I was never a Girl Scout. But I sure do remember Girl Scout Cookies. Each year, my family would look forward to ordering several boxes. We felt it was a win-win, as we received a special treat and also supported an effort that was helping to teach young girls leadership skills as well as helping them grow in their Catholic faith. But that was then. Times have changed and, unfortunately, in many ways, so have the Girl Scouts.
It’s still true that many Girl Scout troops based in Catholic schools are trying to be a positive influence. But it’s also true that there are a number of major concerns with the national organization being in direct conflict with Catholic teaching. That’s why the effort by the Archdiocese of St. Louis is helpful in getting clarity on the Girls Scouts.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson outlined the concerns in a recent letter to priests, Scout leaders and Catholics across the archdiocese. According to an investigation by the archdiocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Girl Scouts USA and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are both involved in promoting, among other things:
— Contraception and abortion rights on behalf of its girl members — most of whom, as the letter points out, are minors.
— Amnesty International, Coalition for Adolescent Girls and OxFam, which advocate for abortion and contraception even for underage girls.
— Pro-abortion activists Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan as “role models.”
No one is arguing that the Girl Scouts have to choose, say, Mother Teresa or Dorothy Day as their role models, although they would both be great leadership examples in particular when it comes to making a difference in the world. But Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan? Steinem dedicated her latest book to her abortionist, and the late Betty Friedan made a career out of criticizing stay-at-home mothers. Certainly, the Girl Scouts can do better in choosing examples for young girls — Catholic or otherwise.
Archbishop Carlson acknowledges that Girl Scouts USA and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri have tried to distance themselves from the controversies, but he says there continues to be more “questions than answers.” “In addition, recent concerns about GSUSA and their position on and inclusion of transgender and homosexual issues are proving problematic. Our culture is becoming increasingly intolerant of a Catholic worldview regarding these issues. While Catholics are called to treat all people with compassion and mercy, we must at the same time be mindful of whom we will allow to teach and form our youth …” The archbishop stressed it is becoming more and more difficult to ignore the issues as the Girl Scouts continue to exhibit a “troubling pattern of behavior.”
“We must stop and ask ourselves — is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job of forming the spiritual emotional and personal well-being of Catholic girls?” Archbishop Carlson is asking pastors with Girl Scout troops to meet with troop leadership to review the concerns raised and discuss alternative options, including the Little Flower Girls Club and American Heritage Girls. Hopefully, the attention the Archdiocese of St. Louis is bringing to the matter will help other Church leaders and troop representatives do the same. Unfortunately, it’s not your grandmother’s Girl Scouts any longer. And, as a result, there are some crucial points to ponder before grabbing that box of Thin Mints or Samoas.
This column first appeared on OSV Newsweekly.
Photo courtesy: Seattle Municipal Archives, Flickr