Examining Scouting Choices

JoAnna Wahlund - BSA


My husband wrote what I consider to be an excellent letter to our parish the other day, and he gave me permission to post it in case others like him would find it useful as a template for similar letters. Our fifth child here on earth, a boy, was born on October 7; now that we have 3 sons, our concern with the current state of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has increased, as we want all of our sons to be able to participate in a scouting program of some kind. 

Greetings [Parish] Scout Leadership and Pastors,

My name is [JoAnna\’s husband], I have been a parishioner at [Parish] for several years. I have had a great interest in sharing the experiences that scouting had brought to me with my children at our parish, especially with my oldest son who has just entered Kindergarten this year.

Unfortunately, in light of the recent decision by the BSA to allow open and active homosexual behavior to be declared acceptable I simply cannot in good conscience allow my children to be involved with that organization. This stance that the BSA has taken is even more disconcerting given that the incoming president of the BSA, Randall Stephenson, is on record in a homosexual activism publication for being committed to allow actively homosexual men as scout leaders.

Since homosexual activity is gravely sinful by the teachings of our Church, I cannot take this stance lightly. Given that boys in scouting should be abstinent (as they are not married) there should be no involvement of sexuality in scouting at all. Adults should also be an example to the scouts on how to be \”morally straight\” and \”to do my duty to God\”, as the Oath says.

I do not want simply to complain without ideas on how to improve the situation though. It would be a harder decision if there were no options whatsoever other than exiting scouting or compromising our morals, but there are morally-acceptable alternatives.

I would like to suggest that we look into migrating our scouting group to Trail Life USA. This group specifically is trying to facilitate scouting that returns to the morals intended originally. They\’re trying hard to make scouts feel as welcome as possible and to transfer all achievements of the individual scout to them inside of the new organization so the boys are rewarded for their prior hard work.

This organization follows the same guidelines about homosexuality that our Church does, that the inclinations towards evil behavior are not inherently sinful, but that homosexual activity is wrong. Therefore they will not be searching to try to remove boys who try to resist evil urges.

Similarly, openly being involved with heterosexual premarital sex is also wrong and this is against the organization\’s values, which are committed to Christian morals. Teaching and illustrating right from wrong should absolutely be an integral part to scouting and should not be put aside or shrugged off because making a change would be inconvenient.

I highly wish for our church\’s scouting leadership and our pastors to read the following article about Trail Life USA and consider that this organization may be a better fit for our parish to be actively involved in: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/09/rapid_response.

You can also find more information as well at the Trail Life USA website: http://www.traillifeusa.com.

I hope this is strongly considered as a possibility, and I\’m more than glad to help look into this option (or others, such as the dedicatedly Catholic Scouts of St. George – http://scoutsofsaintgeorge.com).

I really wish to get my sons and myself involved in our scouting program at [Parish]. Please help turn my family\’s disappointment in the BSA into pride that our parish are leaders in a return to morality in scouting. I look forward to hearing the responses from our scouting and church leadership. Thank you very much for your serious consideration in this important issue.
Sincerely, Mr. [Name] and Family
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54 thoughts on “Examining Scouting Choices”

  1. Being part of the Catholic Committee on Scouting in one of our Diocese, I want to warn you of signing your life away. On the very application you sign – you are saying that you agree to hold to heart and be loyal to a Protestant, not Catholic Scouting Program.

    In life, as you have seen, the Pope said “Who am I to Judge?” when it comes to homosexual youth in programs. You have homosexuals in the very youth programs at your Catholic Church – does that mean that you are going to leave the youth program at your church for a protestant youth group?

    Do you see homosexuals in your church or are you blind to them being there? I want to tell you, if you ever seen the movie The’yre Alive – Aliens were all around you.

    They were the clerks at the store, the shoe shine salesman, the car dealership, the grocery store, the manager at the business, are you willing to stop going to those places? So that means you will drop out of church, stop going to the store, walk around since you don’t want to buy a car from a gay guy, and you want to live in a bubble – let me know how that works out.

    I know Jesus went to them and brought them to him – and didn’t act as if they were to be scorned. When you do such, you are the judge. “Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.”

