As the end of the school year approaches, one diocese has decided to permanently end its long standing affiliation with the Girl Scout organization.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, led by Archbishop Joseph Naumann, released a statement on May 1 “to begin the process of transitioning away from the hosting of parish Girl Scout troops and toward the chartering of American Heritage Girl troops.” This decisive step comes after a decade of diocesan research and dialogue with Girl Scouts of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri and Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA), including detailed concerns shared by the diocese in 2014.
Catholic concerns regarding the Girl Scout organization have been well publicized in recent years, as the gap between the Girl Scout program and the pro-life, pro-family teachings of the Church continues to widen, including Girl Scouts regular promotion of pro-abortion women and organizations, its celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same sex marriages, and a fully inclusive policy for boys who self-identify as girls. Troubling examples of these concerns can be found at every level of the organization (local council, GSUSA, and WAGGGS, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts), and in a variety of programming, including curriculum, on-line resources, social media, and advocacy, prompting the archbishop’s assessment that GSUSA is “no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.”
Cookie sales on parish properties will also be discontinued, as this Girl Scout fundraiser nets GSUSA millions of dollars every year from the licensing fees attached to each box of cookies.
Archbishop Naumann expresses his “appreciation for the many extraordinary Girl Scout leaders of the diocese who have served so well,” while recognizing that the girls’ memberships are counted well beyond their troops. Indeed, WAGGGS, which counts GSUSA as its largest member organization and every registered Girl Scout among its 10 million members, receives funding from GSUSA of over $1 million annually based on the number of registered members. WAGGGS, funded by and on behalf of its 10 million members, regularly advocates for sexual and reproductive rights including abortion, and comprehensive sexuality education with an emphasis on LGBT lifestyles. Despite GSUSA’s assurance that they do not always take the same positions as WAGGGS, they have never objected to a specific WAGGGS’ statement or advocacy on these issues.
The Archbishop’s statement includes his recommendation for parishes to continue to offer the benefits of scouting by establishing American Heritage Girls (AHG) troops. Unlike Girl Scout troops, which may meet at a parish but the authority and decision making remains with the local council, AHG troops are chartered through the parish that sponsors it, keeping the authority and decision making with the pastor. While Girl Scouts, a secular organization, has made the word “God” optional in their century-old promise, AHG defines itself as a Christ-centered scouting organization that is pro-God, pro-family, pro-life. Over 25 percent of AHG troops nationwide are Catholic, and AHG has a National Catholic Committee with Bishop James Conley serving as its Episcopal Moderator. AHG has created multiple Catholic patches, including the brand new patch commemorating the 100 year anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, as well as a Respect Life patch, in addition to the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry’s awards which may be earned by all Catholic girls.
Archbishop Naumann’s statement is the strongest among a growing number of bishops providing guidance on this issue. In it he includes the reason for his directive, stating “Our greatest responsibility as a Church is to the children and young people in our care. We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.”
May more bishops, priests, and parents join Archbishop Naumann in acting based upon this God given responsibility, and may this be the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church/Girl Scout relationship.