New gender policy won’t affect Catholic Scouting units, says committee

| February 7, 2017 | 8 Comments

Cub Scouts prepare to participate in the presentation of the gifts during a Mass marking Scout Sunday at St. Joseph Church in Kings Park, N.Y., Feb. 5. Scout Sunday is celebrated annually by the Boy Scouts of America to recognize the contributions of young people and adults to Scouting. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

The Boy Scouts of America’s new policy to accept members based on their gender identity will have no impact on Scouting units sponsored by the Catholic Church, said the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

The Boy Scouts announced Jan. 30 that effective immediately, the Texas-based organization will determine membership eligibility for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts on a youth’s gender identity as indicated on the membership application. Previously, the policy based eligibility on the gender indicated on a youth’s birth certificate.

The change in policy “has no impact on the operation and program delivery of Scouting program(s) in Catholic-chartered units,” said a Feb. 4 statement issued by the Catholic Scouting committee.

“Scouting serves the Catholic Church through the charter concept, which is similar to a franchise,” it said. “The units chartered to a Catholic institution are owned by that organization. The BSA has stipulated that religious partners will continue to have the right to make decisions for their units based on their religious beliefs.”

The statement was signed by George Sparks, national chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, and Father Kevin Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, who is national chaplain of Catholic Scouting. The statement was approved by Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, who is the episcopal liaison between Catholic Scouting and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In announcing the membership change, Michael Surbaugh, chief Scout executive, said the organization has been “challenged by a very complex topic — the issue of gender identity.” “After weeks of significant conversations” at all levels of the Scouting organization, he said, officials decided a birth certificate is no longer sufficient for determining eligibility for participating in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to evaluate and update our approach,” he said in a video message posted online. “I hope you’ll join with me in embracing the opportunity to bring Scouting to more families and children who can benefit from what our organization has to offer.”

“This is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible all while remaining true to our core beliefs,” Surbaugh said.

Those beliefs, he said, are based on the Scout Oath, which begins “with duty to God,” and the Scout Law, which ends” with a Scout’s obligation to be reverent.”

In a separate statement emailed Feb. 7 to Catholic News Service, Effie Delimarkos, the Boy Scouts’ director of communications, reiterated that “we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.”

The organization did not say if a specific case had prompted the policy change, but another spokesperson told CNS that Boy Scouts’ “approach to gender identity was no longer sufficient as communities are now interpreting gender identity differently.”

Sparks and Father Smith said in their statement: “Scouting’s chartered organizations have the right to uphold their own moral standards within the units they charter. The teachings of the Catholic Church are upheld.”

About 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are run by faith-based groups.


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  • bless us all

    up until the lawsuits begin…

  • carolq

    What Catholic teaching is violated when a transgender boy participates in Boy Scouts? Would it violate Catholic teaching if a Boy Scout troop admitted girls? (According to news reports, some troops have been approached about this by girls who prefer the outdoor and camping activities of the Boy Scouts to some of the activities they encountered in Girl Scouts.)

    • Charles C.

      Pope Francis, July 2016:
      “In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of
      Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place.
      And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology
      of] “gender”. Today children – children! – are taught in school that
      everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because
      the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you
      money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by
      influential countries. And this terrible!”

      “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is
      false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is
      not, is true”.

      My Mom:
      “Don’t lie.”

      In a bar:
      “Hi, Sam! Funny thing. I woke up this morning and felt like a girl.”
      “No biggie, Pete. I hear it happens to some guys. Feel better now?”

      “Hi, Sam! Funny thing. I woke up this morning and realized I’m a girl.”
      “Paul, just take a seat. I’ll call an ambulance and they can get you help.”

      In a family living room:
      “Mom, can I smoke?” “No, you’re just a kid.”
      “Mom, can I drink?” “No, you’re just a kid.”
      “Mom, can I vote?” “No, you’re just a kid.”
      “Mom, can I be a girl?” “Sure, we’ll get you plenty of estrogen and schedule the surgery right away.”

      Still wonder why the Catholic Church isn’t hot about admitting girls into the Boy Scouts?

  • Dominic Deus

    Hello everyone! Dominic Deus here–I am wondering if any of the posters so far have been Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or are transgender or “two-spirit” as some Native Americans refer to it. Not that being Scout is a requirement for having an opinion.
    Here’s mine: I’m with Carol.

    I was a Boy Scout all of my childhood ears and as an adult I was a Scout Leader and a Camp Doctor. Boy Scout’s really *do* a need camp doctor–I can’t tell the number of axe injuries, knife wounds, minor fractures and even one abdominal impalement on steel fencepost form which the Scout remembered “not to panic” and performed a self-rescue. But I digress. Scouting is a great program and it has gotten greater since it allowed women and gays to be Scout Leaders, announced it will not discriminate against gay Scouts.

    This is picture of the Scouting organization I grew up in:

    Yes, it was very, very white but now it is more like this:

    (It’s a joke poster. Boy Scouts have a wicked sense of humor!)

    Transgender issues are difficult. The whole concept is *very* alien and I don’t think we understand it well until we actually meet someone who is transgender. M friend April for example, who used to be Nick. I guarantee you that if you met April, you would think of her as an intelligent, graceful, very feminine (in all the best ways) person. Until you met her wife who married her as Nick. Asked her how that worked and she replied “I loved her as a man so why wouldn’t I love her as a woman?” Yes. foundational teaching of the Christ: Love one another.

    As far as the practicalities of integrating biological male and female Scouts. regardless of how they see themselves, it’s not a big deal at all. These are Swedish Scouts. We had quite of few of them at our camp:

    Swedish Scouts with King Carl Gustav XVI. He visited St. Olaf College the one year I was there. Nice guy. Lutheran.

    As far as Catholic Scout Troops not being “impacted” by the new Scout policy, that’s true but it sort of isn’t. Here’s a link to a more detailed story from NPR:

    The Boy Scouts of America have declared they will welcome transgender Scouts. Troops. If the Scout Troop adult leadership wants to discriminate and not accept a Scout’s application, that’s on them. As the Great Boy Scout himself said, “You will know them by how they treat each other,” or words to that effect.

    One more thing. This is April”

    (Actually it’s a Swedish Scout who looks just *like* April, but you get the idea.

    See you on the trail!

    Dominic Deus,