I have bad news and good news: Scouts and Troops

A couple of great institutions have committed seppuku by conforming themselves to the worst trends of a secularist society.  Stick a fork – or a tanto – into the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts.  I was a Boy Scout, so I’m pretty angry about what they’ve done.

One a happier note, I read that Bp. Michael Olson of the Diocese of Forth Worth has given recognition to the Troops of St. George as a Catholic apostolate.

Troops of St. George approved as official Catholic apostolate

Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson congratulates apostolate

KELLER, Texas — Thousands of young men and their fathers across the country found their prayers answered yesterday when Most Rev. Michael F. Olson, bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, officially endorsed the Troops of St. George as a Catholic apostolate.

“After a careful review of the program and its contents, including its mission statement, curriculum, pedagogical structure, letters of Ecclesiastical approval, and statement of mission that faithfully reflects and adheres to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, the Troops of Saint George is hereby approved as a Catholic Apostolate of the Diocese of Fort Worth,” the bishop wrote in a letter, dated May 16, 2018.

National Executive Director Dr. Jeremy Lustig thanked Bishop Olson for approving the apostolate and for his enthusiasm for the Troops’ work. “Bishop Olson has been enthusiastic about our work from the beginning, so we’re thrilled to have his official approval of our ministry.”

Brian Squibbs, National Director of Communications and Recruitment, said the Troops of St. George is needed in our day now more than ever.

“With the growing amount of gender confusion in our world today, the Troops of St. George offers Catholic boys and their dads a deep, fully Catholic experience in the outdoors with sacraments, adventure, and authentic masculinity.”

Visit www.troopsofstgeorge.org or like Troops of St. George on Facebook.

“Troops” already appeals.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. pbnelson says:

    I’ve been in ToSG here in Southern MN for, what, five years now? I was a Boy Scout back in the day, as were, I think, all the other dads in our group. There are two big differences between ToSG and Boy Scouts.
    1) ToSG is explicitly Catholic. Open only to Catholics. Catholic mass attendance is required, even on Sunday, even while camping. Boys are required to be servers at their home parish, though not necessarily while camping. The Rosary is said around the campfire.
    2) ToSG is a FATHERS AND sons group. If your boy is in, then you are, too. A few carefully considered exceptions are made for Uncles, Grandfathers or Legal Guardians, but in no case does a boy participate in ToSG without his sponsoring Catholic male chaperone. This is a pretty big increase in commitment compared to Boy Scouts (as I remember it), where only a few of the dads would take an interest, and most of them just dropped their boys off.

  2. frjim4321 says:

    One of the most moving funerals here was that of a young father who tragically perished suddenly while at home while working on his daughter’s car. The family was extremely active in scouts. NOT Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, but the Yugoslavian Scouts. At the funeral there were at least 100 of them, proudly wearing their uniforms. It is an extraordinarily wonderful organization. And they have been coed over the course of several generations. I was in Boy Scouting myself, and I would say the Yugoslavian Scouts seem to be a much better run organization.

  3. jflare29 says:

    “I was a Boy Scout, so I’m pretty angry about what they’ve done.”

    So was I. I have been soundly disgusted by how the present-day leadership have effectively abandoned the basic-most premises. I have heard of the Troops of St George; I have no practical experience with them. I understand though that another organization, Trail Life USA, has also developed in the wake of the Boy Scout’s implosion. While not specifically Catholic, they do take a Christian frame of mind and seem to be more widespread.

  4. PTK_70 says:

    @jflare29….My sons and I were briefly involved in a Trail Life troop at a Catholic parish and I can’t say that I was ever fully comfortable with the program. IMO they take a “mere Christianity” approach….tolerating the addition of Masses and Rosaries and whatnot as superimposed “non-essentials” for self-identifying Catholic troops. Their faith statement is not the Nicene Creed. For authority, they apparently do not look any further than “Holy Scriptures”. The feeling I had was that effort was required to “make” the troop Catholic since it was not fully Catholic from the inside out. All this is to say that if I choose to get involved with scouting again, I will look towards the Troops of St. George before I look to Trail Life.

  5. A lot has been written in both the Catholic and secular press on this subject, mostly by “experts” who didn’t even read the press releases.

    As an Eagle Scout, member of the Order of the Arrow, and presently an Assistant Scoutmaster of a Catholic-sponsored troop, I’m in a position to know the backstory.

    What the BSA did NOT do was change their name. The Boy Scouts of America is still the Boy Scouts of America. What changed was the name of the program for youth ages 11 to 17. “Scouts BSA” now joins “Venturing BSA” and “Sea Scouts BSA” and so on.

    So then, why did the BSA make the decision to include girls in Cubs and Scouts?