  2. “the recent decision by the BSA to allow open and active homosexual behavior to be declared acceptable”

    Actually, this isn’t what the BSA statement in any way said or implied. Sexual behavior of any kind is not acceptable for a youth in Scouting. They simply do not talk about it. I read it the same way that our Scout Chaplain reads it. No matter what inclination a boy believes that he has, he is to remain morally straight. He is not to act on whatever feelings he has. A state of celibacy is still a state of celibacy. Even if you wish to excommunicate somebody in an active extramarital sexual relationship, is not the state of celibacy a state of grace? Are we to lovingly accept the humanity in all people? Yes. Jesus was ridiculed for consorting with prostitutes and tax-collectors, but living as a saint among sinners is the best form of outreach. As an anti-bullying proponent, I am tired of homosexuality as a reason getting a louder voice than all other reasons, but I do know of self-identified gay kids locally that have killed themselves. They need to be part of something respectful and loving. I fully understand the parental concern for boys being influenced in whatever way, and I respect a parent’s wish to be part of an exclusively Christian or Catholic group. I will use my position with a DCCS to support these groups. However, I will not allow this concern to create a wedge in my diocese. The WELS has long disapproved of the BSA simply because they associate with other faiths. I lived it in the early years of my Scouting leadership, and it was ugly. I became a Catholic because of Pope John Paul II and his ecumenical call. This is my philosophy as I continue to defend my Catholic faith.

  3. Hi JoAnna,
    We have three little boys also, and this last year put our 6 year old in the new Troops of St. George (http://troopsofsaintgeorge.org) at our parish. He had a great time and I really like the Catholic element of the troops. The Troops is brand new and still working out some of the badges and leadership, but honestly the boys are learning and having a great time. David Alexander doesn’t seem to like Dr. Marshall or the Troops too much. Well, does he have a kid in it? Does he come to the camp-outs or meetings? No. So why listen to him about something he doesn’t really know about? Anyway the boys and dads get cool shirts, have fun, have Mass on the camp-outs, and more. Are there other organizations? Sure. Could the Troops fizzle out? Sure. Could your parish start a troops chapter now and be having campouts and fun by this fall? Sure!!! Let the Holy Spirit guide your decision.

  4. Joanna, I came across your post tonight as I was looking for Catholic AHG-related items. If you are on Facebook want to invite you to like the Page for the American Heritage Girls National Catholic Committee. It is a new page, the Committee has been in place for a short time now and is trying to be more supportive for Catholics who are seeking a Christ-centered Scouting experience for their girls. The goal of the page is one of the avenues we are hoping to provide that support so that our girls may continue to grow through Catholic Scouting.

    1. Thanks! I’ve “liked” the AHG on Facebook but was not aware of the group you mention. My eldest daughter and I recently joined the newly-formed Junior Catholic Daughters of America and Catholic Daughters of America groups, respectively, at our parish, so I’m excited to be involved in that with her.

  5. The Troops of Saint George is a GREAT alternative. We have had 2 camp out thus far and it is wonderful seeing 40 boys and their fathers praying the rosary to end each evening after cobbler, skits, jokes and a camp fire.

    1. David L Alexander

      … all of which is accomplished without the TSG having completed its process of incorporation, or providing any form of national support in training or development. What you have done, you have done on your own, and are to be commended for it. You have yourselves to thank, not the TSG.

      Not yet, anyway.

    2. David, I understand your frustration of not having it fully organized yet but honestly that is no reason to be so critical. It takes quite a while to put together a program similar to what the BSA has. Our leaders have personally met with Dr. Taylor Marshall and received quite a bit of direction. He truly is a big source of good information being a convert, chancellor and author. A lot of what we are doing is through his recommendations and desire of the program. In fact all of our TSG leaders are former BSA leaders. Have patience and pray for God’s direction. Every good organization has to start sometime.

    3. David L Alexander

      We are dealing with a few unknowns here:

      1) I have no idea who you are, and that places this conversation at an unfair advantage, inasmuch as you are criticizing me personally, in a venue that others (including Dr Marshall) can read.

      2) You are forgetting the extent of my contributions to the TSG so far, at least that which is known, through comments at his own blog, and in the TSG forums.

      3) You have absolutely no way of knowing the extent of support and material he may have received from me personally, outside of public venues. Indeed, I am told by others that it appears throughout the material he is preparing. For all you know, this might include what he is supplying you.

