Catholic Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck ordered seven parishes in western North Dakota to sever their ties to the Boy Scouts of America due to the decision by the national organization to allow homosexual adult leaders. The bishop said on August 4 that the decision by the BSA is in direct contravention of the “authoritative moral teachings of the Catholic Church.” The decision by the bishop will affect eight Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs in the cities of Beulah, Bismarck, and Mandan, Williston. The church has sponsored the troop in Mandan for 66 years.
“I regret my decision but, in conscience as the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese of Bismarck, I cannot permit our Catholic institutions to accept and participate directly or indirectly in any organization, which has policies and methods, which contradict the authoritative moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” wrote Bishop Kagan. “While there are indications that the BSA has a religious organization exception," wrote the bishop, "which each local troop could invoke, that will provide no protection for any of our parishes and/or schools, which sponsor troops.”
The BSA field director for the Northern Lights Council, Cory Wrolstad, said that he is "probably more saddened" than disappointed by Bishop Kagan's decision. The BSA Northern Lights Council covers North Dakota, as well as some of Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota. Wrolstad said “They’ve obviously been a key player for many years, a key partner.” The Scout council will now have to find new organizations to sponsor the affected troops and packs, such as religious organizations of a different faith than of the individual scouts involved. Wrolstad said in a statement,“One of the important aspects of the membership resolution that was recently passed was the strong support of the Boy Scouts of America for individual church doctrine and beliefs so leadership selection could continue to be made based on a faith’s deeply held religious convictions.”
Bishop Kagan’s directive was clearer than the position taken by the Fargo Diocese, where Bishop John Folda issued a statement last week thanking the Boy Scouts of America’s executive board for still allowing chartered organizations to select unit leaders based on religious principles.
Bishop John Folda of Fargo released a statement, saying “Scouting remains a viable option for Catholic youth” in that part of the state. But he says Boy Scout leaders should “select volunteers based on character and conduct consistent” with Catholic teachings. He also thanked Boy Scouts' executive board for stipulating in the August 3 vote on homosexual adult leaders that faith-based organizations can continue to select leaders based on religious principles. It was not clear whether the bishop meant that parishes under his authority will allow homosexual adult leaders. The bishop did direct the leaders of the 13 Catholic-chartered troops within the Diocese of Fargo to "continue to act in accordance with the Church's teaching and select volunteers based on character and conduct consistent with those teachings."
Folda did praise the Boy Scouts of America for respecting, in his words, "the Constitutional right to religious freedom afforded to our parishes and other Catholic entities."
Lutheran and Methodist congregations near Fargo are reaffirming their relationships with the Boy Scouts and will not select leaders on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Church of Latter Day Saints is reassessing its relationship with the BSA. The Mormon Church is currently considering the foundation of an alternative scouting organization.
“While we continue to have some questions about the application of this new policy, it is my hope that Scouting remains a viable option for Catholic youth of the Diocese of Fargo,” Bishop Folda’s statement said.
Roger Hoyt, executive director of the Northern Lights Council, said in a statement that he’s saddened Catholic youths interested in Scouting programs will have to participate in packs and troops sponsored by other faiths or chartered organizations.
“One of the important aspects of the membership resolution that was recently passed was the strong support of the Boy Scouts of America for individual church doctrine and beliefs so leadership selection could continue to be made based on a faith’s deeply held religious convictions,” he wrote.
Kagan wrote in his letter that, “While there are indications that the BSA has a religious organization exception, which each local troop could invoke, that will provide no protection for any of our parishes and/or schools, which sponsor troops.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.