The chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting recently said that the Boy Scouts' decision to lift its ban on openly gay members does not "conflict with Catholic teaching," and the church should use this policy change as an opportunity to ensure the Catholic faith "is taught, practiced and nurtured" within the 103-year-old youth organization.
"Scouting is still the best youth-serving program available to all youth [and] we should be encouraged that the change in BSA's youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching," Edward P. Martin, chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, wrote in a May 29 letter.
"We need to use this opportunity to show our commitment to making Catholic Scouting a safe environment for all youth in which the Catholic faith is taught, practiced and nurtured."
The letter, which was addressed to "my fellow Catholic Scouters," goes on to confirm that the main principles of the Boy Scouts of America continue to follow in-line with Catholic teaching. For example, the virtues of Scouting do not condone sexual conduct among members, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and the Scout oath has maintained references to God and reverence.
"The values set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are fundamental to the BSA and central to teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes," the letter states.
The letter also cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which "teaches that individuals who disclose a homosexual inclination or a same sex attraction are to be treated with the same dignity due all human beings created by God."
"I encourage you to seek understanding of the resolution, the Church's teaching on the subject, and to pray for wisdom," Martin writes, concluding the letter. "We ask that Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment as the policy does not go into effect until January 1, 2014."
Martin adds that during the listening period regarding the proposed resolution to lift the organization's gay ban, the NCCS expressed its concerns to the BSA, and the youth organization's response to these concerns proved "satisfactory."
On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America's National Council adopted a new resolution allowing openly gay members to join its organization after 61 percent of 1,400 delegates voted in favor of lifting the organization's ban on openly gay members at the annual board meeting in Grapevine, Texas.
The organization voted to keep the ban on openly gay troop leaders.
The Catholic Church now joins the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United Methodists in saying it will continue to support the youth organization in spite of the resolution vote.
Similar to the letter released by Martin, the LDS statement following the resolution spoke of the strong relationship between the church body and the youth organization.
"For the past 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong relationship with Boy Scouts of America, based on our mutual interest in helping boys and young men understand and live their duty to God and develop upright moral behavior," the statement released by the church read.
The United Methodist Church released a statement following the resolution, saying that although the church was not sufficiently consulted on the change in policy, it would remain affiliated with the Boy Scouts.
Still, other church groups have objected to the policy change, as seen through many congregations severing ties with the Boy Scouts in protest.
Churches in Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky, among other places, have chosen to cut sponsorship ties with their local troops over the resolution.
The Rev. Harry Reeder III, senior pastor of the 4,100-member Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala., said shortly after the resolution vote that Christian youth may now turn to alternative youth groups which fall more in line with Christian values regarding sexuality.
"When a church holds to a biblical social ethic of sex only between a man and a woman in monogamous marriage, it cannot support an organization that opposes that," he told al.com.
Other evangelical leaders, including Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman and Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, have also voiced their opposition to the change.
The youth organization has long maintained strong connections with churches in the U.S., with nearly 70 percent of the organization's 100,000 units nationwide being chartered by faith-based groups, according to the organization's official website.