The Trouble With Girl Scouts
I used to love Girl Scout cookies. My favorites were the tagalongs and the trefoils. When entering the grocery store and having those cute kids ask you if you would like to buy cookies, it is hard to say no. And yet, I have for a few years now. Why is that? Am I a jerk that likes to hurt young girls’ feelings? I hope not!
For a Catholic, there are serious issues with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA). In fact, there are such pronounced issues that there is an entire page on the GSUSA website devoted to the relationship between the Catholic Church and the GSUSA. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), likewise, has a page devoted to GSUSA.
The three main issues according to the USCCB are: “(1) GSUSA’s relationship with organizations such as Planned Parenthood and GSUSA’s relationship to its international affiliate the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS); (2) GSUSA’s policy on matters pertaining to human sexuality, contraception, and abortion; and (3) GSUSA programmatic materials and resources and questions about inappropriate content.”
Neutral on Key Issues
Since 2006, the GSUSA has been focused on increasingly emphasizing leadership experience and skills for girls and young women. This is laudable in many respects. The opportunity afforded young women for personal growth and formation is excellent in principle. However, this brings up the question: in what are they being formed? How are they being formed?
When it comes to human sexuality, contraception, and abortion, the national office “articulates a non-position policy.” However, to me, this is like taking a non-position policy with Nazi Germany in the early 1940s. You just cannot do it. There are some things which are “intrinsically evil” which include contraception and abortion. So, to take a neutral stand on these key issues is to default to evil. There is only one legitimate moral position in the face of intrinsic evil: opposition. Anything less, especially apathy, is gravely problematic.
In fact, the national office allows troops to take a stance that is firmly opposed to faith and reason in support of gender theory, abortion, contraception, etc.
Relationship with Planned Parenthood
The GSUSA has no official relationship with Planned Parenthood. However, as stated in the non-position position on key issues, local troops often partner with local Planned Parenthood locations. There are also problematic financial ties between some proceeds of cookie sales going to the Susan G. Komen foundation which are then given to Planned Parenthood to provide breast cancer screenings and the like.
Because of the very volatile political nature of this link, the truth is very obscured. But it is just one more thing that begs a deeper look. What is well established is that Planned Parenthood is in the abortion business. They may offer these good services which are actually health care too. And they say that monies donated by the Komen Foundation go only to breast cancer screenings and the like. However, if you give me $5 for milk and I put it in my bank account, can I really promise that $5 will only be used to buy milk at the grocery store when I use my Debit Card? Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of low-cost or free contraceptives in the country and they are the largest abortion provider in the country.
This, however, is not a reason to discontinue support of GSUSA, in and of itself, because we would be unable to utilize almost any good and service if we took this hard of a line. To name a few companies, we would have to discontinue support for: Adobe, Allstate, American Express, Discover Bank, Ben & Jerry’s, Bath & Body Works, Boeing, Bank of America, General Electric, Frito Lay, Groupon, Expedia, Jiffy Lube, Nike, PayPal, PepsiCo, United Airlines, Verizon, Wells Fargo, Pfizer, Microsoft, and many more. Perhaps at another time, we can discuss material and formal culpability for sin. But, suffice it to say, we cannot “cancel” Girl Scouts in good conscience on their ties to Planned Parenthood alone. There are other reasons, including neutrality on key issues and the following.
Similar to Boy Scouts of America, the GSUSA allows children who identify as transgender into the organization. From the standpoint of charity and truth, this is unacceptable to a Catholic. Those with gender dysphoria have inviolable human dignity and should be treated with respect, love, and care. Charity in this case means telling young boys who have been misled to believe they are girls that, no, they may not join this girls’ organization. Unfortunately, “on a case by case basis” the GSUSA does not agree.
GSUSA and WAGGGS
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is an international organization for girls and young women. This international organization partners with the United Nations. This group is most problematic for the Catholic because of their ardent support and promulgation of “sexual and reproductive health/rights.” Of course, this boils down to the unambiguous and fanatic support for abortion, contraception, and sexual education. Though, they couch the terms in favor of “reproductive health/rights” rather than saying that they support recourse to abortion.
GSUSA actively supports this organization, but is not run by this organization. However, over a million dollars per year in membership dues goes to this international body that materially supports intrinsic evils such as contraception, abortion, and sterilization.
