Elsewhere: St. Louis Girl Scouts


We have always loved the Girl Scouts. Many of us (including myself) have daughters who were (or are) scouts. Many of their moms were too. Who can forget the logistics of the cookie drive (we all have our favorite types of Girl Scout cookies too)? Most of all, we treasure the memories and Christian values learned and reinforced.

Unfortunately, many of us, while treasuring those memories, are living in the past. Girl Scouts USA of today is NOT the same organization it was a decade or two back. It is pro-abortion, radical feminist, homosexual affirming, transgendered, and more. Local troops can be sponsored by solid churches and led by faithful adults, but they can not fully isolate their girls from the influence of the organization. Note too, their very participation (and implied support) gives scandal. I have written about the “new” Girl Scouts in some detail before (see: Loss of Innocense).

The good news is that excellent alternatives such as the American Heritage Girls have arisen in response to the loss of traditional Girl Scouts. They are today what the Girl Scouts once were. They are what you remember the Girl Scouts being. Girl Scouts are increasingly replaced by these excellent alternatives in many of our parish families.

The bad news is how many people are still either unaware of the GSUSA problems or falsely believe “their girls” are protected. Even when the pastor is aware of the problems, it is often difficult for him to fight the battle for various reasons. This is a problem requiring the bishop’s intervention.

That is exactly what St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson recently did for his flock. Last Thursday he sent this thoughtful letter:

Dear Priests, Scout Leaders and Faithful of the Archdiocese,

For several years, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been investigating concerns regarding Girls Scouts USA (GSUSA). These concerns also extend to the parent organization of GSUSA, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). They include, but are not limited to:

  1. WAGGGS’ continued promotion of contraception and “abortion rights” on behalf of its girl members, the majority of whom are minors.
  2. Financial contributions from GSUSA to WAGGGS, based on number of registered GSUSA members.
  3. GSUSA resources and social media highlight and promote role models in conflict with Catholic values, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.
  4. Organizations that GSUSA promotes and partners with are 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).

In November of 2014, the Catholic Youth Apostolate issued a letter of concern to pastors and the faithful of the archdiocese regarding these issues. Since then, GSUSA and Girls Scouts of Eastern Missouri (GSEM) have tried to downplay and distance themselves from these issues; however, we continue to have more questions than answers. We have been in dialogue with these groups and have voiced our concerns on numerous occasions.

In addition, recent concerns about GSUSA and their position on and inclusion of transgender and homosexual issues are proving problematic. Our culture is becoming increasingly intolerant of a Catholic worldview regarding these issues. 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. Because local Girl Scout troops are chartered with GSEM, not the parish, any authority on policy and teaching resides with GSEM rather than with parish leadership. In addition, given the fact that the Girl Scout program is a secular organization, they are not obliged to uphold the teachings of our faith.

For many years, Girls Scouts has been a valuable resource in teaching our young Catholic girls leadership skills and helping form them as Christian leaders. I know that we have many faithful Catholic Girl Scout leaders who make sure that these troubling elements of the Girl Scout program are not brought into the troops at our parishes. I wish to thank each of you for your time and commitment to building up the girls of our archdiocese into strong Catholic women of virtue and faith.

It is, however, becoming harder to assure these same results from the Girl Scout program. 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. 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?

Concerns are also continuing to surface with Boy Scouts of America (BSA). While the new BSA leadership policy currently offers some protections to religious organizations, I continue to wonder in which direction this once trusted organization is now headed.

In “Renewing the Vision,” the US Bishops’ framework for Youth Ministry, we read: “All ministry with adolescents must be directed toward presenting young people with the Good news of Jesus Christ and inviting and challenging them to become disciples” (page 10). While I am certain that many dedicated leaders are fulfilling this mandate within their troops, I continue to be concerned of messages at odds with our faith that our youth are receiving from GSUSA and the organizations that they partner with.

I take all of these concerns very seriously. Therefore, 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. Our primary obligation is to help our girls grow as women of God. Several alternative organizations exist, many of which have a Catholic or Christian background. For more information on each of these organizations and a more detailed listing of ongoing concerns, please visit archstl.org/scouting. I ask that you carefully study each organization and strongly consider offering one of these programs in your parish instead of Girl Scouts.

Effective immediately, I am 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. While continuing to serve our Catholic girls involved in various scouting programs, this committee will also reflect our ongoing commitment to educating and forming all young women.

I am aware that many of our young women are active in Girl Scouts and any action taken against the organization affects them first. To aid in this process, the Catholic Youth Apostolate is available to offer assistance in helping your parish. They are continuing to strategize new Catholic formation programs to address the spiritual, emotional and personal well-being of all Catholic girls.

Know that you and the youth of our Archdiocese remain in my prayers.

More information is available on the Archdiocese of St. Louis website.

Elsewhere: abortion losing ground


It is easy to get discouraged in the fight to end abortion. One political party is dedicated to its preservation. They insist on funding Planned Parenthood, whose evil should now be obvious to everyone. The question of when life begins, as the left loves to say in other contexts, is “settled science” – yet it somehow does not matter in the case of these innocent lives.

