Catholic Scouts shun lawmakers over ethics

The pastor of a Catholic church in Parkville has barred the parish’s Boy Scout troop from associating with elected officials who do not support Catholic moral teaching.

Monsignor James P. Farmer, who came to St. Ursula Catholic Church last year, has told Boy Scout Troop 26 that it cannot let elected officials who supported stem cell research legislation participate in Eagle Scout award ceremonies, nor can the troop visit the legislators at their offices at the State House.

“We were told that no elected official could participate that did not have a record of being pro-life,” said Doug Marquess, the troop’s former committee chairman, who was asked to step down last month after serving three years because of his objections.

The decision has sparked frustration among some members of the troop – and has prompted the Archdiocese Of Baltimore to begin considering how the guidelines should be applied.

“This issue just doesn’t belong with the kids,” Marquess said. “This is about the kids learning to be good citizens and having fun.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

3 comments on “Catholic Scouts shun lawmakers over ethics

  1. Knapsack says:

    Mr. Milham, towards the end of the article, does a fine job of explaining a little known feature of the Scouting program. Units — Cub packs, Scout troops, or Venture crews — are “chartered” to their sponsoring organization, often but not always a church. None of what the priest has done applies to “Boy Scouts,” just the troops (i don’t see Cub Scouting, the younger division of the program, mentioned here) that are chartered to, and hence affilliated with the parishes he’s responsible for. Baptist churches may choose to have no females in primary leadership, as do all LCMS or LDS/Mormon troops, and if you don’t like that, you can go to a unit often just down the road, sponsored by a Methodist or Disciples of Christ church.

    The point is that Msgr. Farmer is not doing something strange or unusual. Some of the leaders in the unit who predate his arrival have different feelings, but if they cannot effect the leadership decisions of the chartering body (which, as i understand Catholicism, he probably can’t), then he needs to move on to a different Scout troop.

    My own personal distaste for the long-standing practice of inviting political leaders to the presentation of the major achievement award in Scouting, the rank of Eagle Scout, is based on the frequency of their remarks being a brief proforma acknowledgement of the young person’s efforts, and their parents’, and then a virtual campaign speech. Some don’t, but most do. The privilege is theirs, and the honor bestowed by their presence is minimal in the context of the day. I applaud Msgr. Farmer for his reading of the situation and his decision, which is perfectly in line with Scouting policy and procedure, while Scouting has officially no policy of its own on the subject. The point is that we provide the context and the program for character training and leadership development, and the unit leaders determine the specific teachings to be shared.

  2. Br. Michael says:

    I suspect this will become more prevelant as secular organizations continue to withdraw their support for the Boy Scouts.

  3. John S says:

    I agree with Knapsack that Scouting needs to be very cautious about involving any politicians in Scouting, because to many politicians, Scouting is just another forum in which they can promote themselves. It does Scouting no favors to tie it to any politicians or political party. I will say, however, that there are some political figures like Gerald Ford (an Eagle Scout) and others who have supported Scouting in a legitimate way without using it for self-promotion (just as, for example, President Ford was a faithful Christian, who specifically refused to use his faith for political advantage).

    In this particular case, it may be within their rights as the chartering organization, but this seems to me like heavy-handed micro-managing by the RC parish and archdiocese. Unless the troop is getting too closely involved in partisan politics of whatever sort, I don’t see any need for formal guidelines and policies on something that should handled by troop leadership.

    Scouting is a non-sectarian but theistic organization, and a patriotic but non-political organization. This is a difficult line to walk these days with everyone trying to drag them into the culture wars as a political football. Unfortunately, this kind of foolishness only hurts Scouting and the boys who would benefit from being involved in it.