Responding to the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow openly gay members, U.S. Catholic Scouting groups called for loving respect towards all people, while reiterating the need to proclaim Church teaching on sexuality.
“The Catholic Church teaches that people who experience a homosexual inclination or a same sex attraction are to be treated with respect recognizing the dignity of all persons,” said the National Catholic Committee on Scouting in a May 23 statement.
“The Church's teaching is clear that engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral,” the organization continued. “Individuals who are open and avowed homosexuals promoting and engaging in homosexual conduct are not living lives consistent with Catholic teaching.”
On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America announced that, following a reassessment of its membership policies, it had decided to “remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone.”
The organization also reinforced that “Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
The change will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
The Boy Scouts will continue to ban openly gay adult leaders and said that this policy “was not under consideration.”
Several dioceses around the country voiced acceptance of the decision to offer full membership to boys who experience same-sex attraction, while also reinforcing the duty of Catholic scouting groups to encourage obedience to Church teaching on issues of sexuality.
A statement by the Archdiocese of Denver noted that the “Church agrees that no group should reduce a person to their sexual orientation or proclivity.”
“However, the moral formation of youth must include a firm commitment to respecting and promoting an authentic vision of sexuality rooted in the Gospel itself,” it said.
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., also emphasized that the Church “has the responsibility to teach the Gospel and encourage all people to live out the teachings of Christ – regardless of their sexual preference,” and that scouting groups overseen by the Church must “witness to the faith.”
Similarly, the Archdiocese of St. Louis affirmed that it takes “Catholic faith and formation of young people very seriously,” and that the change in policy would not change its belief that “a proper understanding of Theology of the Body, as taught by Pope John Paul II, offers truth about the beauty and sanctity of human sexuality.”
“We agree with Pope Emeritus Benedict when he said, ‘Every human being is loved by God the Father. No one need feel forgotten, for every name is written in the Lord’s loving heart,’” the archdiocese stressed in a statement.
“We encourage Catholics and all people of faith to treat one another with respect, dignity and love and to pray for our culture.”
Some Catholic groups, such as the Archdiocese of Denver, have stated that they will continue to sponsor scouting groups, while other dioceses and the National Catholic Committee on Scouting have stated that they will reserve judgment until after the January 1 implementation, so that they can better understand how Catholic-sponsored scouting groups will be affected.