Vindicating the Scouts

  Last month in Dallas, Catholic bishops adopted a set of policies to address the scandal of sexual abuse by priests. The policy "permanently [removes] from ministry" any priest or deacon who has ever sexually abused a minor. While it remains to be seen whether this policy or any other measure will restore confidence in the church, there's one unjustly maligned group whose policies have been vindicated by these scandals: the Boy Scouts. In addition to what is being called a "zero tolerance" policy toward wayward priests, the bishops took steps to prevent future abuse. These include the adoption of strict standards of conduct for anyone, lay or clergy, working with children. If the Bishops are looking for an example of such standards, they need look no further than in the basements of many of their churches. That's because the organization meeting there, the Boy Scouts, has a policy that now looks very good in the wake of the travails of the Catholic church. To understand why, it's important to acknowledge the nature of the problems confronting the Catholic church. The scandal cannot be understood or worked out without taking the homosexuality of the accused priests into account. Note that the overwhelming majority of abuse cases in the Catholic church involve men and boys. The best way to avoid these problems in the future is to keep sexually active homosexual men away from vulnerable boys. And that's exactly what the Scouts have been doing. They prohibit homosexual men from acting as scoutmasters. While this policy isn't a complete guarantee against sexual abuse, it greatly reduces the risk and has so far spared Scouting from what has happened in the Catholic church. And for acting on what most people would regard as common sense, particularly in light of the Catholic church experience, the Scouts have been vilified and even sued. Their right, as a private organization, to determine the qualifications for leadership was barely upheld by the Supreme Court three years ago. Having won in court, the Scouts are still the object of harassment and boycotts. City governments have banned them from public facilities, and major corporations have withdrawn funding. For many of our elites, the Scouts' policy on gay scoutmasters is the embodiment of bigotry. This is why you won't see many people in the mainstream media drawing the connection between what's going on in the Catholic church and the Scouts. Their worldview, which tells them that any disapproval of homosexual behavior is mere prejudice, won't allow them to see the connection. As Leslie Carbone recently pointed out in National Review, elites who condemn the Catholic church for putting young boys in danger of sexual abuse are the same ones who condemned the Scouts for refusing to do so. And so they are in the hypocritical position of opposing homosexual priests while demanding homosexual scout leaders. If our neighbors are going to appreciate how events of the past few months have vindicated the Scouts, they'll have to hear it from us. And let's be fair here: What the media thinks is now good for the Catholic church -- "zero tolerance," no abuse tolerated -- is surely good for the Scouts. Come on, folks -- let's stop harassing the Scouts. They've been right all along. For more information: Learn more about the Boy Scouts of America. Susan Hogan, "Bishops say new policy does send message of zero tolerance," The Dallas Morning News, 16 June 2002. Leslie Carbone, "Hypocrites on Homosexuality," National Review, 19 June 2002. Robert George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (ISI Books, 2001). Mary Eberstadt, "The Elephant in the Sacristry," The Weekly Standard, 17 June 2002. Armand Nicholi, The Question of God (Free Press, 2002).


Chuck Colson


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