    The BSA discovered that parents in their thirties, with boys of Cub Scouting age, couldn’t avoid bringing their daughters to the outdoor events of their sons. With both of them working and going in all directions, there was a demand (and yes, it was a demand) for something, anything, that would involve both sons and daughters, and going in the same direction to an activity.

    (I have seen this myself, when Cub Scout events are held, and parents invariably bring their daughters along with their sons. This has been going on for years.)

    The BSA leadership also discovered, indeed had known for years, that girls of Boy Scouting age wanted the real scouting experience — hiking, camping, rock climbing, high adventure, the full monty — and the Girl Scouts of the USA weren’t giving it to them, and had appeared ill-equipped to do so for years.

    At the same time, if the BSA learned anything else at all, it was not to continue to adversely affect their base of loyal membership due to the “controversies” of the membership policy changes of recent years. They also realized the great value of “single-gender programming,” that boys (and girls too, for that matter) would thrive best in a single-sex environment. The head of the BSA has spoken of its importance at great length.

    And so, this year, SEPARATE DENS will be allowed for girls in Cub Scout packs. Beginning the middle of next year, SEPARATE TROOPS may be established for girls by sponsoring institutions, in some cases alongside boys-only troops. And it helps to keep in mind that girls have been allowed full membership in some aspect of the BSA programs since 1971, essentially for nearly half its 108-year history.

    If people want to criticize the move, by all means, they should do it with the facts. And they can find them here. https://www.scouting.org/familyscouting/

    As I wrote in this venue earlier this year:

    “Because of Scouting, I overcame being socially challenged and found a place to belong. When I was thirteen, I saved my brother from bleeding out in a matter of minutes when he was pierced in the leg by a large shard of glass. When I was sixteen, I saved half a dozen eleven-year-olds from freezing to death on a winter campout. I can pack for a weekend in the woods without a list. I can cook. I can sew. I can identify trees and birds. I can track animals. I can swim, and save someone from drowning. I can start a fire with one match, or without a match. All those things I learned, I can still do them. And I know who and what to thank.”

    The above having been said, I have found that, with proper guidance and steering clear of nefarious influences at the local level (which really isn’t hard to do), the BSA might well remain the best alternative for Catholics in Scouting at the present time. It may not remain that way, but the effect of national policy changes, if only at the local level, is very, VERY minimal at present.

    As for an alternative …

    The Federation of North American Explorers (https://www.fneexplorers.com/) is the most viable alternative to the BSA for Catholic youth interested in Scouting. They are the closest to the original vision of Baden-Powell, combined with the pedagogy of the French Jesuit priest Father Jacques Sevin, known as “The Father of Catholic Scouting” (and recently declared Venerable). They have separate programs for boys and girls, and have the good sense to keep them separate, even when administered under one combined “Group.” They tend toward a traditional approach to Scoutcraft, and the younger boys and girls at Timber Wold stage tend to do more outdoor activities than Cub Scouts or Brownies. The only downside (and it is temporary) is that their system of association-wide support is still in the beginning stages. Although established in 1999, most of their growth has been in the last five years. I recommend them as an alternative for Catholic youth interested in Scouting — a movement supported by every pope since Pius XI in 1922.

    Trail Life USA has the advantage of having attracted the best and brightest among ex-patriates of the BSA, with a well-established infrastructure from Day One. They have property for adventure-based activities, they have the expertise, they have great program support. And even though roughly one-fourth of its units are Catholic-affiliated, it remains essentially evangelical Protestant in its outlook. Unfortunately, its advocates among Catholics fail to remember that, for most of American history, “Christian” was a euphemism for “Protestant.” I’d recommend them with reservations, and then against Catholic boys joining non-Catholic units. Among Catholics, they seem to be most popular in the southern states.

    The Troops of Saint George are unique in being father-son oriented, something never envisioned by Baden-Powell in any of his early writings. After five years, their fifty-plus units around the USA (outside of Texas, perhaps) tend to be rather small in scale, their national organization provides very little in the way of program support, and their published material is lacking. (A source formerly affiliated with TSG tells me that a “fieldbook” has been “in development” for four years.) Their advantage is the name recognition of their founder, Taylor Marshall, which gains endorsements in Catholic media on the part of those who know his name and little else. Short of finding a stalwart group of fathers and sons under their banner by happenstance (which can happen with or without affiliation), I personally do not recommend them.

    (Full Disclosure: I was a “second lieutenant” with a TSG unit during its first year, and earned its highest award of “Tribune,” before the unit in question changed affiliation to FNE. The overnight survival quest was a great experience, and I’d do it again. I’ve never seen the award. I wouldn’t know where to wear it anyway.)

