I hope to comment on the Boy Scouts soon…

…but won’t have time for a bit since I’m trying to edit two books. However, Ed Peters does his normal sturdy and sensible reasoning and that’s pretty good too. Find his comments here and here.

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  • Paul Williams

    My initial reaction was the same as Mr. Peters, and I felt comfortable in reassuring myself that the new BSA policy made the necessary Catholic distinction between inclination and behavior.

    This is what the BSA was hoping for I guess – to split the baby and have each side interpret the decision in the most favorable possible terms. Catholics could console themselves that they are only prohibiting “sexual orientation discrimination” while homosexualists could see this as an “acceptance of gay youths”.

    However, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m having trouble coming to peace with this decision. The main issue hinges around the difference between (1) a boy experiencing same sex attraction and (2) one who identifies himself as an “open and avowed” homosexual. The old (now abandoned) BSA policy prohibited membership based on (2) but not (1), so to claim the change only affects (1) is a bit naive.

    Can one really openly define himself as a homosexual without promoting an acceptance of the behaviors our culture associates with “being gay”? There is also a vast expanse of behavior between “feeling same-sex attraction” and “homosexual behavior”. Teenage boy scouts would not be allowed to sleep in tents with girls, so would “gay scouts”? A teenage boy scout would not be expelled for holding hands and kissing a girl in public, so would “gay scouts” need to be permitted to act the same? A 17-year-old boy scout would not be pun in a position of authority over 15-year-old girls, so would “gay scouts” be restricted similarly?

    This article I think does a good job at treating the issue:

    • elle

      Oh…that article. I received it by email with in minutes. They were trying to use that to get scouts out of our parish. I’m not sure, I think that while Father has the best of intentions, he equates scouting with fun and camping. I also know a lot of (parish) leadership thought scouting was nothing other than fun and camping UNTIL this policy change was announced. THEN it became a matter of character building and helping boys become men. In the end, with 38,000 units, they’ll di exactly what the LDS church says. And they said they would accept this position. So if you want change for the better, get an active unit going in your parish. And then support it like you mean it.

      Too bad the grown ups didn’t care beforehand.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Thanks for posting these posts of Peters. I will admit to a negative knee-jerk reaction when I heard the news, but I am happy to let cooler heads prevail upon me. Bishop Jarrell of the diocese of Lafayatte had a good statement on the matter, which references the NCCS: http://www.theind.com/news/indreporter/14015-bishop-jarrell-new-policy-not-an-obstacle-to-support-of-boy-scouts

    • Keep in mind that the NCCS is an advisory body — to the BSA. In fact, their name is a registered trademark of the BSA. So it stands to reason that the NCCS would not be opposed to BSA policy, at least not in public.

  • Imp the Vladaler

    I fail to see the big deal here. When I was growing up, it was pretty much universally acknowledged that scouting was gay.

    • kenofken

      Come on now, we weren’t “gay gay”. It was more like English Boarding School Gay or Skull and Bones Hazing Gay. Not an orientation as much as the mic-next-to amplifier feedback screech of testosterone when unchecked by healthy female interaction, good sense or supervision. Any guy admitting to real gayness was promptly served a group beating, usually initiated by the “straight” guy who had taken an unusual interest in wrestling and physical pranks with the victim until that point.

      Besides, if scouting had been truly gay, they would have come up with some much snazzier uniforms! The stuff we wore looked like Mussolini’s train conductors.

      • Any guy admitting to real gayness was promptly served a group beating

        How widespread was this kind of behavior? I grew up in a fairly conservative Evangelical church in New England during the 80’s and did activities both with Evangelical private school kids and with public school kids in both Christian and secular organizations, and I never ran up against or even heard of this kind of thing aimed at anyone. The closest was the description some friends gave me of a scene from Full Metal Jacket. Seriously, was this a thing? Where? Why? How usual?

        • kenofken

          Don’t take everything I say too seriously. Just because it’s a culture war doesn’t mean we can’t have half a joke now and then. We must, if our cardiac arteries are to last us.

