Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Catholics and the BSA

One of the good things about not having had time to revisit my post about the Boy Scouts of America and their decision which permits same-sex attracted Scouts is that other Catholics have already made the points I was thinking about, each of them must better than I would have.

On the one side we have canon lawyer Ed Peters, who writes:
Now, the policy adopted by the Boy Scouts states in pertinent part: “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

Immediate observations. First, the policy applies only to youth members (males aged 11 thru 17 and, I assume, single), not to adult leaders who, per the Supreme Court decision in Boy Scouts v. Dale (2000)—a case that I think was decided correctly—are excluded based on a same-sex orientation. Second, on its face the policy applies only to membership in the Boy Scouts and not necessarily to participation in all Boy Scout activities; intentionally or not, this narrow phrasing seems to leave open some questions about how a membership policy might be applied to reasonable concerns over participation in certain activities. Third, nothing in the new policy or in Boy Scout literature endorses or advocates the gay life style; in fact all members are prohibited from using the Boy Scouts to promote “any social or political position or agenda”.

These three points being noted, the revised policy may be scrutinized from a Catholic point-of-view as follows.

(1) Granted that the non-discrimination principle outlined in CCC 2358 rings platitudinously (for “unjust discrimination” is never licit!), if the principle therein means anything—and I think it does—it means that the burden of proof lies on those who would discriminate against persons experiencing same-sex attraction to justify that discrimination.

Now in some respects discrimination (e.g., refusing to recognize “same-sex marriage” or prohibiting the admission of homosexuals to seminary) can and should be defended among Catholics. But, that same-sex attraction itself (which is the only factor addressed by the policy), should bar membership (which is the only application of the policy) in a secular organization seems difficult to argue; to propose further that maintaining such a bar is a litmus test for Catholic sponsorship of an organization seems even less tenable. Consider: same-sex attraction, standing alone, does not prohibit one from being a fully initiated Catholic. To argue, therefore, that, say, a Catholic parish must hold a sponsored organization to a higher membership standard than it holds itself to is at best anomalous.
 Read the rest here.

On the other side, we have Thomas McDonald, who writes:
I tend to draw the stories on scouting for the National Catholic Register, so I’ve been watching as the BSA tried to revise their policies for dealing with boys who publicly proclaim same sex attraction. It’s important to note that the BSA does not ask about sexual preference, operating on an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” that quite reasonably kept the private sexual habits of people–particularly minors–out of the organization.

The gay lobby and their allies, however, have made it clear that this is no longer an option. Sexuality, long a province of the private sphere–must now be dragged into the sunlight to be celebrated. People who would attempt to demur, or decline to admit same sex relationships on equal footing with opposite sex relationships, must be labelled bigots, targeted, and beaten into submission.

The gays have been pursuing the Scouts for years. Ever since homosexual activist James Dale argued all the way to the Supreme Court for his right to go camping with 14-year-old boys (and rightfully lost based on the BSA’s right to freedom of association), the Scouts have been chased from public buildings, seen their funding attacked, and come under a withering media onslaught. They weathered it well, stuck to their values, and continued on their merry way trying to form boys in civic virtue and manhood without obsessing over-much on gay sex, which is so low on the list of things that concern reasonable Americans as to be invisible. [...]

It’s certainly not Catholic to “kick people out” because of an inclination to sin. We don’t even kick people out for sinning. We’re supposed to be the hospital for sinners. We’re the people who separate being and behavior–sinner and sin–because we know that a person is not their sin.

Activists are pushing these boys to “come out.” They’re being used as shock troops to advance an agenda, when in fact most would probably rather just go about their own struggles and deal with their desires without getting a giant rainbow “I’m gay!” banner tied to them. The number of boys dismissed from the Scouts for homosexual inclination is vanishingly small for a very simple reason: the BSA doesn’t ask. A “gay Boy Scout” might as well be a unicorn.

On the other hand, I understand that Catholic families may head for the hills in the wake of the decision. The shift in policy shows that the BSA is willing to concede moral high ground. It’s a victory for the gay lobby, which has already declared that they’re unhappy with the compromise and will continue to pester, sue, and otherwise harass the BSA until openly gay adult leaders are approved. That time will come, either sooner or later, because the idea of the primacy of conscience, freedom of association, and freedom of religion have been destroyed in the modern era.

