

        The Girl Scouts promote abortion through their affiliation with, links to, membership in, and financial support of pro-abortion organizations. There is ample evidence of this and it isn’t hard to find. Just check out WAGGS and The National Collaboration for Youth, The info is out there and that is exactly why the Bishop has made the decisions He has made. See, Abortion is against God. No one is saying the GS should not exist, they just need to exist without the support of the Church as should all who support abortion. Abortion: Against God. Simple.

        Bernie, you need to do some research also. You can start with the definition of bigotry: intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself. Bigotry and Hatred, the words tossed around when one does not have an actual point. Name calling instead of debate.

        Thanks for the prayers. I will pray that the Lord will grace you with His love and Mercy so that you may see with the eyes of God and not the eyes of the world.

        • Bernie Troje

          Is it that difficult to see what these “attitudes” (if you prefer to call bigotry that) toward gay people have done to those born that way? I’m not aware that there’s been that much tolerance toward gay people. They have had to depend on the legal system to live their lives openly. Your reference to the reason Benedict wanted openly gay men barred from seminaries is a prime example. The percentage of homosexuals abusing children is no greater than heterosexual abuse. Who SHOULD BE accepted in seminaries? I believe that every time a statement like yours and the pope’s is made, it gives many people another excuse to justify their intolerance. I wouldn’t want to be held accountable for promoting this point of view, and especially for the damage it has done.
          Fortunately, there’s evidence the younger generation who know openly gay people realize there’s nothing to fear or about which to be intolerant.

          • tschraad

            Bernie Troje – your intolerance of normal people in not appreciated. No person is born gay. None. Homosexuals will be treated the same as normal people when they stop their intolerance toward normal people. Why can’t they live their immoral disordered lives without bullying others?

          • Bernie Troje

            With your answer I rest my case. There is no way to deal with willful ignorance.

        • Fred Ford

          Debra, maybe you should read about Altoona or Seattle. Secret files of the cover up. Roger Mahoney admitted he covered up for rapists in his depositions and was promoted. I guess I stand corrected…I forgot to use the words despicable, scum and criminals. Judging from your response to me, I find it hard to argue with someone who blindly protects criminals and rapists. I will say again that I don’t answer to you or to any Bishop if my daughter joins the GS or buys their cookies. In fact, I called in an order from the St. Louis GS after the Bishop said not to.

    • Bernie Troje

      Before you claim that scouting has supported organizations that “are clearly against God,” I think you better research whatever evidence you think supports that statement. You certainly go way beyond anything the bishop’s statements suggest. That’s why the church ought to be more careful about their pronouncements. Bigotry, a form of hatred, given an inch will take a mile. Imagine the extreme damage this kind of thinking could do to organizations that have clearly been positive influences on young people for generations.

      • tschraad

        Bernie Troje, killing innocent human beings is the worse form of bigotry and you believe bigotry is wrong but apparently you think killing human beings is okay. Killing the unborn is the most extreme damage a person can perform and teaching young girls that this is a good and approved by Jesus Christ is intrinsically evil.

        • Bernie Troje

          If you’re referring to Planned Parenthood, I’m pretty sure that planning parenthood has prevented more abortions than any other efforts to prevent abortion. No one suggests abortion is a reasonable means of contraception. Denying women access to reasonable means of contraception is something I just don’t understand, especially if you’re against abortion.

          • tschraad

            Bernie Troje – No woman is being denied any access to prevent bringing new life into this world. All means of contraception is readily available on line and in thousands of drug stores. Selling defective, known to have failures, to women who do not want to conceive, brings millions of dollars to these killers of thousands of human beings.
            If you believe, as I do, killing your own child has to be one of the most intrinsically evil a woman can do.

          • Bernie Troje

            I’m not really sure exactly what your saying. Reread your comments before you send them.
            Women don’t get the medical attention they need on line before they give birth. Prenatal care has been shown to be the most important medical care a child can be given. The issue would be much clearer if Planned Parenthood were referred to by its name rather than called abortion clinics. They help women plan parenthood. They help women avoid pregnancy. Studies show that for at least the last 70 years Catholics have used birth control in spite of the church’s disapproval, Planned Parenthood gives women who otherwise would not have access to medical attention that opportunity. All you have to do is compare the sizes of families on the different economic levels to see who has this access.

          • tschraad

            Bernie Troje – women can buy contraceptives on line. If they need medical attention, they and you would see a doctor. Prenatal care is only if you believe the baby is a human being. Not necessary if your intention is to kill your child. Planned Parenthood is only in business to kill human beings to sell baby parts and make huge profits.. All other access to medical attention can easily be handled by existing clinics.
            Catholics have sinned for the last 2000 years. Does that make sinning a grace to attain heaven? Contraception has been condemned in the old testament before Jesus was born. Not all Catholics use contraceptives as this separates them from the Church as they are no longer in communion with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Sad.

          • Bernie Troje

            Again, I choose not to deal with willful ignorance. You really have no idea what you’re talking about.

          • tschraad

            Bernie Troje, stating that you no longer will deal with the ignorance you willfully proclaim, shows at least that you do realize the truth that I have been stating. I did not mean to talk over your status, I tried to keep my facts simple.
            Follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and he will be your friend today and tomorrow. Best advice that I can give anyone.