      4) In spite of the aforementioned, and in spite of having offered me “a leadership position” in the organization, he has been uncommunicative with me ever since, even regarding material I am told he is using, and even before his legal complications (which I personally, and repeatedly despite his protestations, told him would happen).

      5) He has mentioned his “board of directors” twice, and has refused to disclose their names, which would be a matter of record in the process of incorporation. He has no reason at this time not to disclose that information.

      6) Yes, this takes a lot of time, probably more than he expected. He made promises he could not keep, and while he is probably well aware of that (in fairness to him), he may not be aware of the number of families who have left scouting in any form that it might appear, because of those who made promises they could not keep. All the more reason to be more responsive to those who assist him.

      7) I was hoping that Dr Marshall and I could have reached an understanding, as I have tried to reach out to him more than once, but he has remained at a distance, even before my participation in the TSG forum, even before the cease-and-desist letter. I don’t want a medal from him, as I can barely get a how-do-you-do. My only intention has been to help the boys, and the men who serve them, to be able to continue with scouting in one form or another, even to continue helping him. But if being inaccessible to those who lend aid, and taking them to task from behind pseudonyms, is somebody’s idea of Catholic manhood, well, they can keep it, because it isn’t mine.

      That is already more than i wanted to say, especially in this venue, for which I apologize to its owner. Next time you wish to take me to task, “pcrtx,” be a real man and use your real name.

    4. Just an update. We have been incorporated and having meetings and camp-outs for a while now. The boys and dads have a great time

  6. I’m afraid your husband doesn’t know to much about this, and I think that what he wrote was a bunch of blah blah. Most of the information he gives is false, and the scouting suggestion he gives is completely protestant.

    1. And yet you can’t provide examples of anything he said that was false.

      The BSA is also Protestant, so I fail to see why the BSA was acceptable for Catholic parishes but not Trail Life.

    2. Well…using BSA, and some protestant denominations as an example along with the one sited above, what the concern is is that Trail Life, being a protestant org can possibly change their doctrine over time also. So why not focus on organizing a Catholic scout org or try and help Scouts of St. George to grow?

    3. I don’t know about what your husband saying and falsehood but…

      BSA was not Protestant but multi-denominational. Trail Life is Protestant.

    4. Statement of Faith “… We believe the Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) to be THE inspired and AUTHORITATIVE Word of God. ”
      Without discounting the inspired word of God as Catholics we neither believe that Sacred Scripture is “the” Word of God, nor that is the “authoritative” Word of God.
      That’s what Sacred Tradition, the Church, and the Pontiff are all about in filling in the bigger picture.

  7. We as Catholics have to be careful about what groups, organizations we align ourselves with. Trail Life is a protestant organization with doctrine that is not in line with Catholic teaching. And as we have seen with some protestant denominations and as this example shows …..


    they can change their teaching over time that would go against Catholic teaching and the Church would be left to having to leave another organization. So it might be a good idea to investigate the Troops of St. George or look into starting another Catholic scout group.

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  9. “Unfortunately, in light of the recent decision by the BSA to allow open and active homosexual behavior to be declared acceptable…” Absolutely untrue and if I’m wrong please cite your source.

    On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America National Council voted to change the Scouts’ membership policy. It removed the restriction on membership based on sexual orientation. In other words, they will now allow boys who are openly gay to be Scouts.There was no change in the policy regarding the behavior of Scouts or Scout leaders. There is still an absolute prohibition on all sexual activity, whether hetero or homosexual. A Scout still must be “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” even if he is gay.

    On June 3, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting supported the decision of the BSA. Edward Martin, the committee’s national chairman, said the new policy to accept boys who are openly gay is “not in conflict with Catholic teaching.”

    Just how is not denying gay boys a basic human right of association and freedom from discrimination while maintaining a posture opposed to either gay or heterosexual activity in anyway not consistent with Catholic teaching. Sexual orientation is not a choice one makes; behavior is a choice. Chaste homosexual Catholics are not banned from Church nor the sacraments; nor are gay priests. Remember “Who am I to judge?” Simply what is inconsistent with the BSA refusal to discriminate based upon orientation in conflict with Church teaching?

    1. To further support this policy. It has always been BSA’s policy with Venturing that hetero sexual relations are also not tolerated. Seeing as that would be adultery, this policy is also well in line with The Catechism.

