February 22, 2016

St. Louis archbishop urges cutting ties with Girl Scouts

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U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (C) gives out hugs as she welcomes a group of Girl Scouts to the White House. The Archbishop of St. Louis has warned Catholics that the scouts do not align with Catholic values. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (C) gives out hugs as she welcomes a group of Girl Scouts to the White House. The Archbishop of St. Louis has warned Catholics that the scouts do not align with Catholic values. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Robert J. Carlson is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr., courtesy of Archdiocese of St. Louis Office of Communications and Planning

RNS photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr., courtesy of Archdiocese of St. Louis Office of Communications and Planning

Robert J. Carlson is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr., courtesy of Archdiocese of St. Louis Office of Communications and Planning

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson has issued a letter calling on parishes to seek alternatives to Girl Scouts, arguing that the program and related organizations conflict with Roman Catholic teaching.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis isn’t directly kicking Girl Scout troops and activities off church properties, but is suggesting they and their cookies may no longer be welcome in the fold.

“Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values,” Carlson wrote in a letter dated Feb. 18. “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 forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?”

The letter said issues such as reproductive rights and abortion separate the church from Girl Scouts and related organizations.

The letter was a disappointment to Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri CEO Bonnie Barczykowski, who said by email Friday the organization “has enjoyed a history of cooperation with the Archdiocese of St. Louis for almost 100 years.”

“Although we are a secular organization, we greatly value our long-standing partnerships with religious organizations across many faiths,” she said.


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More than 4,000 Girl Scouts meet in Catholic churches in the region. An unknown number of girls who are Catholic attend troops outside of Catholic churches and schools.

The news set off spirited Facebook discussions among parents whose children attend Catholic schools with Girl Scouts troops.

 “I think they are too focused on other people the Girl Scouts may have some associations with rather than what our local girl scout chapters are actually doing,” said Julie Mudd of St. Louis.

Mudd said the troop within her daughter’s Catholic school, St. Margaret of Scotland, has multiple honors from its affiliated church for good works.

Mudd said she hopes to enroll her daughter, 4, in the school’s existing Daisy troop when she enters kindergarten. She and her husband are parishioners at St. Pius V Catholic Church.

“I was a Girl Scout, my mom was a den leader for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and I’m planning to become active when my little girl enters scouting. It was a great experience. It was really empowering,” Mudd said.

Carlson’s letter does not mandate that parishes disband Girl Scout troops. Rather, it calls on them to seek alternatives.

“I am asking each pastor that allows Girl Scout troops to meet on parish property to conduct a meeting with troop leadership to review these concerns and discuss implementing alternative options for the formation of our girls,” Carlson wrote.

‘Can I still buy cookies?’

A question-and-answer page on an archdiocesan website also asks parents to question whether they should condone a child joining the Girl Scouts as it conflicts with Catholic teaching.

“Can I still buy Girl Scout Cookies?” is also among the questions posted on the archdiocesan website.

“Each person must act in accord with their conscience,” is the response. “It is also our duty to form our consciences and learn the issues.”

Carlson’s letter takes aim not only at Girl Scouts, but affiliated organizations, including Girl Scouts USA and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

“GSUSA resources and social media highlight and promote role models in conflict with Catholic values, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan,” Carlson wrote.


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“Organizations that GSUSA promotes and partners with are in conflict with Catholic values, such as Amnesty International, Coalition for Adolescent Girls, OxFam and more. This is especially troubling in regards to sex education and advocacy for ‘reproductive rights’ (i.e. abortion and contraceptive access, even for minors).”

Wrong message?

Mudd said the letter sends the wrong message.

“I think it all comes down to the fact they are threatened by anything that puts females in a leadership position,” she said.

Barczykowski, of the Girl Scouts, said she believed the community will continue to support the cookie sales program.

“Girls gain valuable social and leadership skills and the Girl Scout Cookie program is the most anticipated and participated-in activity in Girl Scouting,” she said.

She cautioned that scouts selling cookies should not be engaged in debates regarding the church’s position on Girl Scouts.

“The concerns expressed by the Archdiocese of St. Louis involve adult issues and are not appropriate to discuss with children. I hope the conversation is one that will remain between adults. Confrontations with our girls would be unacceptable,” Barczykowski said.

On that point, the archdiocese agrees. Its website discourages confronting individual Girl Scouts who are selling cookies about the matter.

“These conversations must ‘remain among adults,’” the statement reads.

Carlson said he is immediately disbanding the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts and instead “forming a Catholic Committee for Girls Formation that will be charged with ministry to all girls in various organizations.”

American Heritage Girls is one such group that has grown in membership in various churches in the region.

“While Catholics are called to treat all people with compassion and mercy, we must at the same time be mindful of whom we allow to teach and form our youth and the messages they present,” Carlson wrote.

