David Garcia is a junior english major.
Last week, the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri released a letter from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and a statement on their website encouraging Roman Catholics to scale back their ties to the Girl Scouts. They advised their members to reconsider memberships, and, as gleefully featured in the lede of the New York Times’ coverage of this PR nightmare, they asked Catholics to think twice about buying Girl Scout cookies.
Why did the Archdiocese decide to deprive their parishioners of Thin Mints and Tagalongs? Take a guess. The Scouts have, in the Church’s eyes, been supporters of the ubiquitous trifecta of Stuff The Church Isn’t A Big Fan Of: homosexuality, transgender rights, and abortion. The idea is that the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is the parent organization of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), and has been outspokenly supportive of reproductive, homosexual, and transgender rights.
As a guilt-riddled Roman Catholic attending a Jesuit university in a modern, liberal American city, I let out a pained groan when this story showed up in my Twitter feed. I prayed that it wouldn’t go viral. I didn’t want to deal with it, didn’t want to have to explain why I belong to a Church that dislikes LGBTQA and women’s rights to such a degree that it would sever ties with an organization whose main role in our society is to teach little girls leadership skills, hand out badges, and make us all gain a little weight in March. Not really a conversation I looked forward to having.
Stories like this are nothing new. Occasionally, they get big; I remember last fall when the Archbishop of San Francisco decided to create a mandatory morality pledge for Catholic school teachers rejecting homosexuality, a situation that was just as frustrating for me, and for plenty of much more prominent San Franciscan Catholics, who signed a letter asking the Pope to assign the city a new Archbishop. At least that debacle was centered on Catholic schools. I support the Church’s right to teach what it likes to the students in its schools, but St. Louis’ targeting of the Girl Scouts seems illogical at best; the GSUSA is a truly secular organization, one that in its century of scouting has never banned or required a specific religious focus for it’s members or activities. Although not ideal, the Scouts’ policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Evangelize” works to create an environment where no one’s opinion is more valid than anyone else’s. At this point, the Girl Scouts have a better cooperation policy than Congress.
The Church’s public actions against the LGBTQA community and against reproductive rights force me to reconcile my Catholic faith with the Church’s harsh public judgment of my fellow human beings. It is an unenviable position. I am a Catholic, yes, and I should be following the example of church leaders, but I’m also a human being who cannot support the suppression of individual human rights. This includes your right to disobey the teachings of the Catholic Church. I am, simply by the blessing of circumstance, allowed to live a fairly happy, opportunity-filled life as a straight, light-skinned, cisgender Catholic male, and I’m pleased to report that my life thus far has been quite pleasant. I have been able to pursue happiness, unhindered by societal rejection. How can I turn to another person, a friend or classmate or professor or stranger on the bus, and tell them that they do not have the right to be happy, simply because their life is not guided by the same faith as mine? They are also human. They too were made in the image of God.
Why have so many Catholic leaders forgotten about the common link all people share: we are ALL sinners. You sin. I sin. Every LGBTQA individual and transgender person sins, and so does every Girl Scout, troop leader, and St. Louisan–even Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. None of us live perfect lives. We were made in God’s image, but we are all imperfect copies. Each of us has been tainted with human temptation and sin. We are all guilty. And to break ties with a well-meaning impactful organization, one that, on the whole has almost nothing to do with LGBTQA and reproductive rights, seems like a fast judgement of the sin of those we do not completely agree with.
I may be wrong about this; I would never think to speak for all Catholics. There may be plenty who applaud the St. Louis Archdiocese’s (at this point, almost laughable) decision to distance itself from the Girl Scouts. I am not one of them. Jesus broke bread with plenty of people, fishermen and tax collectors and prostitutes. I doubt he is going to care if I buy a box of Thin Mints. Maybe he’ll recommend freezing them.