    2. Yes, That is correct. My understanding is, this is only true if they are both at least 18 years of age.

    3. Here is your cite Phil, it comes from the BSA resolution itself:

      “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of ‘sexual orientation’ OR ‘preference’ alone.” [Pray tell how would one apply this revolutionary policy except in response to someone’s behavior: verbal, social, physical, or otherwise?]

      That means welcome are ALL sexual “orientations” as well as ALL sexual “preferences.” Maybe you live in place where these varieties are limited, but for those who live in places where these are many in number (and would astound you), this advertisement and condoning of sexual vice/corruption (in youth!) proves too much for some fathers and mothers to bear.

      That some people who call themselves Catholic think it is ok does not make it ok.

      And the Holy Father’s full quote is:

      “In these situations, it’s important to distinguish between a gay person and a gay lobby, because having a lobby is never good. If a gay person is a person of good will who seeks God, who am I to judge? The Catechism of the Church explains this very beautifully. It outlines that gays should not be marginalized. The problem is not having this [homosexual] orientation. No, we must be brothers and sisters. The problem is lobbying for this orientation, or lobbies of greed, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me.”

      The lobby conquered the BSA.

    4. PS – It had been EXACTLY the policy of BSA for 103 years to NOT INQUIRE about anyone’s sexual behavior (it is a childrens’ program for crying out loud) but to discipline anyone at anytime who acted out sexually in any way (including socially, verbally, etc.) Now it is different.

    5. @I.C. Your quote is my quote,,,you just apply personal interpretation and extension of thought. No young man shal be denied membership because of orientation or preference…there is no change change in the Scout’ moral code. They are simply stating they do not discriminate based on who a person is.
      All the years of discussions and consultations surrounding the policy change dealt with gay young men; if you extend preference to mean pedophilia, ephebophilia, beastality, etc. well they are all prohibited by law. Gays and lesbians are not denied entry to Heaven simply because they are gay or lesbian. Behavior determines entry and is also contrary to the Scouting code.

    6. David L Alexander

      “Duuude, they still don’t allow sex of any kind, okay?” Okay, let’s run with that. Here are two examples. One is problematic for a Catholic unit, and the other is not.

      A) Johnny is a senior in high school, and has just passed his Eagle Board of Review. He brings his steady girlfriend to his Court of Honor. Their particular friendship is no secret to anyone, and their parents are assured that Johnny is conducting what the girl’s father considers “an honorable courtship.”

      B) Jimmy is a senior is high school, and has just passed his Eagle Board of Review. He brings his steady boyfriend to his Court of Honor. Their particular friendship is no secret to anyone, and their parents are assured that they are remaining chaste, until they can both move to a state where they can get “married” once they graduate.

      Okay, here it comes.

      One of these is more likely to be a “near occasion of sin;” the other, not so much. Remember, this Troop is sponsored by a Catholic parish, all parties are Catholic, and there is presently no sex involved.

      That’s right. Everybody’s Catholic. Nobody’s having sex.

      Take your time.

    7. I’m not a “duuude”! Regardless…shoulda, woulda, coulda….I don’t need to take any time. Their parents are assured of an honorable courtship? Gay marriage? All hypotheticals. How about the honorable scout comes to realize he’s transgender? We do not live in the future; the future which is unknown does not dictate the present. All that exists is now and we should live in the now and not judge who will give into sin no matter how “near” anyone perceives “near” to be. Near today and maybe far, far tomorrow. One does not decide policy on someone’s fabricated fantasies of some else’s future choices.

    8. David L Alexander


      The quote was hypothetical. Be assured that is was not directed at you personally.

      What I have proposed here is not in the future, but exists in the present, and is confined to the acts themselves, with what I would hope is obvious concern for the spiritual welfare of those young men who experience confusion of identity, even in matters sexual. An excellent article on this subject was written by Father Paul Scalia a few years back …


      … and was hardly based on “someone’s fabricated fantasies.” These things will happen, because they are happening now, and because the forces that brought influence to bear on the BSA are doing so elsewhere in society.

      The Catholic Church simply cannot, and must not, cooperate in an objective moral evil. To say this is not a call to condemnation, but to conversion.

