Are the Girl Scouts and the Catholic Church headed for splitsville?

May 21, 2012

Girl Scouts At 100: The Launch of ToGetHerThere

A group of Girl Scouts at a Capitol Hill event earlier this year. Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Girl Scouts of

The Girls Scouts of America are celebrating their centennial but the Catholic Church may be absent from the festivities. According to The Christian Science Monitor the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops has opened an official inquiry into certain materials released by the scouts and their affiliation with groups that have goals that may conflict with official church positions.

One of the biggest issues for the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, the committee within the Conference that’s looking into the Girl Scouts, is their association with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). WAGGGS is an 85 year old organization supporting girls and young women in 145 countries across the globe. The problem the Church has with the WAGGGS is that they support girls openly discussing sexuality and have called for increased condom use. The scouts have also been linked to other groups whose missions include — among many other things — family planning. Groups like the international aid organizations Oxfam and Doctors without Borders. For their part the Girl Scouts say they welcome the investigation and hope once the bishops gather the information they’ll be less worried about the scouts affiliations.

But there also seems to be some frustration with their ongoing role in the culture wars. Girl Scouts Spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins told the Monitor that people are using the Girl Scouts to further an agenda. She says it’s sad that the scout’s goal of furthering the leadership of girls is getting lost in the controversy. However, if the bishops aren’t satisfied that the scouts are towing the line it could be a very big blow. About a quarter of the scouts membership is Catholic and many troops are affiliated with Catholic churches.

If Bishops were to pull the plug on the Girl Scouts what would it mean for them, especially considering their membership has dwindled in recent years? The Girl Scouts have made some changes to their materials in an attempt to appease the church. How far should they go to save the relationship? Will the Scouts cut ties with groups the church finds problematic? Should they?


Michelle Tompkins, Spokesperson, The Girl Scouts of America

Bob McCarty, Executive Director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry

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