Concerns with Boy Scouts

Carlson’s letter further references concerns with the Boy Scouts of America, wondering “in which direction this once trusted organization is now headed” in terms of protections to religious organizations.

Last year, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod severed any official relationship with the Boy Scouts.

Barczykowski said Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri serves more than 43,000 girls with support from more than 15,000 adult volunteers.

(Nancy Cambria writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • William Bockstael

    Yess…..let´s keep pedophiles away from our kids.

    I would not send my hamster to the Boy Scouts if a Catholic priest were in charge

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  • Mary

    The story is a little alarmist – he’s urging caution. That’s all.

  • yoh

    He is urging caution against an organization which supports gender equality, is anti discrimination, which is non sectarian in nature. The Catholic Church can’t deal with such things.

    While they are at it, they can leave their Tues to the boy scouts too. Church influence has undermined it to the point where it has become synonymous with reactionary bigotry.

  • yoh

    Ties to the boy scouts. My phone’s auto-correct is garbage.

  • “is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women?”

    Apparently, the answer is YES if they dare to teach girls they have rights over their own bodies, rights to their sexual orientation, rights to think for themselves and the right to reject religious indoctrination.

    The Catholic Church repeatedly shows its bigotries and backward interests.

    But religions has lost all the arguments.
    The Emancipation of Women is the proven silver bullet which makes progress happen in the world and the Church is ETERNALLY dead set against that. May religion be abandoned as the primitive, paternalistic relic it is.

  • Tom

    As a faithful Catholic, just once I would like to see an American Catholic prelate censure, ban, or severe association with an organization or public figure based on a conflict with Roman Catholic teaching related to capitol punishment, immigration, the rights of workers, the rights of children, or our moral obligations to the poor.

    Bishop Carlson’s unfortunate statement regarding the Girl Scouts illustrates his fidelity to conservative Republican ideology more than to the Catholic faith. He adds to the impression that the teachings of the Catholic Church are only concerned with issues of sex, reproduction, and gender – or that these are the only issues American Catholic bishops truly care about.

  • mason

    its the BOY scouts of america not the HAMSTERS scouts of america. so i think your fine

  • Paula

    82 percent of American Catholics say birth control is “morally acceptable.” .Conservatives in the Catholic hierarchy clearly believe they are losing the war. They are, and they will, whether they carry out campaigns like this or not. This “with us or against us” effort will distance more Catholic from their church.

    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/05/23/489006/82-percent-of-catholics-birth-control/

  • Junebug

    Scouts are secular organizations, never intended to teach religion. The “church” should not rely on Scouts to do it for them. If they want to hide their children from reality, then expect more unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

  • Anthony Zarrella

    Bull. He is urging caution against an organization that openly and vigorously promotes ideals that contravene Catholic teaching, and holds up as role models a selection of women who are *far* from anything the Church considers exemplary.

    If all the GSUSA were doing was promoting gender equality, that’s fine. But they’re also promoting contraception, abortion, juvenile sexuality, and gender ideology (which Pope Francis has condemned in no uncertain terms). Any group that sees Gloria Steinem as a model for girls to seek to become is a group no (future) daughter of mine will ever go near.

  • yoh

    Nothing bull about it.

    Catholic teaching is incompatible with several aspects of the Girl Scouts such as:
    1. Female empowerment
    2. Opposing discrimination on the basis of gender and orientation
    3. Sane and healthy views of sexuality
    4. Non-Sectarian society

    So I am perfectly fine with the Catholic Church choosing not to associate with the Girl Scouts. We both agree with that. The Catholic Church has nothing but contempt for women in general. Their exit from the organization would be a welcomed relief.

    I am sure the Catholic Church has its own sectarian youth organizations around so you can continue to indoctrinate your future daughter in whatever harmful religious nonsense you want to teach her.

  • leftover

    If the GSUSA is promoting contraception, abortion, juvenile sexuality, and gender ideology, then the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and the RCC, is promoting the sexual abuse of children and the aiding and abetting of such criminals.

    Forced to choose, which of those values would any responsible parent want to impart to their child?

  • Selena Smith

    I think Archbishop Carlson is less concerned about Catholic teaching and more concerned about his need for power and control and removing anyone and anything that conflicts with that. His secrecy and transferring pedophile clergy in Saginaw Diocese to protect himself; his buying 1/2 million dollar mansion in Saginaw MI for himself and his 3 dogs when previous Bishop lived simply. His attempt to close down and sell a thriving Polish Catholic Church in his Archdiocese and his loss in court.

    With that kind of example, the GSA would be better off without Carlson’s manipulation; however, the Catholic Churches need an organization like GSA
    who helps form the character of young women by good role modeling of leaders.

  • Phillip Cato

    Lace draped prelates find outdoorsey types quite threatening.