Despite the lack of progress with that political party, the American people are increasingly paying attention. There has been a real shift in perspective on abortion. It is increasingly seen decoupled from the (fake) women’s rights / war on women issue it never properly was. The humanity of unborn babies is increasingly apparent.

The Knights of Columbus has sponsored a Marist poll for almost a decade on abortion attitudes. It documents a solid shift, apparently invisible to liberal politicians and their proxies in the media. While we still have a long way to go, in America today 8 out of 10 people favor significant restrictions on abortion. Not perfect, but good news.

Carl Anderson, head of the Knights, wrote recently about the latest poll results for the National Review:

The idea that the “pro-choice” label represents a monolithic lobby made up of half of all Americans favoring an unrestricted right to abortion is simply not true. Instead, there is a new normal favoring substantial restrictions on abortion – and that consensus is made possible because of the agreement of a majority of Americans who call themselves “pro-choice.”

Despite the rhetoric of some in politics and the media, a substantial majority of men and women – including those who say they are “pro-choice” – consistently support increasing restrictions on abortion.

Those who say they are “pro-life” reliably support abortion restrictions in overwhelming numbers.

But it would likely shock most Washington pundits that the majority of those who say they are pro-choice also support such restrictions. And yet, surveys conducted by Marist, one of the country’s top polling groups, show that this is exactly the case.

Consider the data from the most recent Marist poll on the issue: Eight in ten Americans (81 percent) would restrict abortion to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. This includes 66 percent of those who identify as pro-choice.

About six in ten Americans, and about the same number of pro-choice adherents, would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. More than two-thirds of Americans (68 percent), and a majority of those who call themselves pro-choice (51 percent), would ban taxpayer funding of abortion.

Politically, “pro-choice” has come to mean supporting abortion rights throughout pregnancy and opposing all restrictions. But that’s not the way the average person thinks when he says he is pro-choice.

The idea that we should abort a seven-pound baby the day before its due date is just out of step with the vast majority of Americans.

The idea that we should abort a seven-pound baby the day before its due date is, while political dogma in some quarters, just out of step with the vast majority of Americans. And it’s out of step with the vast majority of pro-choice Americans too – about eight in ten of them reject this extreme position.

In fact, about a quarter of those who call themselves pro-choice (26 percent) support what is commonly seen as a strongly pro-life position: They would limit abortion to cases only of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. In other words, those who identify as pro-choice are more likely to share the position of those who identify as pro-life than they are to share the position of the abortion-rights lobby and its defenders in politics and the media.

Read the whole piece: The Surprising New Normal in the Abortion Debate.

Elsewhere: what do saints fear?


Msgr. Charles Pope posed this intriguing question recently on his blog (aside: Msgr. Pope is a regular contributor to New Evangelists Monthly and is among the very best Catholic bloggers anywhere, IMHO).

OK, saints have the beatific vision and are beyond the fears we experience. Perhaps the question would be better phrased “what do the most ‘saintly’ people fear the most?” It could be the injustice of violence. Maybe it is the struggles of the poor. The desperation of those fleeing war is a possibility. Even mundane things like our pedestrian worries and concerns could be shared through their love for us.

Nope. None of the above.

The saints know better. Those, be they trivial or severe, are all earthly concerns. While valid, they pale in the scope of eternity.

The saints fear for bad Catholics.

Msgr. Pope recounts the words of St. Bernadette. Here is the context followed by the quote (from Fr. Rene Larentin’s book Bernadette Speaks. A Life of St. Bernadette Soubirous in Her Own Words):

Napoleon III had surrendered to the Prussians, bringing on the disaster. The Mother General put the sisters at the disposition of the Ministry of War. A field hospital was installed [at the convent for the retreating and battered troops] …   Military uniforms mingled with the black and white silhouettes in the courtyard and corridors of the Motherhouse …   the sick and the wounded were [all about] the convent. Twenty-five novices were sent to communities in the south and the postulants were sent home to their families. The Prussians were coming and all the area was on alert …   Cannons were installed on the inner terrace of the motherhouse and in the novitiate gardens …   On the night of October 24, 1870 …   a strange phenomenon appeared in the sky. The horizon was all ablaze …   you might have thought it was a sea of blood …   [but it was] an aurora borealis …   a very impressive display …   The Prussians were at the borders.

[And here is the question posed to our saint, who was considered by many to be a visionary]:

“The Prussians are at our gates. Don’t they inspire you with terror?”


“So there is nothing to fear then?”

“I fear only bad Catholics.”

“Do you fear nothing else?”

“No, nothing.”

A conquering army was approaching the motherhouse / field hospital. They were not inclined to be kind. The remaining sisters had taken the precautions they could, but they would be futile. As the inevitable was about to be realized, bad Catholics was Sr. Bernadette’s true fear.

Read Msgr. Pope’s comments in his full piece: What Do Saints Fear?.