    9. David, I did not take the response personally, I just object to the word “dude”…,my hang-up,
      I did read the Father’s post and find that he does not know of what he speaks. I was a high school (7-12) public school for 30 years.
      (1) No one encourages students to identify as gay or straight. GSA exist so that kids understand and accept each others as person. Harvey Milk School and one other are exceptions and were created as safe havens for bullied gay and lesbian students.
      (2) Sexuality does not define identity, but it is an integral part of one’s identity.
      (3) Sexual orientation is not chosen but determined at birth or in early life…gay, straight, etc. simply is. Reparative Therapy is clinically bogus, and illegal in some states. You cannot change one’s identity (part of it)
      (4) The Scouts only changed the part of their membership policy which banned openly gay youth (youth who identified as such).
      (5) The Scouts changed nothing about their moral code which focuses on a chaste moral life; they do not teach sex ed; they still prohibit youth who identify as atheist or agnostic.

      Nothing above conflicts with Catholic moral teaching.

    10. David L Alexander


      Short of getting you and the good Father together, it would be difficult to compare anecdotes. I’m inclined to take him at his word. I’m also inclined to accept your contention that anecdotal evidence is sufficient for this discussion, and proceed to address each point:

      1) Whatever the intention of GSA, we are dealing with adolescents here, subject to the challenges of self-identity to which the Fr Scalia refers. That a particular “label” can provide for a comfort zone is not difficult to imagine. Whether a scout truly is gay, or is simply confused — again, as Father suggests — the Church needs to be free to provide the proper moral guidance, which she cannot do if impeded by an organization with whom her agents are cooperating.

      2) Given this as the case, it changes nothing that I have maintained. God created man as male and female. Their complementarity is integral to Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

      3) There is no evidence of a “gay gene,” but some are more inclined towards alternative identities, as both you and Father suggest. Nevertheless, anomalies in nature do not make the norm any less so. The change of membership policy gives the impression that such orientation is legitimate and properly ordered, which is acceptable to society at large, but not in a Catholic venue.

      4) As a scout commissioner for nearly ten years, I know exactly how the policy change is worded, and how it will be implemented. It was only after objections were raised by any number of religious confessions that the BSA backed away from its initial position, upon approval of the change, that religious institutions could affiliate with BSA and maintain their moral tenets under their own auspices.

      5) “The Scouts changed nothing about their moral code …” other than legitimizing that which most of Western civilization for most of its history has not legitimized. Making what was previously against anyone’s moral code appear acceptable renders your statement naive at the least, intellectually dishonest at the most.

      “Nothing above conflicts with Catholic moral teaching.” To the degree that the near occasion of sin is facilitated in any way, this is incorrect.

    11. David L Alexander

      Oh, we can agree on that. What follows is the reaction of my bishop. I am posting it here, rather than providing a link, as it is buried in another story:

      + + +

      The Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, made the following statement today in response to the Boy Scouts of America’s vote at its executive meeting in Grapevine, Texas to change its membership requirements:

      The clarity and courage of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) over many years in the face of considerable cultural, political and legal pressure to change its membership policy with regard to those who openly profess to live a homosexual lifestyle has been a testament to the virtues that scouting has successfully instilled in the young men who have benefited from its programs. I deeply regret that the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America, after years of principled and steadfast resolve, has now wavered in their commitment to the values that the scouting movement has traditionally embraced and taught.

      The Diocese of Arlington has been very pleased to host Boy Scout troops in the great majority of its parishes and to encourage our boys and young men to be a part of the scouting tradition. As Bishop, it has always been my firm hope that we might continue sponsorship of Boy Scout troops in a manner that is consistent with the Church’s teaching and mission.

      Sadly, yesterday’s decision forces us to prayerfully reconsider whether a continued partnership with the BSA will be possible.

      Going forward and before the new BSA policy takes effect, I will consult with those who moderate the Church’s relationship with the scouting movement locally and at the national level, including the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) and members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Through this consultative process we will determine whether our parishes can continue their relationship with the Boy Scouts. Overarching all of this will be our firm commitment to preserving the integrity of the Church’s teaching on the authentic meaning of human sexuality.

      As an organization founded on character and leadership, it is highly disappointing to see the Boy Scouts of America succumb to external pressures and political causes at the cost of its moral integrity. Additionally, it seems clear that the result of this policy change will likely not bring harmony, but rather continuing controversy, policy fights, and discord.

