Fr. Roger J. Landry on the “Scouts’ Dishonor”

"There’s a difference between struggling with same-sex attractions and coming out as gay."

Fr. Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, operates the site. In a piece written for the The Anchor, he argues—quite compellingly, I think—that the recent decision by the BSA was a serious mistake that is going to have disastrous consqeuences. He writes:

 Since its founding in 1910, there have doubtless been some Scouts with same-sex attractions, just as there have been some who had serious problems believing in God, even though being avowedly gay, atheistic or agnostic were all officially prohibited. 

The BSA exists, as its oath and law attest, to train boys to become physically strong, mentally awake, morally straight, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent men. Guiding them along that formational journey, Scout leaders always recognized that some boys would go through periods of intense questioning, but they were prepared to accompany boys, in the hope that the mentoring, friendship and virtue-training available in Scouting would help the boys sort through these issues. 

What wasn’t allowed, however, was a boy’s taking a public existential stand contrary to the principles and values the BSA thought good not just for the individuals but for the cohesion and formative culture of the troop. If a Scout provocatively came out as a Satanist, for example, the BSA had recognized that it was more than an individual lifestyle choice of no consequence to the other eleven- to eighteen-year-old boys. It would minimally become an unnecessary distraction, and maximally a training toxin, to the other Scouts — and hence wasn’t allowed. 

But that was before the gay lobby began to treat the BSA not as a virtuous and praiseworthy organization but as a bastion of bigots with irrational prejudices against those with same-sex attractions. The first tactic was a series of expensive lawsuits, but after the Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts have the Constitutionally-protected right to determine membership standards, they needed to try something else. So the gay lobby began to pressure BSA’s corporate sponsors — like Intel, UPS and Merck — to vow not to contribute another penny until the BSA accepted openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders. The strategy took several years, but at the end of May, the gay lobby achieved half of what it wanted, and publicly promised not to stop its efforts until openly gay Scout leaders were also accepted. 

Some have argued, including some Catholics involved in the Scouting movement, that since the BSA still prohibits Scouts from engaging in sexual activity, allowing Scouts with attractions to other boys to come out the closet is consistent with Church teaching that distinguishes between same-sex tendencies, which are morally neutral, and same-sex activity, which Christian revelation clearly condemns as sinful. 

But I believe that such an opinion is politically and psychologically naïve. 

He goes on to outline how he thinks matters will proceed in the near future, eventually leading to a complete ban on Scouts and Scoutmasters who are “homophobic”. He then makes this very important point:

There’s a difference between struggling with same-sex attractions and coming out as gay. In general to be gay means not just to admit to same-sex attractions but to consider them good, wholesome and an indispensably important part of one’s self-identity. To be gay also normally means that one shares the values of the gay subculture. 

The U.S. Bishops, in their superb 2006 document “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” stressed that young people with same-sex attractions should be dissuaded from defining themselves in this way. 

“Persons with a homosexual inclination,” they write, “should not be encouraged to define themselves primarily in terms of their sexual inclination … or to participate in ‘gay subcultures,’ which often tend to promote immoral lifestyles.” 

The bishops went on to discuss whether young people with homosexual attractions should be encouraged to come out.

Read the entire column on the Anchor website. 

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About Carl E. Olson 1190 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.