Sometimes I wonder whether the Catholic bishops in the U.S. stay up late trying to provide me material for my blogs. I guess I should thank them. Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann certainly deserves a shout out, since I often turn to him for inspiration.
The Archbishop has decided to cut off any ties to – wait for it – the Girl Scouts. Naumann believes the Scouts put evil thoughts into the minds of your young women – you know, feminist thoughts. He worries that scouting permits tender Catholic womanhood to be “misled” by “secular culture.” And he’s concerned that the Girl Scouts are too closely linked to advocates for contraception and abortion.
The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops has been suspicious of Girl Scouts for a while, but most bishops have not actively messed with parish troops. Naumann is one of the few exceptions, at least for now.
In his statement explaining the severing ties with the Girl Scouts, Naumann refers to hundreds of hours of discussion with Girl Scout leaders and Catholic parents, and intense scrutiny of scouting materials. He makes the Girl Scouts sound like a subversive group, out to turn innocent young girls into brazen hussies. I cannot believe the archbishop and his staff did not have better things to do with their time.
It is interesting that the bishops demonstrated a lot more tolerance for the Boy Scouts, when the organization rightly decided to permit openly gay scout leaders. But strong women, particularly those who have their own views on sexual ethics, are far more threatening to this celibate male power structure.
Yes, the Girl Scout organization in this country is affiliated with an international organization that supports Planned Parenthood. I guess it’s too much to expect that the bishops might actually recognize the vital role Planned Parenthood plays in providing crucial health care services to millions of poor women, including Catholic women in their own parishes.
But an indirect link to Planned Parenthood is irrelevant, anyway. Girl Scout officials make very clear that the organization takes no position on any hot button social issues. It’s hardly a place where you would go to find controversy.
I must confess I was a Girl Scout. Although the only thing I remember learning was how to make a sit-upon out of newspaper strips, and how to tie sturdy knots. Perhaps I missed the meeting where we discussed Simone de Beauvoir and IUDs.
My daughter was a Brownie, and I found little pernicious in her troop. I believe they went on a field trip to a local news outlet, where, she was proud to tell her father and me, she heard “grownup stuff” being reported by the on-air news anchors. Back then, we did not allow her to listen to the news. She also had a wonderful time going to Seaworld Ohio. But I was not on the field trip with her. Perhaps they gave the kids on the bus sample contraceptives.
Just in case the Girl Scouts I remembered had become a launching pad for Lena Dunham wannabes, I surfed its website.
I read stories of Girl Scouts who were finding ways to welcome refugees into their communities; a senior scout who led fellow scouts in a successful effort to create a hiking trail near Toledo, and a young woman who used her own struggles with anxiety to build a safe place for fellow students to decompress in her school.
Far from disparaging religious faith, the organization actually encourages its members to adapt their faith values to scouting, suggesting, for example, that a scout find a woman of faith in her religious community to explore how she can better live her faith as a scout.
The web site did allude to the Girl Scout Law – perhaps the girls had to swear allegiance to the National Organization for Women and pledge to vote Democratic? But it seems like the law reflects gospel values, emphasizing kindness, fairness, honesty and respect for authority.
Naumann is ordering his parishes to end their alliance with Girl Scouts and join up with American Heritage Girls. Look, there likely is nothing wrong with this group, except its incredible insularity. Instead of welcoming girls of all and no faiths and preaching the value of inclusiveness, American Heritage Girls is in a defensive crouch: the Christian girls hunker down and mingle with one another. God forbid they should break bread with a young woman who is Muslim or Jewish or atheist. That is just what Catholic women need – another way to be isolated from the larger world.
Lately, I’ve noticed a number of bishops are getting a little chubby. So it’s probably a good idea for them to lay off the Girl Scout cookies. And while they’re at it, they should lay off the Girl Scouts, too.
Celia Viggo Wexler is the author of Catholic Women Confront Their Church: Stories of Hurt and Hope (Rowman & Littlefield).