      I ask that parishioners in the Diocese of Arlington continue to pray for the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America, and all Boy Scouts, and that each of us may grow in our understanding of the gift of human sexuality and remain a steadfast witness to the truths of our faith.


    12. It is no surprise that the NCCS supported the decision of the BSA since it is an advisory body to the BSA. It is not an independent body.

  10. David L Alexander

    Trail Life USA is an essentially evangelical Protestant organization. Its statement of faith to which members must pledge is essentially “sola scriptura.” This is totally irreconcilable with Catholic teaching and practice. The Troops of Saint George, while very well-intentioned, faces a rather uncertain future, and is less than forthcoming regarding its inner workings.

    You omitted the most viable choice of all for Catholics in the scouting movement. The International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe – Federation of European Scouting, or UIGSE-FSE (http://uigse-fse.org/) was founded in 1956 by a group of Catholic Scoutmasters in France and Germany, now with affiliates in 24 countries, and granted status by the Holy See as “an association of pontifical right” since 2003. Their affiliate in Canada and the United States is the Federation of North American Explorers (http://fneexplorers.com/).

    1. I am currently learning a little about the
      Federation of North American Explorers (FNE).
      It appears to be very similar to what the Troops of St. George want to
      do. If this is correct, why are some
      Catholics creating a new organization (i.e. the Troops of St. George) rather
      than simply starting more FNE troops? Do
      I not understand something about the FNE that makes it undesirable? Is the FNE actually what it states it is?

    2. David L Alexander

      Dr Marshall has been asked this on a number of occasions, and to the best of my knowledge, has not provided an explanation.

      When I informed him of the existence of FNE, he asked “Is it co-ed?” I explained to him that, while they had programs for both boys and girls, the activities were not co-ed. Except for asking how many boys in the United States currently belonged to FNE, he did not inquire further.

      You may email me privately if you wish to know more.

    3. David and TSK, I contacted the USA FNE and was told that you do not simply start an unit. They will court you for about 2 years to see if you live up to their standards.
      David and Chris, I am working with many Catholics including Priests who have not seen issues within the TLUSA statement of faith that is irreconcilable with Catholic teaching. Would you please give an example of such?

    4. David L Alexander

      “I contacted the USA FNE and was told that you do not simply start an unit. They will court you for about 2 years to see if you live up to their standards.”

      I’ve been in contact with them, and so have others who are starting units. They are known for taking things slow, based on their experiences with other nations, and the lack of intermediaries such as a commissioner service. I do know that. But this remark is a new one on me. Again, please contact me privately.

      As to the TLUSA Statement of Faith, it’s not what it says, but what it doesn’t say. “… We believe the Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God.” Long story short, to an evangelical Protestant, authority stops there. To a Catholic, it does not. Also, in many parts of the country, especially the South, TLUSA appears to be the only alternative.

      Maybe it’s just me, but I have other issues with TLUSA. Their advancement program bears more resemblance to contemporary Girl Scouting than to traditional Boy Scouting. I can’t imagine former Boy Scouts being up for that, but somehow enough of them (or their parents) are being sold on it.

    5. David, it is not a Catholic organization. It does not say many things. It has to thread the narrow line that connects many Christian groups. Notice it does require belief in the Trinity (no LDS, or Unitarians), it requires a belief that sex is reserved for marriage (and marriage is between one man and one woman).
      For that matter BSA does not require or even acknowledge that the Bible has any particular level of authority. It allows you to accept or reject any “divine” book or authority you want.
      And not being “Catholic” only, TLUSA allows Parishes to Charter and still reach out to the community.

    6. David L Alexander

      No, Erik, it isn’t Catholic, but neither is the YMCA, an early backer of BSA, and for much of BSA’s history, Catholic boys had to belong to Catholic units. I’m old enough to remember not being allowed to attend YMCA day camp because I would have to join prayer services with Protestants. Now, times and attitudes have changed, but the differences have not, and most pastors now aren’t as old as I am. Nor do they have many options.

      I don’t understand the comparison with BSA, which makes no claims to be the least bit sectarian. TLUSA advertises itself as a “Christian” organization, which in this country, for most of its history, is a euphemism for “Protestant.”

      It doesn’t sound like much of a problem — yet.

      And given the choice between a non-Catholic organization and a Catholic one (with canonical status), all other things being equal, which do you think is a better choice for a Catholic parish?

