A reader writes:
Another Catholic writer I like to read, a priest, recently posted that he would no longer give Holy Communion to anyone wearing a Boy Scout of America uniform as ALL scouts are now morally complicit in a grave moral evil now that the BSA leadership has voted to allow for homosexual scouts. By virtue of the scout oath he says all scouts are agreeing with / assenting to this evil. He says all scouts are “militant homosexualists.”
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this. Does that also mean that I, as an American who has been known to say the Pledge of Allegiance (which is an oath), will also be complicit with a grave evil when my government at the federal level formally recognizes “gay marriage”? Will there then be justification to deny me Communion? Must I renounce my citizenship, maybe even move to another country? What about now…aren’t I already complicit with intrinsic evil, by the oath in the pledge and my tax dollars, enacted by my government? Should I be denied Communion now?
I don’t think any of this is the case, and I think denying Communion to a scout who says the Scout Oath (see below for its content) based on the notion that the stating of that oath means scouts and leaders are in agreement with the decisions of the scout leadership is a stretch. I’m curious on your thoughts and how you might respond to the priests assertions and either justify supporting or denying them.
In case you aren’t familiar, here is the Scout Oath:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
Whew. Well, obviously, I think the Scouts’ decision was a bad one for a number of reasons. First, it introduces into scouting something that is completely irrelevant to, well, scouting. Scout meetings have never been about, “So, Billy, who do you long to have sex with?” There is something bizarrely narcissistic about the homosexual insistence on making sure that every human activity is derailed into the same obsessive rut about rutting. Only a creepy adult Scoutmaster wants to delve into the sexual longings of kids, and kids are not eager to chat about it on campouts with each other, or interrupt meetings to regale the crowd with their sexual exploits (assuming they have any), because they are busy doing fun stuff that has nothing to do with sex. Normal people, when they meet each other in social situations like a Scout meeting, have this thing called “discretion” and don’t feel the need to ask about or volunteer information on who they had sex with last night. I don’t want to know about your sex life, thankyouveddymuch. And if you ask me about mine, I will know you are a weirdo to avoid.
So the question is, what does a ruling like this do exactly? Well, for normal people–gay or straight–it will change nothing. Why? Because normal people–gay or straight–do not walk into a room full of strangers and say, “Hi! I’m Bob and I want the world to know who I am hoping to have sex with!” Certainly, normal kids–gay or straight–don’t do that. They join Scouts in order to go camping, work on merit badges and do fun stuff and don’t shove their sexuality in anybody’s face because it is irrelevant to camping. Similarly, normal people do not sit around squinting at somebody and asking themselves, “I wonder if that guy is gay?” If some kid *does* ask that question, normal people tell the kid to mind his own business.
Similarly, normal people of whatever age tend to shy away from and avoid people who obsessively talk about their sexuality. And that’s where a rule like this will make its impact. Because now people will be afraid of what will happen when the inevitable narcissistic human toothache of a kid or his obnoxious militant parents show up, determined to make Precious Billy’s sexuality the relentless focal point of a group that is supposed to be about Scouting, not about Celebrating Billy’s Sexuality. There are not, thank God, large numbers of such people, but they do exist and they do long for confrontations in which they can assert their narcissistic demand to be, not merely accepted, but celebrated and made the domineering center of the universe. This ruling will put a club in the hands of such people and God help the troop they decide to Teach a Lesson.
All that said, I think the average troop will largely function as it did before since normal people will not want to know if a kid thinks he’s gay and normal kids will not be eager to talk about their sex lives. I think the main reason the Scouts did this was a) they are reflective of the culture and the culture wants to be nice to gay people (not a bad thing in itself) and b) the Scouts wanted to cover their financial and legal butts. Saying “gay kids can be Scouts too” is a quick fix for dwindling donors, and the opprobrium that attaches to things like “Steven Spielberg renounced us because we didn’t let gay kids be Scouts.” So they predictably caved to the culture. Welcome to Millennial America.
What’s the way forward? Well, I think that while Padre is entitled to his opinion (and I am both ignorant and skeptical about his canonical power to deny communion on such a basis–and strongly suppose his bishop is too) I can say this with certainty: I can imagine few things more overwrought, unjust, and destructive than punishing thousands of good boys for a decision made by some butt-covering bureaucrats. One of the weirder aspects of conservative American Christian culture is the strange tendency it has of regarding some American cultural institution as “Christian” merely because it is perceived as “wholesome”–and then registering shock and horror and something like rage at apostasy when it turns out the American institution is merely American and not Christian. So 20 years ago, Christians got up in arms when it began to dawn on them that Disney was not the Christian Entertainment Corporation but was, in fact, what it has always been: a capitalist operation dedicated to making money off amusements that were pleasing to the general culture. As the general culture became more semi-pagan and PC, Disney followed suit with insufferable crap like Atlantis and Pocahontas and Hannah Montana. All this was treated like a betrayal when, in fact, Disney had never signed any contract with conservative Christians to give a rip about their values.
Same here. The Scouts, though densely populated by Christians, are not a Christian organization. They have no charism guaranteeing they will remain true to Christian faith and morals. They are subject to sociological forces and are basically going to be whatever their members decide they are going to be. The Holy Spirit is not the soul of the Boy Scouts.
That said, there is still lots of life and native health in the organization and I think it is folly of the highest order to impose a draconian punishment of mass interdict and excommunication on everybody who wears a Scout uniform. Christians are called to be leaven in the world and our mission is not to withdraw into Fortress Katholicus, but to go out into a screwed up world and be disciples of Jesus there. The Scouts are, despite this dumb ruling from higher up, far more open to basic gospel values than most sectors of American society. Excommunicating everybody in a Scout uniform seems to me as dumb as excommunicating everybody in a military uniform as punishment for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It sends the message that same-sex attracted kids are the irredeemable enemy. It punishes thousands of innocent kids who just like to go camping and have no interest in making some political statement about homosexuality. It assumes the absolute worst about every Scout (“All members are now militant homosexualists”? Really?) and it’s stone blind to the many options Scouts still have to carry out their mission healthily (including fostering troops that are dedicated to Catholic discipleship).
So Padre is welcome to take this, IMO, massively foolish pastoral position in the sense that I cannot stop him (though I think the Church may well do so). But if he decided to excommunicate my boys for belonging to a Scout troop that takes St. Francis as their patron, opens every meeting with the Our Father and the Hail Mary, prays the Rosary around the campfire, does fine civic improvement works, goes devoutly to Mass each week, and gives no thought to “militant homosexualism” I’d tell him that I will sadly have to find another parish rather than watch my boys and their wonderful friends endure this draconian and unfair interdict.