Kansas City archdiocese bars Girl Scouts

By: OSV Newsweekly

For years the relationship between the Church, the faithful and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America has been a source of heated discussion. It has become even more contentious in recent weeks following a letter by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in which it was announced that the archdiocese is cutting ties with the Girl Scouts. The letter to the faithful of the Kansas City archdiocese, released May 1, stated that parishes have the option to either immediately disband their Girl Scout troops or not allow any new girls to join established troops, with the intention of transitioning all Girl Scout troops to American Heritage Girl troops in the coming years.

As Archbishop Naumann put it: “With the promotion by Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) of programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture, they are no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.”

Archbishop Naumann cited as reasons for the break his belief that the Girl Scouts have developed an increasingly tight partnership with Planned Parenthood, support the legalization of abortion and offer figures such as Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, as role models for the girls. According to the archbishop, the archdiocese has been in discussions with the Girl Scouts for more than five years about these concerns.

Parishes in the Kansas City archdiocese are now encouraged to align themselves with American Heritage Girls, an organization that the archdiocese feels more closely adheres to Gospel values.

“Eventually it came down to this. Our greatest responsibility as a Church is to the children and young people in our care,” Archbishop Naumann stated. “We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.”

A difficult break

In the last few years, stories such as this one have made headlines. Many parents find themselves bewildered, trying to navigate these muddy waters.

The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are old institutions with rich histories. They have helped form countless boys and girls into well-adjusted adults over the years. Many dioceses and archdioceses consider any link between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood to be remote and have continued to allow Girl Scout troops to operate within their boundaries.

But questions linger: Have they changed? Are these groups a good fit for Catholics?

Chief among Archbishop Naumann’s concerns is what he sees as a strong tie between the Scouting organization and Planned Parenthood, as he claims the national organization of Girl Scouts has contributed more than a million dollars a year to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, “an organization tied to International Planned Parenthood.”

Under these circumstances, the fundamental questions parents are asking themselves may include: Will this organization help to form my child in the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Or will it get in the way of a relationship with Jesus and put my child at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church? Does it undermine or support (or is it indifferent to) how I am trying to form the conscience of my children?

While parents must make the final decision, as can be seen by the situation in Kansas City, some Church leaders are offering advice and operational directives. Regarding the value or potential danger of Girl Scout troops, opinions of pastors and bishops vary widely.

Alternatives

It is important to note that there are alternatives to the classic Scouting organizations.

American Heritage Girls is one popular alternative, and is the one supported by Archbishop Naumann in Kansas City. The group was born out of, and has grown through, clashes with the Girl Scouts. Founded in 1995 in response to a new policy instituted by the Girl Scouts of the USA that banned prayer from the beginning of meetings and allowed individuals to substitute their own wording for “God” in the promise that all Scouts take, the American Heritage Girls pride themselves on a devotion to Gospel values.

Starting with 100 girls, by 2005 the group had a membership of 8,000, and by 2017 that number had risen to more than 43,000. All girls are eligible for membership, but all adult leaders are required to adhere to a Christian statement of faith.

In June 2009, American Heritage Girls partnered with the Boy Scouts of America because of recognized shared values and goals. However, in May 2013, this partnership, too, was severed, in response to the Boy Scouts’ change in policy regarding the admittance of openly gay youth.

It is also notable that American Heritage Girl troops actually are under the auspices of the parish and the authority of the pastor because they are chartered through the parish itself, which gives the pastor the final say on all group decisions. This gives each troop even more of a firm footing in the Gospel.

Another increasingly popular alternative is Frontier Girls, which was founded in 2007 “as an alternative to Girl Scouts to provide a scout-like program for girls that goes back to the values and goals of the original Girl Scouts.”

Their stated mission is “to raise women of honor to be the mothers and leaders of the future through life skills, leadership, character building, teamwork and service to others.”

The organization focuses on “patriotism, traditional values, community service and a love of learning” in order to help girls “grow into caring and active citizens.”

“We pride ourselves on our resourcefulness and our freedoms,” their website states. “These are the traits our country was built on, but they are slowly being eroded away in a culture of instant gratification and irresponsibility.”

Reclaiming parenting

In a recent interview with the website CruxNow.com, Archbishop Naumann said, regarding some negative reaction to his decision, “It’s as if, not only do they [the Girl Scouts] have a right to their own vision of the human person and marriage and family life, but we have an obligation to turn our young people over to them to be formed in these values.” Archbishop Naumann stresses that there is no such obligation.

In his letter regarding the matter, Archbishop Naumann writes that the archdiocese prefers “to partner with youth organizations that share our values and vision for youth ministry, not ones that we have to monitor constantly to protect our children from being misled and misinformed.”

 

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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