Dustin Siggins

News,

US bishops urge caution in dealing with Girl Scouts

Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A USCCB report two years in the making says that "attentiveness" is needed in regard to some practices of the Girl Scouts that go against Catholic doctrine.

In the report, the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth (LMFLY) explains that it had "exchanges" that "were pleasant, informative and respectful" with Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. (GSUSA). But while LMFLY said the "GSUSA staff was generous with their time" and "indicated a strong desire and willingness to work more closely with the Catholic Church in the United States," the report expressed concern with several GSUSA policies, affiliations, and structural weaknesses.

Girl Scout critic Christy Volanski of Speak Now: Girl Scouts said the bishops' report was helpful in highlighting how GSUSA allows local councils to work with Planned Parenthood, and in criticizing its "ardent support, promotion and funding" of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) because of its promotion of "sexual and reproductive rights."

She noted, however, that “some families are disappointed that the USCCB did not address in more detail the concerns with troublesome role models and organizations that Girl Scouts routinely promotes to girls.”

“Hopefully, laity and clergy will research and consider the on-going issues relating to the Girl Scout curriculum sold and promoted by every local council, in which Girl Scouts recommend groups and women which actively work in opposition to the Catholic Church,” she said.

The bishops’ report focuses on three issues: 1) GSUSA's relationship with groups like Planned Parenthood and international affiliate World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts ; 2) GSUSA's views on issues related "to human sexuality, contraception, and abortion;" and 3) various materials and resources GSUSA has that may have "inappropriate content."

With regards to GSUSA's affiliations, the report largely accepts GSUSA’s claim that they have no relationship with Planned Parenthood. However, it says that "attentiveness" is needed to prevent local groups -- which act independently as their own 501c(3) organizations -- from partnering with morally objectionable organizations, including Planned Parenthood.

The report is firmer with regards to Catholic concerns about WAGGGS. While WAGGGS claims it does not formally back abortion, language on its website left the Committee with no doubt that such support exists, as well as support for contraceptive use. "WAGGGS’ delegates from member organizations have taken problematic positions on other issues as well," says the report. Sometimes, these are "positions that WAGGGS has not explicitly distanced itself from."

"These concerns have been communicated to GSUSA," says the report. “The current relationship [between GSUSA and WAGGGS] remains a concern due to WAGGGS' problematic promotion of 'sexual and reproductive health/rights' and other matters."

GSUSA sends over one million dollars to WAGGGS annually, but the USCCB report notes all of those dues come from GSUSA's investments, not annual revenues.

The harshest criticism of GSUSA may have come when the report noted strong references to contraception and other non-abstinence measures related to sexuality on the GSUSA website. According to the report, "attentiveness is needed to avoid programming and initiatives that are not in accord with Catholic teaching. In addition, the Committee shared concerns with GSUSA about particular areas of research on the GSUSA website related to human sexuality and contraception, given the impossibility of a neutral treatment of such issues."

The report notes that "the research remains on GSUSA’s website, though a disclaimer has been added."

According to GSUSA spokesperson Kelly Parisi, the disclaimer "was added as part of the conversation with the USCCB team. They raised the point that our [Girl Scout Research Institute] webpage addresses issues related to human sexuality when we say we do not have a position on this issue."

Parisi says GSUSA "clarified that these are quotations from external research and that [the website] regularly reports out on the findings (on many topics) of research conducted by other organizations." She told LifeSiteNews that the USCCB "asked if we might consider adding a disclaimer, to clarify this point for the public. We thought it was a great idea, and implemented the change last summer."

Overall, according to Parisi, "GSUSA is pleased with the USCCB resource and are proud to have worked directly with the USCCB to develop a concrete, respectable resource to which individuals can turn for further definitive proof about our positions."

In claiming they have no relationship with Planned Parenthood, GSUSA has had to grapple with former CEO Kathy Cloninger's statement that “we have relationships … with Planned Parenthood organizations across the country, to bring information-based sex education programs to girls.” Parisi, who has previously denied a relationship between GSUSA and Planned Parenthood, told LifeSiteNews, "Through a recent internal review of our archives, we can definitively say – as we have numerous times – that GSUSA has never partnered with Planned Parenthood."

When asked how personal viewpoints on issues affect GSUSA's policies, Parisi, a former vice president of marketing and communications for the strongly pro-abortion Ms. Foundation for Women, said that "the viewpoints of staff do not impact our partnerships.  All of our partners, which can be found here, are in line with our mission of serving all girls and in line with our non-political non-partisan stance." Those partners include the United Nations and the Environmental Protection Agency, among dozens of other private and public organizations.

"We take no position on issues like contraception and abortion as those issues are best handled by families," she said. “In parts of the country where a diocese was concerned about their council’s real or perceived partnerships, the diocese established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with their local council. Councils and dioceses have had tremendous success with MOUs, which clearly outline the needs of both parties."

Legally, each local Girl Scout organization -- known as "councils" -- is a 501c(3) organization. Parisi said "greater local control and reduced national influence is part of what makes Girl Scouts so integral to communities across the country."

With regards to WAGGGS, Parisi directed LifeSiteNews to speak to that organization directly, saying, "WAGGGS is comprised of religious and secular scouting groups from 145 countries," and that "individual members of WAGGGS may disagree on key issues just as members of Girl Scouts may disagree on key issues."  

Volanski, who along with her daughter spent eight years involved with Girl Scouts of America, noted that Girl Scouts promotes groups like the ACLU and Amnesty International, both which advocate for abortion and other moral evils.

Contrary to Parisi's statement about leaving sexuality up to families, as well as a statement by current GSUSA CEO Anna Maria Chavez to the same effect, Volanski says that the sexuality page addressed by the USCCB "reveals that the Girl Scouts’ words don’t match their actions: the report points out that GSUSA has publicly published research on its website relating to sexuality."

Volanski says that GSUSA could easily "prevent troops and councils from working with Planned Parenthood or other organizations which advocate for abortion rights" by putting "forth parameters and guidelines for councils" as it does "on other issues." Volansky pointed to how "all councils are required to promote and use the GSUSA curriculum; or consider that GSUSA states that councils may not take a stand on political issues or endorse political candidates."

On March 17, 2014, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who heads the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, wrote a letter expressing concerns that the Archdiocese has with GSUSA material and practices. Naumann said the Archdiocese is examining its relationship with GSUSA even as his letter expressed gratitude that GSUSA "recently removed" what he calls "several offensive and completely age-inappropriate role models and/or sections of the Journey series."

The USCCB's press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment about what the LMFLY examination found regarding GSUSA's alleged partnerships with Planned Parenthood and other abortion organizations. 

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