Some may say that these ambiguities allow a Catholic troop to function in a particular way that is in line with Church teaching. And, on a practical level, that may be true. However, as these ideologies become more and more ingrained with each passing year, the resources given to the troop will become more and more indoctrinated and inescapable. The USCCB provides several good suggestions on navigating these waters in the previously linked website. However, they do not offer any Catholic alternatives. Therefore, prudence dictates, in my opinion, that a Catholic alternative is necessary.
Catholic Scouting Alternatives for Girls and Young Women
I would like to propose two organizations for your consideration: American Heritage Girls and the Little Flowers Girls’ Club. And then suggest an immediate opportunity.
“Changing Girls’ Lives and Leading Them Towards a More Christ-Centered Life”
“American Heritage Girls (AHG) was founded by a group of parents wanting a faith-based, scout-type character development program for their daughters in 1995. The AHG Program is dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. AHG girls across the nation and the globe participate in badge programs, service projects, leadership opportunities, and outdoor experiences, all with an emphasis on Christian values and family involvement.
Today there are Troops in every state and in 15 countries around the world through the Trailblazer Program. A variety of Christian denominations are also represented as Charter Organizations for Troops. There are thousands of volunteer members across the country helping girls to grow in their faith, cultivate a heart for service, enjoy the great outdoors, and have more fun than they can imagine!”
Their Mission – “Building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”
Their Vision – “American Heritage Girls is the premier national character development organization for young women that embraces Christian values and encourages family involvement.”
Their Oath – “I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my country, and serve in my community.”
“A Fun, Flexible, Faith-filled Catholic Club for girls!
Little Flowers Girls’ Club® is a Catholic club for girls ages 5 and up that teaches virtues through scripture, saints’ biographies and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Based on the 1906 Catholic classic The Catholic Girls’ Guide by Fr. F.X. Lasance, and the spirituality of St. Thérése, the Little Flower of Liseux, this beautiful, authentically Catholic program, has delighted and instilled in our girls a love of our Catholic Faith for over 25 years.
Little Flowers Girls’ Club® program consists of four years of study: Wreaths I, II, III and IV. Each Wreath consists of nine virtues. The program is so adaptable that it can be used with multiple age groups or just one grade at a time; the leader’s guides explain how. Meetings can be in the home, in a group, parish or group setting. Groups can meet weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Groups can start with Wreath I, but girls can join at anytime.
Like a scouting program, girls earn badges for the virtues they have practiced, life skills they have learned. But unlike most scouting organizations, the girls learn and earn their badges through a distinctly Catholic lens. This Catholic to the Core program relies on the stories of the saints, Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The program is flexible enough to use with a variety of age groups. Little Flowers Girls’ Club® has also been successfully implemented in the family. Sashes, aprons, bandanas, t-shirts and other items are extras that add to the experience, but are not necessary to running a successful club.
The Leader’s Guide for each wreath offers suggestions for running meetings, planning crafts and activities, talks on virtues, and other relevant information. The Member’s Guide includes the activities, saints’ biographies, pictures of the saints, and prayers for each girl. Each of the girls in the club should have their own copy of the Member’s Guide.”
BONUS – “Speaking to Sparrows”
I want to end this article by giving a shout out to Liz Sams and Janine McGann of Project Light Ministries for creating something spectacular with Speaking to Sparrows! This phenomenal film will certainly be a blessing to you and your community. Check it out!
“Taking a different approach to forming women, Speaking to Sparrows is a documentary film about women finding courage to confront the uncomfortable. The film brings to light the issues facing women in today’s world and creates space for the difficult conversations. It is these conversations that are a light in the darkness, and can lead to sisterhood, belonging and healing.”
The film can be viewed in a large venue (movie theater, parish hall, gymnasium etc) with the purchase of a license and viewing kit, which includes resources and materials to facilitate the discussions and ongoing formation that the film is intended to kickstart. Private viewings and home viewings are also an option, and are made possible via download or DVD purchase. Materials for small groups and private group discussion are available with this option.
This is a novel and “new media” approach to some of the age – old questions faced by every woman regardless of age, but with a modern day twist that also seeks to confront difficulties and cultural hurdles that are specific to the 21st century. According to the Website, “it is incredibly powerful for women to know that they are not alone, and that their worth is determined by much more than the size of their waist or their relationship status. Speaking to Sparrows fearlessly confronts issues such as body image, the pressure to be perfect and successful, dating, isolation, father wounds, abuse, eating disorders, lust and pornography…”