  • Thomas Ryscavage MD

    I stopped donating to the Girl Scouts as soon as I found out that the organization was supporting abortion. A baby is just a little more important than a cookie.

  • Debbo

    Max said, “The Emancipation of Women is the proven silver bullet which makes progress happen in the world and the Church is ETERNALLY dead set against that.”

    Nailed it Max, on both counts. What outstanding and exemplary women such as Gloria Steinhem, Hilary Clinton and millions of other women and men say echoes countless scientific studies. Nations, ethnicities, religions and all other groupings of humans do better when the women do better.

    The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has been consistently opposed to the full equality and participation in their empire. Nearly all of the other denominations of Catholics accept women as equal partners. I’m talking about the American Catholic Church, United Catholic Church, Evangelical Catholic Church, Liberal Catholic Church, and more. (The Roman Catholic Church denies the existence of the good people in those churches and refuses to interact with them.)

  • Debbo

    Girl Scouts doesn’t “support” abortion. They do recognize that it exists, but the GSA does nothing to increase the incidence of abortion in any way. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the GSA does not actively oppose abortion, which displeases the RCC.

  • Charlie

    Religious leaders PANIC when they come to realize someone else my be planting ideas in young minds before they have fully developed and are subject to indoctrination.

    Think about it. If this priest had been accidentally switched at birth and sent home with a Baptist family he would be a Baptist. Really, really think about that.

    All religions survive through the indoctrination of children before they have attained critical thinking skills and the ability to reason. After they become adults, it’s virtually impossible to rid oneself of the contagion. This is why otherwise highly intelligent men still believe absolutely outrageous claims.

    Magic reading stones or a sip of the blood of a long dead religious Jew anyone?

  • Charlie

    Charlie February 23, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Religious leaders PANIC when they come to realize someone else my be planting ideas in young minds before they have fully developed and are subject to indoctrination.

    Think about it. If this priest had been accidentally switched at birth and sent home with a Baptist family he would be a Baptist. Really, really think about that.

    All religions survive through the indoctrination of children before they have attained critical thinking skills and the ability to reason. After they become adults, it’s virtually impossible to rid oneself of the contagion. This is why otherwise highly intelligent men still believe absolutely outrageous claims.

    Magic reading stones or a sip of the blood of a long dead religious Jew anyone?

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  • Christine

    Unfortunately, what you have stated is true. The American Council of Catholic Bishops is really only concerned with preventing women from becoming full participants in the Catholic faith and community. As long as we keep within our “roles” as women we are welcome. If not, we are suspect of promoting gender bias which when the roles are reversed is highly unacceptable. The American Roman Catholic Church has stepped well outside the boundaries of leading the faithful. These men are so afraid of losing power to heaven forbid women that the become rabid in their defense of “Doctrine and Dogma”. I have watched the church I grew up in turn into a viper pit of bigotry, prejudice and “unChrist-like” behavior in ministering to the people of this world.

  • Christine

    Paula you hit the nail on the head! It has become an “US vs. Them” mentality. Isn’t this the same Bishop who asked the Vatican investigate the “Womens’ Religious organization a few years ago that sparked the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign? He apparently has a poor view of independent women!!!!

  • Scott Walter

    They just keep pushing people away.

    I think I’ll start taking what I would have put in the parish collection and instead send it to the Girl Scouts. My wife was a leader and both daughters participated in troops affiliated with our parish school. A wonderful experience for all three. A shame that the archdiocese would want to cut ties with an exemplary organization. Their loss, the Scouts are probably better off.

  • “unChrist-like” behavior…”

    The term ‘Christ-like’ is a mirage. Christianity is in direct conflict with itself:

    “Wives submit to husbands.” – Paul (Colossians 3:18)
    “In the name of Christ avoid them who do not comply with our teachings!” – Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

    How can a thinking person really square these paternalistic injunctions with freedom?

  • Les Wilson

    The Catholic Church is really getting desperate when it attacks the Girl Scouts. 😉

  • Russell L Jenkins

    For those of us who are Roman Catholic, this is our legacy from John Paul II and Benedict XI. Pope Francis has begun to name real pastors, as opposed to culture warriors, to US sees; but it will take a decade or more to undue the damage his successors did. Let us pray for more Vatican II popes to follow Francis in the future.

  • Brendan

    The Hamsters are wearing purple.

    OXFAM practices “Feed The Hungry” and AMNESTY practices “Visit the imprisoned. Horrible ideas to introduce to young Christians.

    And they wonder why so many young people have voted with their feet.

    The Bishops suffer from Invincible Ignorance.

  • Brendan

    God Love Ya Anthony. You are in serious need of help.

  • Brendan

    Unfortunately for the Catholics, he wasn’t 🙂

  • Brendan

    Of course you COULD have researched the facts DOCTOR.