    7. David: If we wait however long FNE wants us to, vs starting a TLUSA unit, we are more likely to keep the base of youth we had from when we chartered BSA.
      If the families have issues with TLUSA, we can start talks with FNE and work towards that.
      One criteria our Pastor gave us was that we can have non-Catholic members join reach out to the community).
      And remember that BSA has the blessings of the USCCB.

    8. David L Alexander


      First of all, FNE does not limit its membership to Catholics, but it does make clear to non-Catholics who join as to the nature of their program.

      Second, there is little basis to your claim, based on experience with other units, that FNE has some sort of two-year waiting period. Indeed, their own representatives have no recollection of a conversation with you, but you knew that already, and your response to a request to explain that claim … well, it wasn’t much.

      And third, as far as the USCCB giving BSA its “blessing,” such is based on a previous status quo. Nothing definitive has come from the bishops conference itself with regard to the new membership policy. Individual bishops have issued statements, most of which are lukewarm at best, while reminding Catholics of the norms of behavior regarding human sexuality.

      I have dealt with this subject at some length in my writings, and will not go into it here. But I can tell you the words “near occasion of sin” were used more than once.

    9. David: as I am merely one member of a committee that was looking into groups to replace BSA, my answer about FNE is more than “wasn’t much”. I have read most of the Bishops responses to BSA, and not one said leave BSA. The USCCB delegate to NCCS gave his endorsement which added to the non-response to BSA means there less than a slim chance that USCCB will remove its endorsement of BSA.

    10. David L Alexander


      First of all, BSA “wasn’t much” in the 1910s. In fact, it was almost overtaken by competing organizations in the first few years. FNE was founded in 1999, in response to the implementation of “inclusive” policies by Scouts Canada (which has lost most of their membership since then). Like most independent scouting associations, FNE has no paid staff. Also, like other independent scouting associations in Canada (and there are quite a few), the beginnings were very slow, very small, and were subject to defections over policy matters. Much of the initial growing pains have been overcome. This time last year, there were two units; one in Canada, one in the USA. There are now at least ten, and several more in formation. Some of these are composed of expatriates from the BSA, but most are started by those with no prior experience as Scout leaders.

      Furthermore, the statements from individual bishops, while still supportive of the BSA, are not exactly ringing endorsements. Virtually every single one of them states the provision that the BSA continue to support units that uphold Catholic values. This includes that which the Church teaches regarding sexual morality (which does not end with “dignity and respect,” by the way). In the context of events, this is obviously an expression of moral reservation, however tepid. Stopping short of a complete disassociation may uphold the status quo for now, but an endorsement? Hardly.

      And it will be even less so, in the event that the BSA expands its new policy to include adults irrespective of sexual orientation (which by definition is more than just same-sex attraction). A number of councils — New York City, several in the northeast, Twin Cities in Minnesota, and elsewhere — have already stated an intention to expand it to adults, thus defying national policy. The incoming National President of BSA was Secretary of Defense when the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy was rescinded in the military. After a two-year term, he is likely to be followed (and such has been reported openly) by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who has already pledged to work towards a more “inclusive” membership policy.

      Yes, for the time being, the BSA may be a viable program under Catholic auspices, but not without serious reservations, and if what happens elsewhere in society is any indication, not for long.

    11. “For the time being”, get real David. GSA has been out for 15 – 20 years and still has the blessings of USCCB. What gives you any hope that BSA has less of life span than that?
      Also how do you jump from my comment wasn’t much to BSA wasn’t much? Are you comparing my comment to BSA?

    12. David L Alexander

      “GSA has been out for 15 – 20 years and still has the blessings of USCCB.”

      Speaking of getting real, it’s not GSA, but GSUSA.

      Secondly, there is no comparison, as GSUSA operates differently from BSA, in terms of relationships between national and local levels, as well as between troops and their sponsors (which are two reasons that talks of a merger in the 1980s fell apart, by the way). It is possible that not one dime of cookie sales of a Girl Scout troop that meets at a particular parish will ever go to Planned Parenthood. (When you actually talk to Girl Scout leaders, as I have, you find out these things.) Yes, the American bishops still work with GSUSA (which is not the same thing as having their “blessing”), but that is changing, as pastors around the country are slowly disassociating parishes from GSUSA, in favor of (in most cases) AHG.

