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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 18, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 20
Catholic Bishops target Girl Scouts USA
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Catholic Bishops target Girl Scouts USA

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched what the Associated Press describes as an 'official inquiry' into the organizational affiliations of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.

In a letter dated March 28, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Indiana, head of the conference's Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, said he wanted to identify and resolve all the outstanding issues the church has with the Scouts.

Rhoades is best known for his vocal criticism of the University of Notre Dame when it awarded President Obama an honorary degree in 2009.

The AP obtained a copy of Rhoades' letter to his fellow committee members and reported on it May 10.

The letter said that 'important questions still remain and need to be examined.'

Specific areas of concern were not spelled out, however, and church officials declined to elaborate. They said the letter simply seeks further clarification.

'There had been some complaints about the Scouts, and the bishops couldn't turn a deaf ear,' said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokesperson for the bishops. 'So they want to know, what's the story?'

The Girl Scouts are a secular organization, but many troops are sponsored by Catholic parishes and therefore must remain in the bishops' good graces or find other means of support.

The Girl Scouts organization said it expects all the questions to be answered to the bishops' satisfaction.

'We've had a strong relationship with the Catholic Church for 98 years,' said Girl Scouts spokesperson Michelle Tompkins. 'We don't expect it to change.'

As with the nuns' group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the bishops have a long list of complaints against the Girl Scouts, most of them arising from organizational relationships the Scouts have cultivated.

Religious conservatives have long objected to the Girl Scouts' connections with groups like Doctors Without Borders, the Sierra Club, and Oxfam International, which support family planning and emergency contraception.

They also do not approve of the Scouts' global umbrella group, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which allows girls and women to participate in what it calls 'an environment where they can freely and openly discuss issues of sex and sexuality.'

They do not approve of the fact that the Girl Scouts - unlike the Boy Scouts - do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and they are not happy that one troop in Colorado last year welcomed a Transgender scout.

Another recent flashpoint was a Marie Claire magazine feature on Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez, which was promoted alongside a sex-advice column.

The threat that Catholic churches might withdraw support from the Girl Scouts organization is very real. Earlier this year, St. Timothy's parish in Chantilly, Virginia, ousted 12 troops, affecting 115 girls.

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