  • Ricardo Lascorta

    How soon we forget that Carlson was part of the heirarchy with Archbishop John Roach, in the Archdiocese of St Paul Mineapolis that hid and subverted the investigation of child abuser Fr. Thoma Adamson ( young men sleepovers at the rectory).
    Fox 2 news June 9 2014 is another doozie where Carlson admits that he didnt know that sex with a child was illegal.
    Pope Francis, can you stop the madness and fire all these guys and protect our innocent children?

  • Renee Crevelli

    Could not have said it better myself, Tom!

  • Meo
  • joe gubernick

    When my daughter entered high school, her uncle, an OBGYN, recommended vaccination against STD. He had his own twin daughters vaccinated when they entered high school.The reason for this being not to encourage sexual promiscuity, but rather because males post puberty rape, seduce,molest, and drug young girls and so the vaccination is a
    necessary act. Obviously you and the church, both living in paradise,
    would not know anything about those transgressions. Let the Heavens forbid you ever live to have a daughter. In fact any procreation on your part would be highly questionable

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  • Amma

    I invite the 43,000 young women and girls to the Episcopal Church where we are well along the track of supporting young women in their quest for full personhood as well as spiritual meaning. You all are very welcome among us.
    http://religionnews.com/2016/02/22/175903/

  • john druce

    “Your” is now spelled “you’re”.

    Catholic priests obviously rape boys, girls, and dogs, and Father Eric Dejaeger was convicted of doing all 3, but we don’t know if they raped hamsters.

  • Mary Durkin

    I have been involved with the Girl Scouts my entire life. I participated from Brownie through Senior Scouts; I assisted my daughter’s troop as she progressed from Brownie through Senior Scout. My granddaughter just participated in her first cookie sale as a Daisy scout. Not one time in all of my interactions with the girl scouts has contraception or juvenile sexuality ever been mentioned. I don’t know what “gender ideology” is, so clearly that topic was never addressed in Girls Scouts. As for role models, name one single male role model who did not or does not have some controversial attitude or attribute. What exactly is your problem with Gloria Steinem as a role model for your daughter? Get a grip…there is NOTHING subversive about girl scouting unless you are ideologically opposed to female courage, female leadership, female self-efficacy, female compassion for self and others, and female honor.

  • Mary Durkin

    Or abortion….never mentioned in any G.S. meeting or function I ever participated in.

  • Mary Durkin

    Tom – perfect response!

  • dede

    Same archbishop who didn’t “know” that it was illegal for adults to have sex with a minor? Same archbishop who failed to report or act on abuse going on in his parishes? Same archbishop who recommended that ”given the seriousness of our exposure that the Archdiocese posture itself in such a way that any publicity will be minimized.” Girls Scouts “bad”….Catholic Church “good”. Why does the Pope allow this to continue? The man is a criminal who should not be allowed to speak for the church, set policy, or have anything to do with moral teachings.

  • Tom

    Nonsense.
    1. The Catholic Church has been empowering females for close to 2,000 years. Women have been running Catholic Institutions like hospitals and universities for a long time. The fact that a woman can’t be a priest has to do with Christ’s teaching (which happens to be Catholic teaching).
    2. The Catholic Church has no policy of discrimination against any individual, all are welcome. Catholic policy does reflect God’s teachings and the 10 Commandments. The Catholic Church has always censured ACTIONS, not individuals. This is because your ACTIONS are what separates you from the Body of Christ.
    3. If you think any sexual relationship other than the one between an individual male and an individual female is “sane and healthy”, you probably need your head examined.
    4. The Catholic Church lives in harmony with anyone that chooses to live in harmony with it. The Church doesn’t make anyone believe anything, it allows us to make our own choices, reflecting God’s…

  • yoh

    When the Catholic Church has a female pope and stops opposing contraception and abortion, your statement will not sound like pure apologetic bulldookie.

    Catholic hospitals are so beholden to their patriarchal dogma that they are more than willing to risk the health and lives of women rather than provide necessary medical care to them.

    The Church supports the notion that women should be burdened with constant childbirth, thus attacking their ability to seek education and employment prospects.

    Th Church supports discrimination on the basis of orientation. Something you don’t have a problem with, but is immoral spiteful garbage nonetheless.

  • yoh

    You hate religious freedom so much you want to see people who deviate from your sectarian beliefs attacked for it..

    Bishop Carlson’s statement is par for the course for Catholic leaders who lack respect for anything but their own power and beliefs.

  • As a RC Girl Scout leader this is so disturbing. Why does the church have people like this at the position he is in. Please Pope Francis remove him from his office.

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  • Ruth Walker

    What sort of people ask somebody else whether or not they can buy cookies?

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  • Bond James Bond

    I say compromise and work together. Bless the Thin Mints and use them for communion wafers.

    Then let the girls sell them outside the Church after services. They can market it as the Holy Mass Home Game!