      In case you haven’t noticed, these things don’t always start from the top. Every single reform in the history of the Church has begun at the ground level, and with the laity.

      “Also how do you jump from my comment wasn’t much to BSA wasn’t much?”

      By reading what you wrote.

      And whether it’s a fair comparison or not, the fact of the matter is that the BSA’s decision has provoked far more reaction from the bishops than did that of the GSUSA. And there is nothing — absolutely nothing — that suggests an unqualified (mind the use of that caveat) endorsement of the BSA decision. Every single statement from every single bishop has underscored the need to uphold Catholic values. If this weren’t to be a potential problem, why would any of them even have to release a statement, much less make an issue of that?

    13. And not being “Catholic” only, TLUSA allows Parishes to Charter and still reach out to the community.

      Could you clarify what you mean here? Do you mean that parishes that charter with TLUSA can reach out to the community or that TLUSA itself can reach out to the community? What would prevent a Catholic association from reaching out to the community?

    14. Perginator: How can a group that only allows Catholics to join reach out to the community in the same way that a group that allows non-Catholics to join? TLUSA allows a Catholic Church (or organization KofC) to charter, but also reach out to the non-Catholic community for members.

    15. Mr. Garvey: I apologize for misunderstanding you. I did not realize you were using the phrase “reach out to the community” in that sense. Our community service projects have included things like bringing food to the homeless and visiting the elderly in nursing homes.

      For the record, however, non-Catholic Christian youth whose families accept our Catholic identity can join FNE.

    16. Mr. Garvey, Could you tell me who you spoke with from the FNE? I typically speak with all those who would start new groups, and don’t have a record of any correspondence with you. We do ask that our new groups live up to a certain standard, however, the group can develop according to the work that they do to make it happen. We have groups that have been installed within a couple of months from the time they start the process. We are very interactive with our new groups, and provide support and all resources and program materials that they need to be successful. As we are an all volunteer movement, we are doing our best and want to retain the identity and integrity of our program as we grow.

    17. Chris: my friend Ellen talked to a Christopher back in June. The two years must have come from a conversation as I do not see that in the text of the one Email that was FWD to me.

    18. Erik: Thanks. Yes, I remember her, and unfortunately didn’t get a response to my reply to her initial email, or have the opportunity to speak with her by phone. I do make myself available to speak with everyone that inquires to go over the process with them, answer their questions, etc. We don’t ask anyone to wait, and completely understand that what may seem a short amount of time to an adult can be an eternity to a child. But I did state that we are deliberate with how we grow. It pains us to see children and families leaving this type of activity because they feel there is no place to go. We are here to provide a vibrant, fully developed Catholic program and movement. We promise our new groups that we will give them everything they need to succeed and haven’t yet failed on that promise. We don’t have professionals that get paid to do this, like other organizations, and we keep true to Baden-Powell’s ideal that this is a movement, not a corporation.

      Also, as Mr. Alexander states above, we do allow non Catholics to join, but the program itself is never changed or compromised. We also see this as an opportunity for evangelization. We’ve seen conversions of children and whole families within the FNE, so can say by experience that this method is effective.

      As I mentioned, though some groups do take longer, that hasn’t been the standard. We do have many that wanted to start groups, we worked with them and nothing had come of it, but that was not because of any deficiency on our end. The groups are supported at their pace. Some have been very organized and were having gatherings right away and even were officially installed within a couple of months. As our first inquiries for new groups (after our first US group, that is) were received about a year ago, and in that time have expanded to a number of new groups with more in various stages of development, it can be verified that no one has waited two years to start with FNE.

      Thanks again for your reply and the chance to clear up any misconceptions about our movement.

  11. Congrats on the baby boy Joanna! I hope all is well.
    We have never been into scouting but have recently excepted the invitation from a few of our homeschooling pals to go on a several day backpacking trip. We hope to make these trips common throughout the year. Maybe three or four substantial , long memorable trips a year.
    As for the Protestant group. We have had mixed results with similar groups. Very much depends on the local flavor. A good long get to know you talk with the right people is in order. Heck, you guys or converts , you know what to look for.

  12. Trail Life is a Protestant program. All of its leaders must ascribe to the statement of values of the founders and impart it to the children. For a Catholic like me, this is a deal-breaker. Not even the BSA forced us to do that.

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