While several parishes in the archdiocese have transitioned to American Heritage Girls from the Girl Scouts, the archdiocese has taken a wait-and-see approach with the Boy Scouts of America in the wake of its decision to admit transgender youth.
"We stand largely in the same place we have; we're definitely looking at it with a more watchful eye," said Brian Miller, the executive director of the archdiocese Catholic Youth Apostolate.
Miller described the Boy Scouts' decision as "problematic, but we don't think it'll impact our troops. We have legal protections in the charter system; the way the troops are set up in our parishes gives us more protection against rules" contrary to Catholic teaching, such as the transgender policy announced in January. In addition, Miller has been "assured by the scouts themselves" of archdiocesan autonomy.
According to Catholic teaching, sex and gender are synonymous, assigned at birth: Boys are boys; girls are girls. Gender identity as a social construct has occurred mostly in the past 35-40 years.
"It is disappointing that the Boy Scouts are not standing up for what's right in natural law," said Miller, adding, "We acknowledge people who are struggling (with gender dysphoria); we understand that. But we have to have truth and love working together."
Legal protections of the charters allow that dynamic in parish troops.
"The reason we sponsor troops is because we see (scouting) can have value in helping to raise a child in the Catholic faith, not only to know their faith but to find a way to incorporate their faith through the natural virtues and all of the great things scouting does — mentors, role models, connection to the community, all these positive things," Miller said.
In that sense, scout troops are tools of youth ministry and evangelization, "even more so now" with the national organization's decision, Miller said. "We need to get back to making troops intentionally Catholic and using them more intentionally than perhaps we have in the past."
Stressing Catholic identity, parish scout troops reinforce the messages of faith from Parish School of Religion, Catholic school, Mass and other parish activities.
"The real call for scouting is the same for anything we do for youth — our Catholic schools, CYC programs — we have to learn to leverage those things to lead a life of holiness and a life of joy," Miller said. "If we don't do that, there's a disconnect; in school they hear that Jesus is important, but then they go to soccer practice or Boy Scouts after school and there's no connection to faith. We have to witness the joy we have."
A former scout himself, Miller benefited from the lessons of leadership and life skills, gravitating to a career in youth ministry.
"I really liked scouting," said Miller, whose experience included Mass, camp and other outdoor activities. "Boys need those experiences of camaraderie. It's empowering, puts the onus of leadership on them. It's really important in this culture, where everyone is glued to their phone — to get outdoors, get away from everything and learn to be men together."
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