          It wasn’t quite as bad as Parris Island, but in the early 80s, in my troop, and really in the junior high school world at large, gayness, real, perceived or just rumored, was an excellent way to get a flogging. Sometimes those were just a way for the bullies to reinforce the social order, and sometimes it was more serious that that.

          At any rate, “queer” was the worst handle you could hang on a guy, and it was a fighting word. There was one instance of a “blanket party” that I recall, where the guy came up black and blue the next day, and maintained the old story that he “fell”. I don’t know that homophobia was the whole story in that, but this was way before “anti-bullying” campaigns came to the fore. Guys knew that sooner or later, you’d be somewhere unsupervised by the adults, and that you didn’t want to make too many enemies or the wrong ones.

          I’m not joking when I say the first time I learned of “waterboarding” was when I was 12 or 13. It wasn’t called that, but word was that if you ever seriously crossed the line and started acting like a punk, some of the older teens, on behalf of the scoutmaster, would give you that treatment under the old-fashioned hand pump wells they had at the campgrounds. It was probably a tall tale to keep us in line, but none of us cared to find out.

          We were in a Catholic parish sponsored troop outside of Chicago, and I have to say by and large, scouting was a positive experience, but I don’t miss the homophobia and racism of those days.

  • Michaelus

    Well if some boy announces that he is gay the Scoutmasters will just have to tell the other boys that the fellow has announced that he wants to sodomize his friends and we are going to treat him with kindness, tolerance and all the respect that he deserves – and all sodomy is to enjoyed only when not attending an official Scout event.

    • kenofken

      Do they find it necessary to do all that for hetero boys? If not, why? Do they not have the same drives or are they just more inherently virtuous?

      • Michaelus

        There is no such thing as a “hetero boy”. If a boy announces that he enjoys sodomizing girls BSA rules still allow the Scouts to kick him out immediately.

        • kenofken

          I have not heard of any gay scout “announcing” that he wants to sodomize anyone nor do I find anything in the new policy which would require, or even suggest that scouting officials would have to tolerate such crude language or behavior.

          Is there some language that I’m not seeing that requires BSA to exempt gay scouts from the usual behavior rules? Does a gay scout’s orientation mean that their only interest in scouting is to subject others to graphic descriptions of sexual activities?

          Is there some other point to your original comment other than the unsupported and hateful (and completely unoriginal) implication that queers are just an inherently sleazy lot whose only interest in tolerance is to destroy public virtue?

          • Michaelus

            If a boy for some reason designates himself as “gay” he is announcing that he likes sodomy.That is what the word means in todays vernacular. Of course there is no reason for any boy to call himself “gay”. Boys are just boys.

            • kenofken

              A hell of a lot of straight people like sodomy too. Between one-third and a vast majority, in fact, depending how you define it. Conversely there are gay people who don’t. There are gay people, and straight, who don’t even like physical contact.

              One’s attraction has nothing to do with what activities someone is prone to. What does “boys are just boys” mean? Me and the vast majority of my mates in scouting certainly had no confusion about our heterosexual attractions.

              • Michaelus

                “One’s attraction has nothing to do with what activities someone is prone to”…..Seriously?

                To repeat my point: sexual activity has no place in the Scouts. There is no reason for any boy to call himself (or anyone) “gay” yet the new policy will protect the boy who announces he wants to sodomize other boys (whereas the boy who announces he wants to sodomize girls will be justly excluded).

                • kenofken

                  Either you have a radically different version of the policy which was voted upon, or reading wasn’t your strong suit in school.

  • Paul Williams

    Honest question here (although it may sound snarky/sarcastic): What is the current Catholic teach on “sexuality”? I had previously thought that describing someone’s “sexuality” (hetero vs. homo) as if was a personal trait (like hair color, skin color, dominant hand, etc.) was more of a liberal construct – much like labeling non-homosexuals as “heterosexuals”, but there seems to be a lot of talk about “sexuality” with regard to the Theology of the Body.

    In the context of this discussion, is a boy devoid of this type of “sexuality” when they are born, only to develop a homosexual or heterosexual sexual orientation upon reaching puberty (age 11-12)? Or is a sexual orientation something that’s assumed to be always part of someone (born that way) only to be discovered/realized upon reaching puberty? Or does puberty have nothing to do with this and you can have a homosexual 5-year-old in some non-sexual way?

