The Roman Catholic Church's liaison with the Boy Scouts of America is through the
National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS). The NCCS is predominantly a lay organization, although there is a Bishop Advisor appointed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and several priests serve on the NCCS Executive Board.
The issue of BSA's ban on openly gay youth and adults is especially troubling for the Catholic Church. On the one hand, the USCCB filed a brief (available as a PDF file) in the Dale case in support of BSA, on the grounds that a private organization should be free to determine its own membership requirements. On the other hand, BSA's policy is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church on the issue of homosexuality.
Both the Catholic Catechism and Vatican documents differentiate
between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity. A differentiation that BSA's policy flatly rejects. In addition, the Catholic Catechism states that in regard to homosexual persons "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." (2358) At no time does the Catholic Church state that a homosexual person is automatically excommunicated from the church or her ministries. As the NCCS considers the various BSA programs to
be an integral part of a parish's youth ministry program, the expulsion of an openly gay Catholic youth from a parochial youth ministry program is in direct violation of both the Church's teachings and Canon Law.
The first time the issue of BSA's ban on gay youth/adults came to everyone's attention, was when Tim Curran filed a lawsuit against BSA after he was expelled in 1980. Ten years later, a trial was held on Tim's lawsuit. The court issued a tentative ruling in May 1991. During those eleven years, the NCCS Executive Board never issued a
statement on this issue. For that matter, the issue of BSA's ban on gay youth/adults was never even brought up for discussion by the NCCS's Executive Board from 1980 through 1997.
Shortly after the Curran ruling, BSA prepared position statements on its membership ban on gays, non-theists, and girls. A few short months later, BSA sent a letter to the General Secretary of the United States Catholic Conference asking for their support of BSA's
stand on banning gay youth/adults.
The General Secretary at the time, Msgr. Robert Lynch (now the former Bishop of St. Petersburg, Fl), responded on behalf of the Catholic bishops. The tone of his letter illustrates the disagreement between BSA's policies and the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Since Msgr. Lynch's response to BSA in 1991 to 2000, the
teachings of the Catholic Church did not alter. In fact, if anything, the Bishop's Pastoral Letter, Always Our Children, denounced BSA's actions of expelling gay Catholic youth from Scouting, simply for being gay.
Unfortunately, the NCCS is currently dominated by socially conservative Catholic laity and clerics, who are neither knowledgeable about the Church's teachings on homosexuality, nor
on both the implications of BSA's discriminatory policy and it's incompatibility with the Church's teachings. Given these facts, it is not surprising to find that the NCCS participated in a brief in support of the BSA in the Dale case (available as a PDF file).
The degree to how hard-lined and conservative the NCCS has become in this area is best expressed by the letter the current NCCS
Bishop Advisor, Most. Rev. Gettlefinger, composed after the Supreme Court upheld BSA's right to expel openly gay Catholic youth.