Back on August 5, Fr. Z posted this piece, a statement by Bishop Kagan of Bismarck, ND, on the Boy Scouts decision on homosexuals.
A reader, commenting on the piece, wrote:
I’m very conflicted about this. I’m an Eagle Scout, as are my brother, father, uncles, and many male cousins. There’s a lot of great things about scouting. But even when I was still active in the early 2000s certain scouts (and scouters, as the adult employees are called) were distributing rainbow knot patches to be worn alongside the other awards on the uniform. (Above the left breast pocket, where the Ad Altari Dei relgious knot would also go.) Talking with people still involved, it seems the rainbow knot movement has grown, and is rampant in the Northeast. (My experience of the same is in Silicon Valley.)David L. Alexander (or manwithblackhat), in another comment, writes:
As an Eagle Scout, a member of the Order of the Arrow (essentially Scouting’s honor roll), and a local Scout Commissioner for the last eleven years, I’ve been watching events with no small amount of concern. This latest decision surprises me only for its haste, but not its eventuality.And this, a comment related to Confession but applicable to analogies being tossed around more broadly ...
Two years ago, when restrictions on the basis of sexual orientation were lifted for youth, it was suggested that, benignly interpreted, this might not be a problem. Granted, many children in the pre- and early-adolescent years suffer from identity issues, at times in the area of psycho-sexual maturity. But there was more to the new policy than that, and those who were in denial (including, I’m sorry to say, some of the leadership of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting), expected it to go no farther. Indeed, upon becoming National President of the BSA, Dr Robert Gates insisted he would not revisit the issue during his term. One year later, he insisted on revisiting it, not just later in the year, but by this summer, citing not only the changing times, but the mounting pressure from legal challenges, not only by volunteers, but by job applicants in states with anti-discrimination laws, and once-supportive corporate foundations with anti-discrimation policies.
With little in the way of consultation from the rank-and-file, the vote by the National Executive Board last month was overwhelmingly in favor of the change, and effective immediately. Religious institutions could still select leaders on the basis of their own moral tenets, but the units they sponsor do not exist in a vacuum, not all Catholic boys can find a Catholic-sponsored troop nearby, and “Family Life” is one of the required merit badges for Eagle.
You see where this could go, right?
I’ve spent the last two years being a pain in the neck at meetings, warning my colleagues that their indifference would kill the very movement they thought they were saving. I could tell them “I told you so,” but they still wouldn’t believe it, and it still wouldn’t heal a broken heart. It certainly hasn’t helped that for the past two years, Catholic leaders involved in Scouting have maintained that the policy concerning youth did not violate Catholic teaching as long as no open sexual activity was involved. (They’re still saying it now with respect to adults, but not without reservations.) On top of that, adult volunteers who attend seminars listen to their intelligence being insulted: “The mission has not changed, the mission has not changed …” Had we not buried our heads in the sand, there might have been alternatives.
Catholic units could have organized a certain degree of separation, much as what was proposed when the BSA was founded in 1910 with the support of the very Protestant (and hence very anti-Catholic) YMCA. Catholic-sponsored units would be formed for Catholic boys, under the guidance of Catholic chaplains. Indeed, up to now, units of the Mormon Church (where it is a required priesthood formation program for boys 11-15) have long operated more or less independently. With numbers amounting to 16 to 18 percent of the youth membership, they were a force to be reckoned with.
(Now, even the Mormons were caught by surprise, and are already considering pulling out of the BSA, in favor of their own boys’ movement on an international scale.)
The other alternative could have gone a step farther, as many Scout associations in Europe are organized as “federations,” with semi-autonomous associations divided along ethnic or sectarian lines. (Switzerland’s has separate associations for French-, German-, and Italian-speaking Scouts. Israel’s has seven separate associations; for Jews, Christians, Arabs, Druze, Orthodox, and so on.) Under those circumstances, differences of religious beliefs and cultural norms are simply not fodder for conflict, and a world brotherhood of more than a century continues to flourish.
But it may be too late for the BSA. Between some trying too hard to make nice, and (I say this somewhat guardedly) others giving up the fight too early, we are seeing the end of the Boy Scouts of America as an influence on the fabric of American life. From 1999 to 2012, they lost 22 percent of their youth membership. In the two years that followed, they lost just over half that much more. If the Mormons pull out, and other disaffected parties follow, the BSA could lose as much as 25 to 30 percent MORE of its youth membership in one to two years.
They’ll tell you it’s because they increased the membership dues. They’ll tell you anything. What they won’t tell you, is what they don’t want to admit to themselves.
In the end, I never left Scouting; Scouting left me.
The analogy of the Church Militant as a spiritual field hospital is pretty good, provided that we remember that in field hospitals lots of people don’t make it.[Hat tip to JM]
We are like pilgrim soldiers in the Church Militant, on the march to our objective of salvation in the patria. We are beset by enemies even from even within (the world, the flesh and the Devil). The Church herself is beset by enemies even from within! So, the march is hard. We cannot take the smooth and easy roads, where ambushes await us in even greater numbers and severity. Ours is the harrowing steep, narrow path. Even there the Enemy is crafty and seemingly numberless. We are going to take wounds along the way. Some of them – those of our own doing – will be serious.
The adage “all bleeding stops” applies to the spiritual life too: one of these days, people, you are going to run out of time. You are going to die and go before the Just Judge. Some people are going to run out of time and bleed out rather than [recover in a] field hospital.