  • Erin Manning

    Mark, I also recommend Thomas McDonald’s thoughtful post on this piece:


    I agree with both Dr. Peters and Thomas McDonald: as stated, the policy isn’t problematic for Catholics, but the reality that will quickly proceed from the policy is likely to make Scouting difficult-to-impossible for Catholics.

    One of the most interesting points McDonald makes is this: right now, a chaste homosexual can be a Scout until he’s an adult, but he’s not allowed to be a Scout leader after that. McDonald calls that policy “incoherent” and I agree–yet what are the options? Permit chaste same-sex attracted adult Scout leaders, but ban sexually active ones? How does a secular organization do that, especially in states which have legalized gay “marriage?”

    This isn’t going to end well for Scouts, I’m afraid.

    • Paul Williams

      Although the current stated BSA policy can be reconciled with Catholic teaching, I don’t share Dr. Peter’s optimism that this is in any way sustainable (even for another year).

      Carson Holloway has a good essay on this aspect:

      In their internal correspondence, the BSA doesn’t even attempt to defend on principle the distinction between banning gay leaders and allowing gay youth, only to say that it reflects what the current members/leaders want.

      • My “optimism”? Where do I express any conjectures, optimistic or otherwise, about the future? My concern is for policy as promulgated.

        • F M

          Do you know if the BSA plans to ensure a separate sleeping area for each individual young man with SSA when on camping excursions? It would be as morally problematic to allow any young man with SSA to sleep in the same quarters with other young men as it would be to allow any young heterosexual young man to sleep in the same quarters with young heterosexual women.

  • Dave G.

    The problem isn’t the policy, the problem is why the policy was implemented. It wasn’t as if some thoughtful, internal debate was finally resolved. This came after the last two decades of the Scouts being bludgeoned day in and day out in order to get the change. And as soon as the compromise was announced, the very day, gay rights groups and advocates swore it was only the beginning, that the fight would continue. So, given that this was more or less a defeat after decades of being beaten in the name of tolerance, there is no reason to think it won’t happen again. It’s not if, it’s when.

    • kenofken

      “It’s not if, it’s when.”

      That’s what freaking rocks about justice! It’s like the laws of thermodynamics. You can cheat it and deny it a thousand different ways, but it always does its thing in the end.

      Nobody forced the BSA to do anything. The Supreme Court crafted a decision for them on that count. They could have stuck by their guns and no government would have anything to say about it, and no government agency forced their hand in this matter.

      They made this change because they’ve grown dependent on handouts from corporations and local governments, and those constituencies decided they aren’t going to underwrite homophobia anymore. BSA decided the money was more important than the policy.

  • Old Guard

    Look at it this way: it’s not the policy the BSA has adopted, but the policy the BSA has renounced. It’s true that the explicit exclusion of “open and avowed” homosexuals from the BSA is a recent policy. But imagine if your priest decided not to perform the elevations at Mass. The elevations, after all, are only perhaps 1,000 years old. Without the elevations the Mass would still be valid, the theology still in place, and one could claim that dropping the elevations is consistent with historic liturgical celebrations – but to deliberately *stop* elevating the host today sends a dangerous theological message. Likewise, to publicly renounce the exclusion of “open or avowed homosexuals” from membership sends a dangerous moral message. There is a context to everything, and Dr. Peters ignores this for some bizarre reason. More of my thoughts on the topic here: http://culbreath.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/r-i-p-boy-scouts-of-america/

  • Guest

    Question for Ed Peters: Does the BSA plan to ensure a separate sleeping area for each individual young man with same sex attractions when on camping excursions? It would be as morally problematic to allow any young man with SSA to sleep in the same quarters with other young men as it would be to allow any young heterosexual young man to sleep in the same quarters with young heterosexual women.

    • kenofken

      I’m not Ed of course, but your concern is relevant only in cases where there is more than one SSA boy who might bunk with another SSA boy.