‘Catholic vs. Catholic’ in Scout dispute

Earlier this month, I complained about a one-sided Associated Press report on the culture wars and the Girl Scouts of the USA.

This week, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., reported on the same subject in a much more evenhanded way. In fact, unlike the AP, the Memphis paper treated the issue as one with a variety of voices — pro, con and in the middle — deserving of a fair hearing.

Imagine that.

Here’s the top of the 1,200-word report:

The tenuous relationship between Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. and U.S. Catholic bishops is having an impact on local parishes.

While the bishops are reviewing complaints that some of the 100-year-old organization’s scouting programs and affiliations conflict with church teachings on contraception and abortion, at least three Memphis Catholic parishes are reconsidering their own ties to scouting.

Monsignor John McArthur of St. Louis Catholic Church is asking Girl Scout troop leaders in his parish to switch to the Christian-based American Heritage Girls (AHG) scouting program this fall. With 100 girls in a half-dozen troops, St. Louis is the second-largest program among the eight Catholic parishes that offer scouting in Shelby County.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Diocese of Memphis says two other parishes are looking at either dropping the Girl Scouts or adding another scouting group. Holy Rosary Catholic Church, the largest local Catholic program with about 120 girls, isn’t one of them. Rev. James ‘ Martell said he is withholding any action on the Girl Scouts. “We’re waiting for the bishops,” he said.

Now, if I were the editor, I’d probably ask the writer to consider a few active verbs. Just in the section above, I counted at least seven passive constructions involving “is” or “are.” I don’t think balanced journalism requires boring writing.

In fact, I wondered if the paper buried the actual lede all the way at the end:

At St. Louis, some scout leaders say they support the change.

“It’s just a different program. We are not bashing or banning the Girl Scouts,” said Vickie Griffith, a troop leader for 10th- and 11th-grade girls who said she prefers AHG. “It definitely is much closer to Catholic beliefs. There’s no support or controversy for groups that support abortion.”

Other scout leaders are not happy about the shift.

“Am I committing a sin by remaining a Girl Scout? As a Catholic, I am very frustrated about this,” said troop leader Melissa Krylowicz. “It felt like Catholic vs. Catholic. I was being looked at as not being a good Catholic.”

Krylowicz, 41, plans to lead a Girl Scout troop of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Louis this fall. She is working with the diocese to draft an official statement on the matter. “I don’t want another Catholic group to experience this. It’s really parishioners against parishioners.”

Why not put the real human faces on the controversy way up top? Why not go into a little more detail with the ordinary Catholics on each side of the dispute? Why not report on their specific beliefs, perspectives and philosophies on Scouting?

But I’m picking nits (not for the first time).

The real news here — from a GetReligion perspective — is that some quality newspapers still know how to produce solid, unbiased news stories on hot-button issues. Kudos to The Commercial Appeal.

Image via Shutterstock

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Tim

    One very important nuance missing from this story is the fact that the Girl Scouts of the USA and “scouting” are not synonymous terms, which is how the reporter uses them in the piece.

    Not only is GSUSA not the totality of scouting and a completely separate organization from the Boy Scouts, the originators of the scouting movement, but they are unrepresentative and often run counter to the values of scouting in general.

    Lord Baden-Powell founded the scouting movement to use outdoor experiences to teach traditional values to modern, urban youth. This is very different from the progressive agenda that characterizes the GSUSA on the national level.

  • Bill

    Tim is correct. I went to the AHG website and at its Principles are very similar to the ones in my Boy Scout’s Handbook from the late 1950s.

    I agree with Bobby, though. This is a nicely done story.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby Ross Jr.

    Tim and Bill,

    I didn’t see that missing nuance. Did you read the entire story or just the part I excerpted? For example, there’s this paragraph in the story:

    American Heritage Girls was founded in the mid-1990s as a Christian alternative to Girl Scouts. The organization, endorsed by Dobson and Boy Scouts of America, has 20,000 members in 45 states and six countries, including about 1,000 girls in 16 troops in Tennessee. All AHG counselors must be Christians, but members can come from other faiths.

  • Tim in Cleveland

    I didn’t see any passive constructions in that paragraph you mentioned. While “is” and “are” are used frequently, the verb phrases are still in present tense active constructions.

    For instance, “the relationship… is having an impact” is active. “The relationship is being impacted” would be a passive form. (same with “are reviewing” [active] rather than “being reviewed” [passive], etc.)

    I agree though that the excessive use of the auxiliary verb can be grating.

    And I also apologize for being a “grammar nazi”… such people are insufferable.

  • Bill

    Bobby, I did read the whole article. Then I went to the AHG website. My point is that the AHG philosophy seems very close to what I experienced in the Boy Scouts back in the ’50s.

    Perusing a Girl Scouts handbook from 1955, I noticed that it is very similar to the AHG. I don’t know what is in the current Girl Scout Handbook.


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