  6. If the good Father will indulge me, I neglected to mention that the Federation of North American Explorers is affiliated with the International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe – Federation of European Scouting (UIGSE-FSE), established in 1956 by a group of Catholic scoutmasters from France and Germany, and now with 20 member associations in Europe and North America. Most important is that in 2008, the Holy See declared the international body as an “association of the faithful of pontifical right.” To the best of my knowledge, no other alternatives to Scouting can make this claim.

  7. hwriggles4 says:

    While I am disgusted with the Boy Scouts at the National Level, I do know some Scout leaders who want to keep their troops intact. One Scout leader a few years ago told me he was going to resist changes until someone at the National Level threw him out. Personally, I think one reason the BSA made this decision was the American Heritage Girls (they have a troop at our parish) formally dropped their alliance with the BSA in 2013 when the Boy Scouts adopted their own version of “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue.” This ended the American Heritage Girls from using Boy Scout facilities, and quite a few members of the American Heritage Girls have brothers who are Boy Scouts.

    Second, I would like to hear what the Catholic Committee on Scouting has to say. I will say that when I was a Boy Scout, the Ad Altari Dei program was a big help, and I learned more in six months than I did in three years of CCD. (Years ago, I attended a discernment weekend at a seminary and many of us there had been Scouts at one time, including a few Eagles.) With the Mormon Church pulling out (Salt Lake City was at one time the largest Boy Scout Council), that speaks. I also think inviting girls will diminish the meaning of the Eagle Scout rank (I know the Girl Scouts have the Gold award). I also remember a few years ago the Knights of Columbus were advised (around 2015) to no longer sponsor Scout Troops, and unfortunately many Squires Circles have folded, and new ones (I have heard) Supreme has directed that new ones not be started.

    These changes are sad – I am an Eagle Scout myself (class of 1982), and Scouts helped me a great deal. I wasn’t a star athlete or a stand out academic, and Scouts got me out of the house and I enjoyed it. Found I liked camping and the outdoors. I made good friends. I even became an EMT in part because of Scouting. I learned leadership, perseverance, and grew a thicker skin. I learned teamwork, confidence, and some of the merit badges taught more than school, like Personal Management, Citizenship in the Community, and Personal Fitness. My troop was chartered by a Lutheran Church, and we were a mixed bag of kids from the neighborhood. I also staffed winter camp during college, and I know these upcoming changes will definitely affect the setup of Summer Camp and Winter Camp.

    If I had a son of Scout age today, I would have reservations about him being involved in Scouting, but I am glad that quite a few troops and “stick to your guns” Scouters are resisting change.

  8. hwriggles4:

    You will find the NCCS’s position on BSA membership policy decisions, including those removing sexual orientation and gender identity as barriers to membership, and the inclusion of girls into younger age groups, at this page:


    Essentially, they have no objection to the “Family Scouting” program, and will comment further as more information is available. As to the other policy changes, their responses have expressed the appropriate reservations, but their position remains tepid, at best. The Catholic Church in this country has invested heavily in Scouting up to now, and are loathe to dismiss it lightly.

    Ideally, Catholic-sponsored units would opt for a certain degree of separation, similar to that enjoyed by Mormon units for nearly a century. It was a position that the Church’s bishops took from the beginning, that Catholic boys belong only to Catholic-sponsored units, with Catholic adult leaders and Catholic priests as chaplains.

    As to your other point, it has been said more than once: “All Scouting is local.” From one end of the nation to the other, the majority of Scout troops will continue as they always have, “sticking to their guns” and sticking to the program. Until now, with the exception of the west coast and the northeast, the differences created by the changes of the last five years have hardly been noticed. If you had a son who wanted to join Scouting, it all comes down to the individual unit that he joins. The boys don’t care about what happens at the national level. They only care about what they’re doing. So should anyone else.

    If only at the grassroots level, the mission is still the same. “Be[ing] prepared.”

  9. jflare29 says:

    Mr. Alexander,
    For all that I understand your point, I find much of your line of argument to be quite objectionable. Being a former Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow inductee, and 3-time adult volunteer Scouter myself, I also am well able to discuss backstory and the changes in Scouting.

