By Ryan Velez
The NY Daily News reports that a letter sent to Catholics in the St. Louis area is leveling criticism against the Girl Scouts, and many are not happy about it. In the letter, addressed to church members, pastors and scout leaders, Archibishop Rev. Robert J. Carlson asked church members to consider “alternatives” to the Girl Scouts due to what he describes as support and affiliation of “troubling” causes like reproductive rights and support of gay and transgender members. Girl Scouts of America has established ties with Amnesty International, the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, Oxfam and other groups. Promotion of feminist figures like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan was also criticized by the Archbishop. The letter deemed these practices as “becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values (and) the total well-being of our young women.”
In a statement to the New York Times, Archdiocese spokesman Gabe Jones said that the timing of the letter and the statement were designed to attempt to provide parishes and parishioners time to seek out alternatives before the next school year. The Archdiocese released a letter in 2014 as well on this same subject, but this marks the first time that Archbishop Carlson has officially attached his name to such a statement.
This particular letter targeted a regional chapter of the Girl Scouts, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, which counts 43,000 girls in the St. Louis area among its membership. While around 4000 of these girls are based in Catholic schools and parishes, as a secular organization, they can meet in any other public location should they be displaced from parish meeting places. In a response, the Girl Scouts of Missouri remarked that they do not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood, and that all cookie sales go to their local chapters.
CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri Bonnie Barczykowski added that “the points raised have framed an ongoing discussion between our two organizations for several years…Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri has spoken to our Troop leaders within our Catholic parishes. Many of these troop leaders have considered alternatives, and have confirmed that they will continue as Girl Scouts. In an emailed statement she sent out on Wednesday, Barczykowski also added that the Archbishop’s concerns “misrepresent how Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri serves girls in our community.” According to her, the chapter does not address matters pertaining to human sexuality or reproductive issues, instead saying that they are best discussed with family. So far, any other effects on the organization from this letter appear to be limited.