When they win that victory, the BSA will cease to exist as anything but a shadow of its former glory. No reasonable parent will send a child or teen off with an adult leader who may desire sex with him. That’s insanity.

The problem is that the policy, while reasonable, is also incoherent. Scouting is a lifetime commitment for most. The rule essentially banishes men from the Scouting leadership once they turn 18.

It also raises countless practical questions. If a boy declines to share a two-person tent at summer camp with a gay scout, will he be subjected to criticism and complaint? Putting two gay scouts together in those tents doesn’t solve the problem: you wouldn’t put a heterosexual teenage boy and a heterosexual teenage girl in the same tent, would you?
Now: my turn.  I agree that the new policy as stated--which does NOT use the loaded phrase "openly gay" which the media has been using since the policy was approved--is not on its face an automatic problem for Catholics involved in Scouting.  Boiled down to its essentials, the new policy says that simply learning that a Scout is same-sex attracted is not, by itself, enough to bar him from membership or expel him from Scouting.  No reasonable Catholic has a problem with that, as Dr. Peters amply points out.

But the problem, as Thomas McDonald also amply points out, is that there is no reason at all to believe that the gay activists are happy and will now stop targeting the Boy Scouts for reeducation or extermination (the only two options gay activists will accept for people who don't think that sodomy must be celebrated, applauded, and lauded as the best thing civilization has ever produced).  McDonald's point about the incoherence of the policy regarding adult members is one I hadn't thought of: what if a 19-year-old Eagle Scout who is known to be homosexual now wants to be a leader?  Can he be, so long as he claims to be celibate?  Or what about the scenario involving an adult former Scout who is now "married" to a man in a state where that's legal?  Can the Scouts avoid being sued for discriminating against men who are "married" to men, while (obviously) having no problem with the vast majority of married men (who are, of course, married to women) being leaders in Scouting?

Or, going back to the Boy Scouts themselves, what if a Scout's Facebook page lists him as being "in a relationship" and shows pictures of him with his "boyfriend?"  If he insists that the relationship doesn't involve sex, is that grounds for dismissal or not?  After all, heterosexual Scouts can date girls so long as they are being chaste, so wouldn't it be discrimination to kick out gay Scouts for dating boys?

I really think that there's no solution here.  A Catholic parish doesn't kick out same-sex attracted people, or even demand that they stop committing serious sins before they come to Mass (receiving Communion is, or should be, another question entirely).  But a Catholic parish would have no problem telling a same-sex attracted boy in a Confirmation class that he can't be Confirmed if he's dating another boy--and would also (or should also) have no trouble explaining why that is so, when it's perfectly okay for the other teen boys in the group to be in chaste dating relationships with teen girls.  A Catholic parish should also have no problem explaining that a same-sex "married" couple are not a married couple in the eyes of God or of the Church (emphasis on should, of course) and that they can't sign up as a couple to be youth leaders or anything else.  This is because the Church's nuanced teachings about same-sex attraction are rooted in a deep and ancient philosophical and religious view about the meaning and purpose of sex, the definition of lawful marriage, and the sins committed against Holy Matrimony.

The BSA, however, is a secular organization.  There is no such clear-cut teaching within the organization about why homosexual sex acts are wrong and why the same-sex attracted person must embrace the Cross of life-long chastity if heterosexual marriage is truly not a possibility for him or her (and I refer, here, to the examples of same-sex attracted people who have found great happiness in marriage to a person of the opposite sex, not to any idea of changing the orientation itself, which may not be possible in many or most cases).  There shouldn't have to be any such teaching; after all, topics of sex and sexuality are out of place in a setting where children are the focus.

But the gay activists are going to make sure that the Boy Scouts, like everything else gay activists get involved in, are all about sex and sexuality.  They will praise those within Scouts who push the envelope by accepting boys who are really "openly gay" in that they act on their inclination and by accepting openly gay adult leaders in defiance of the current national policy, and will target any groups which do not do either of these two things.  They will, as Thomas McDonald says, continue to sue the Scouts to push for gay leaders, and the existence of gay "marriage" in some states almost guarantees that the Scouts will lose this fight.

So while I would never say that Catholics must immediately give up on Scouting, I have a feeling that it won't be very long before it will be harder to be accepted into Scouting if you are "openly Catholic" than if you are "openly gay."  Whether or not to participate in the meantime is something only families involved with the Boy Scouts can decide.

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