    Once I earned my Eagle, I began taking a stern look around. Even in 1992, Scouting had begun changing. Where I expected struggles with sustaining boy-led troops, we began seeing “new Scout patrols” and “older boys’ patrols” whereby adults effectively assumed leadership roles. True, the boys kept the duty titles, yet Patrol Leaders or Senior Patrols never assumed related responsibilities much. By the early 2000s, troops had ceased to be truly boy-led at all, boys intead mostly took instruction not from each other, but a few men who knew something about camping. I also recall hearing of Merit Badge University, whereby larger groups of boys could be taught several merit badges at once. While vaguely reminiscent of Summer Camp, boys no longer would seek the normal outdoor adventures (rifle shooting, canoeing, swimming, hiking, campfire building, wilderness survivial, et al). In essence, Scouting, which had always been a cool blend of learning and outdoor adventure, a relief from humdrum education school, got plopped right back in the schoolroom. …Guess you never realize the value of those outdoor elements ’til you strip them away.
    More to current concerns though, as of the mid-90s, groups of women and men didn’t like all-male or religion-based organizations, so they began filing lawsuits. Women demanded the “right” to be Scoutmasters, men who had openly declared themselves gay began demanding reinstatement as Eagles. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Scouts, yet the BSA itself eventually abandoned the reason for why they fought these changes.

    At one time, I might have been quite willing to allow a woman or “gay” man to be a Scoutmaster or volunteer Scouter–like myself–so long as the woman or man recognized the nature and intent of the program or movement. Sadly, I have seen little evidence of this intent. Most women or “gay” men have little concern for why the program came to be. They fuss far more about their rights as THEY perceive them, let everyone else…be gone.
    …As a side note, I’ve been mistaken on at least three separate occasions for a gay man, though not in relation to Scouting. I’m well acquainted with the stigma that such men suffer.

    We might argue that such changes merely posit the normal evolution of Scouting. I think this claim fails when we examine matters honestly. Because of the changes happening, I once read a biography of Baden-Powell, seeking to know why he did what he did. Two matters stood out: Baden-Powell never intended to create Scouts originally; he intended to incorporate his ideas into already-existing organizations. Such organizations weren’t interested, yet BP felt that British boys had need for adult guidance. Scouting…happened…because BP saw a need in British society for a positive, moral, masculine influence in the lives of young men. He didn’t require fathers and sons together because…the fathers weren’t there at all. Also, it’s fair to say that Scouting always reflected a Protestant viewpoint; BP is known to have discouraged some Canadians from taking a more explicitly Catholic view of the movement. Even so, even if I had wondered at one point if “Reverent” came as the last point of the Scout Law almost as an add-on, Scouting had still recognized the priority of Christian faith as a needed presence in a person’s life. Yet by the early 2000s, this had been modified so that faith would be presented as Scout’s Own, not Chapel.
    Such does not even touch on the decisions made regarding actively gay youth and leaders.

    On the whole, whatever strict technical points the press releases and intents may make, we cannot agree that Scouting in America has kept its values. It has not. If traditional norms might be tolerated, that still means they have ceased to be the main focus. We saw the camel’s nose being shoved under the tent flap in the 90s; it has shoved much of it’s body into the tent now. For my understanding, such is the cause for why Trail Life in particular, grew so quickly. Many people, like myself, finally decided “Enough!” with the politically correct BS (without the A), and have departed in droves.

    …Having been a volunteer Scouter myself, I well understand the idea with promoting Scouting as a worthy activity, in spite of the trials of these past decades. I suspect any number of us have struggled with deciding whether we should mush on or take a different approach. If I felt that Scouting in America would likely repent of the foolishness of late, I might reconsider my stated views. As matters stand though, I regret that if someone asks, I must suggest they seek Trail Life in lieu of the BSA. I had though Troops of St George would be a good idea–especially where they aim to be explicitly Catholic–yet they don’t appear to be as much a presence as others. In fact, though my parish apparently had a Troop at one point, such is not the case. There are, however, two Trail Life troops in this area. Such does not mean one cannot start a Troop–certainly the website offers help in starting one–yet it seems that Trail Life will be a more likely, workable option for most.

  10. jflare29 says:

    Hmm.. In the process of making my case, I think I accidentally obscured a key point or two. I could live with changes in Scouting IF:
    – Chastity would be formally recognized as a normative expectation
    – Christian religion would be recognized as a normative. For my knowledge, other faith traditions/philosophies had always been allowed, simply not celebrated. Scouting had always recognized the primacy of Christian ideals.
    – Men and women, boys and girls would be formally recognized as being complementary, yet different. Such being the case, they legitimately need two different organizations to provide appropriate opportunities.

    I have never met anyone who believes women and girls have no need or want to learn about or enjoy Scouting skills and activities. I have never met anyone who believes we may legitimately persecute homosexual persons. I think it would be quite healthy for boys and girls, men and women to seek many of the same kinds of roles and responsibilities. I think it healthy for all persons to understand the grand gift of human sexuality.

    Trouble is, Scouting in the last 30 years has effectively abandoned these ideas.

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