To God and My Country: Why We're Not Quitting Scouts

May 27, 2013 | 0 comments

On the wall next to my desk is a small framed piece of calligraphy, a gift from a friend with a talented hand, with this passage from Psalm 127:

Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons of one's youth.

Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! 

He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

The occasion of the gift was the birth of my second male child, and it was not just commemorative but prophetic, for since then God has graced us with three more “arrows” for a total of five sons (part of a set with two tough daughters). Accordingly, my house throbs with “boy energy”—as one tactful relative, whose quiet and immaculate home contains three quiet and immaculate girls, once put it instead of saying “dirt, farts, and explosion sounds.”

Boy energy naturally seeks out boy activity, and along with sports, Legos, and poking dead things with a stick, in my family as in many others that has meant the Boy Scouts of America. We've been involved with the BSA for over a decade, and although the cost in time—driving, volunteering, training, activi-tating—has been sometimes onerous, we've stuck with it because we admire scouting's core values and want our sons to enjoy and learn from them. On top of that, belonging to a parish-sponsored pack or troop adds a Catholic component to scouting's basic pledge to honor God. Scout Masses and prayers, medal programs such as Parvuli Dei and Ad Altare Dei, and volunteerism that emphasizes the corporal works of mercy all make scouting a harmonious meeting place for God and Country, supernatural and natural.

Among Catholic fathers I wasn't alone, then, in holding my breath while the BSA recently revisited its longstanding policy of excluding avowed homosexual scouts and scout leaders. The radical-feminist cookie cult also known as the Girl Scouts was already a lost cause—were we going to be forced, as a matter of conscience or prudence or both, to part ways with the Boy Scouts, too?

Well, after the BSA revealed its half-a-loaf solution last Friday (that being the traditional time to announce something you want buried, and this before a holiday weekend to boot), lifting the ban on homosexual scouts but maintaining the ban on homosexual leaders and reiterating its principle that youth sexual activity of any sort is contrary to Scout values... I don't know that the answer is clear.

For some it certainly is. The Catholic blogosphere and social media circles have been alight with criticism of the BSA's “cave,” and with vows to quit scouting or to start alternative Catholic scout groups. The main critiques can be categorized as follows:

  • The BSA betrayed its identity by caving to homosexualist pressure.

  • Openly, “avowedly” homosexual scouts constitute a physical and moral danger to other boys in intimate quarters.

  • This capitulation is but the start of things to come, with gay activists banging the drums even louder now for the BSA to admit homosexual leaders too, and atheist groups now emboldened in their fight to eliminate belief in God as a membership requirement.

These are all compelling arguments. As regards the first, I have sympathy for the BSA: We have all seen how, seemingly overnight, approval of homosexuality and same-sex marriage has gone from far-out minority notion to litmus test for participation in civil society. Gay activism is ruthless, and with lawsuits piling up, corporate sponsors bailing, and politicians flapping their gums and rattling their fountain pens, one can't readily blame national Scout leadership for trying to navigate a middle course here. I won't condemn them for failing to muster extraordinary moral courage.

I agree that, everything else being equal, young boys are in greater danger of sexual predation while camping or hiking with scouts who are sexually attracted to other boys than with those who are not. (This seems so abundantly obvious, even before considering whether boys suffering from the disorder of same-sex attraction are also more likely to engage in aggressive sexual behavior, that it's nothing short of astounding how we have decided that this concern is in fact a symptom of bigoted hysteria and thus Shall Not Be Addressed.) That said, it seems to me that we parents can screen for this problem ourselves. There may well come a time when it will be a hate crime to remove our sons from a Scout pack or troop because it contains an avowed homosexual, but until such a time we can protect our sons that way.

We can exercise similar prudence in watching for the slippery slope. Maybe the BSA has opened the door to its self-destruction, or maybe it's just cutting off a limb to save the body. One thing I can say for sure: If good Christian families abandon scouting now, the slippery slope is more likely to come to pass. If we stay, then maybe we can provide the moral energy, and the affirmation of scouting principles, needed to fight off future challenges.

I will add that it's disheartening how in issuing its decision the BSA has tacitly affirmed a tenet of gay activism: that even young teen or pre-teen boys can have a “homosexual orientation” that's an objective personal datum, like being brown-eyed or German-Irish. Rather than challenge this semantic construct, the Boy Scouts have played right into it—and so played right into the stealth (or not so stealth) movements to criminalize reparative therapy, establish “sexual rights” for children over and against their parents' will, and weaken age of consent laws.

To cement their cultural victory, gay activists must a) eliminate—by convincing or coercion—all doubt in the popular consciousness that homosexuality is a natural inborn trait, and b) foster conditions that mitigate or even reverse the age-old cultural forces that steer adolescents towards sexual normalcy, creating instead environments maximally supportive of sexual experimentation and “coming out.” Sadly, the language of the BSA announcement unwittingly plays right into both of those aims.

But at this time I'm still intent on sticking with the Scouts, on believing that this was a calculated evasive maneuver and not an indicator of an ideological sea change. Since the only way to preserve Boy Scout principles is to fight for them, I'm not yet ready to take my arrows and quiver and go home.

Todd Aglialoro is the director of publishing for Catholic Answers Press. He studied theology at Franciscan University, the University of Fribourg, and the International Theological Institute. A New York native, Todd now lives in the San Diego area with his wife, seven children, and one small bird.

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