Elsewhere: welcome CEO Catholics


This year, like every year, we will see strange faces on Christmas. Some of those folks will be from far away, visiting friends and family. Others live nearby, maybe living closer to the church than we do, but strangers to us. They are the Christmas and Easter Only (CEO) subset of fallen-away Catholics.

While we don’t see them often, they are our brothers and sisters. They are members of our Catholic family who are drawn to the Church yet often harbor “issues.” They are like the brother who only comes home for Thanksgiving but avoids us the rest of the year. We care about them and we miss them.

Then too, we will also come across others who have fallen-away and will not even step foot into the church on Christmas. We love them all and want what’s best for them. Their boycott of the Church is harmful to them and we hate to see this self-destructive pride that has taken hold.

This is a wonderful time to engage our family and neighbors, to invite them back, to tell them they are important to God and to us. If someone pushed them away doing or failing to do something in the name of the Church, we should apologize for it (even if that person was right, pastorally they failed). Flawed as it is, the Church is their surest path.

Katie Warner offers some helpful perspective in her recent piece for the National Catholic Register:

But perhaps the most-shared feeling or expression in the many correspondences I have fielded over the years is this: Almost all of these fallen-away Catholics want to know that someone cares.

They want to know that someone cares that they left. They want to know that someone not only notices their absence, but also is actually saddened, or at least affected by it. Sadly, many, if not most, of these inactive Catholics have never found anyone to express this concern to them.

So I make an effort to tell fallen-away Catholics who reach out to Catholics Come Home that they are missed, and their brothers and sisters in Christ – including me – want them home and that their Heavenly Father in particular wants them to again be a part of the Catholic Church that Jesus Christ founded.

As a unity in the Body of Christ, a living organism, we aren’t the same without them, and we care that they are away.

It never ceases to amaze me how even the seemingly hardest of hearts in an initial correspondence can be turned around after hearing that someone, anyone, cares about them and about their leaving the barque of St. Peter.

I’ve been moved to tears more times than I can count by people who seemed bent on spewing their rage toward the Church and have then responded to my reply with words like, “Thank you for answering. You are the first person to respond to me – and to care.” Some of these people have admitted attempting to reach out to other people or organizations, seeking a listening ear or an extended hand of welcome, only to be further disappointed by the fact that not only did they exit the Church without a single person knowing that they had gone, but they also couldn’t find anyone to help them explore the possibility of returning.

So many of our fallen-away family, friends, co-workers, relatives, neighbors and even strangers whom God puts in our path are desperately wanting to know that they are missed. Many just need to hear it from one person — and that one person can be you.

Read the whole piece: The No. 1 Thing I’ve Learned From Talking With Fallen-Away Catholics.

Elsewhere: quoting St. Francis


We have all heard the famous quote from St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel always. When necessary, use words.” It seems that a month does not go by that I do not hear or read it somewhere from a well intentioned source. It drives me nuts.

St. Francis never said this. St. Francis never would say it.

Certainly, there is an important point to be made about living the Gospel through our actions as well as words. No quibble there. However, this (misleading) saying, taken at face value, tells us to evangelize by being “good people.” Many atheists, agnostics and those of other religions are that too, so how would that alone lead people to Christ? Worse, it implies we should NOT say anything (unless perhaps absolutely necessary). Brothers and sisters, the notion of leading only by example is NOT ENOUGH to communicate the fullness of Christian life.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

How could we communicate this to the world if we evangelize through even exemplary lives, but are otherwise generally silent? St. Paul:

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!”

Through our baptisms and confirmations we were sent and given the office of priests, prophets and kings. The Great Commission applies especially to the Apostles and their successors in the ministerial priesthood, but also applies to us laity in the common priesthood too. Our Lord commanded at His Ascension:

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

Marcel LeJeune (Aggie Catholics) has also commented on all of this in his recent blog piece:

St. Francis would have agreed, we all need this personal change and transformation of life through a conversion to Jesus. Francis decided he wanted to live a radical life of poverty and service to Jesus Christ. He started to cast off all the trappings of the world and lived for God alone. In the poverty of spirit, which he formed, he found a great call to help others grow closer to the love of Christ.

This love propelled him out into the world to preach Good News to others, while loving them with acts of service. His preaching was powerful, not only because he was a good orator, but because his love for God was reflected in his deeds.

Both his life and his words were a critical part of his mission as an evangelist.

St. Francis never said the phrase above and I don’t believe he ever would have, because it leaves out the heart of evangelization — helping others come to know Jesus — by proclaiming His name! Imagine if St. Francis never spoke about Jesus. Imagine if the 12 Apostles never spoke about Jesus. We wouldn’t be Christians today.

Others cannot know Jesus unless we talk about Him!

St. Francis knew (and so does the Church) that evangelization is NEVER complete, until the saving message of the Gospel is proclaimed. The Church repeats this over and over.

Marcel’s full post is St Francis Never Said “Preach The Gospel Always. When Necessary Use Words.”

Glenn Stanton also wrote on this topic for the National Catholic Register in his piece What St. Francis of Assisi Didn’t Actually Say.

If you want to follow St. Francis’ example – preach the Gospel with words and live a life consistent with them.