Since the Boy Scouts of America’s policy change to prohibit denial of same-sex attracted youth members, some parents are trading in their boys’ badges for alternatives.
Some are seeking scout-like organizations with a Christian focus in the Denver and Colorado Springs dioceses after the national BSA’s vote in May to permit same-sex attracted membership. A ban on same-sex attracted leaders was maintained.
After the BSA policy change, the Denver Archdiocese announced its continued support of parish-chartered scouting organizations with the caveat of a steadfast obedience to Church teaching on sexuality.
In its May press release, the archdiocese stated no youth should be denied membership to a troop based on sexual orientation or preference.
“The Church agrees that no group should reduce a person to their sexual orientation or proclivity,” it stated. “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.”
One alternative that arose is the Troops of St. George, founded by Canterbury Tales blogger and author Taylor Marshall of Texas. Some 2,500 people have showed interest in starting a troop with the Catholic organization, including Our Lady of Mount Carmel Latin Rite Parish in Littleton.
“This is an opportunity to continue this 100-year-old tradition of scouting and to infuse it with a Catholic ethos,” Marshall told the Denver Catholic Register.
The organization was renamed Troops of St. George after the patron saint of scouts often depicted in military garb holding a lance.
Marshall said he founded the exclusively-Catholic troop to continue the tradition of an outdoor-based program focused on character building and the sacraments.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s troop captain, Nicholas Trandem, said the prospect of an international, integrally Catholic scouting movement appealed to him.
“Without being a Sunday school or catechesis program, boys are taught how to live the holy faith in all aspects of their lives through a program of outdoor activity … that is totally infused with Catholicism,” he wrote.
The troop held its first meetings in August after Marshall made a presentation in June.
The 15-member troop participated in a knot-tying competition and dedication ceremony before the Eucharist during its first meeting. The troop has two patrols, each with its own colors, motto, patron saint and dedication prayer, he wrote.
BSA representatives maintain that its scouting program allows churches to charter according to the tenets of its faith. Boy Scouts may be used as a vehicle by which Catholic parishes or organizations can engage and catechize youths, said Joseph Farrell, director of field service for the Denver Area Council.
“This is a program the Catholic Church can use,” Farrell said about the Boy Scouts. “It’s not about becoming the best camper that you can be. It’s about community service. It’s about growing and developing people and their character, their values. What better way than (through) the people who are closest to the youth, and that’s in their church.”
Farrell, who is a parishioner at Light of the World Church in Littleton, said charters allow Catholic scouts to participate in religious emblems and seasonal retreats. The Denver Archdiocese’s Boy Scout activities include catechesis, field trips to places like Mother Cabrini Shrine, Scripture studies, studying the rosary and volunteering. The Catholic Committee on Scouting also holds an annual recognition Mass for troops when religious emblems and patches are awarded.
In the Denver area, there are 58 chartered-units (which includes packs, troops and crews) with 1,423 youths and 592 adult members run by a Catholic church, school or the Knights of Columbus.
Farrell said BSA’s decision maintained that there is no room for sexual behavior in scouting. Its decision to allow same-sex attracted youths is not inconsistent with Church teaching.
“I think the Church and Jesus would say let the youths come and let’s help them,” Farrell said. “We should not turn them away. What better ministry can we do in the Church than the Boy Scouts to help these young people through their discernment?”
Parents like Ian Rutherford of Immaculate Conception Parish in Colorado Springs said his family has a proud tradition of scouting. He was a Boy Scout and has two boys in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
“I think that scouting is good for boys. I think boys need to get out with their dads and do stuff,” he said.
He is considering alternatives and is working to form a new troop at his parish.
In addition to the Troops of St. George, other alternatives have emerged including the Christian scout organization Trail Life USA, based in Florida. It grew out of the On My Honor initiative and will launch in January. It held its inaugural convention Sept. 6 in Nashville.
The national organization, whose members are called “trailmen,” will accept those of all faith traditions but leaders must sign an agreement to follow its Christian tenets.
Other organizations already in existence include the international fraternity Columbian Squires sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Fraternus mentorship program and the national Conquest club. The alternative for young girls is the American Heritage Girls.