May 11, 2012

The Roman Catholic bishops seem to have a problem with strong, independent women, don’t they?

The hierarchy recently launched an offensive against American nuns, accusing them of supporting “radical feminism” and failing to show sufficient enthusiasm for the bishops’ efforts to ban abortion and deny civil rights to gays. Now the all-male church leadership has decided to subject the Girl Scouts to an inquisition.

Several media reports today say the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is conducting an “official inquiry” into the frightening activities of those insidious cookie-mongers.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, told The Washington Post, “There had been some complaints about the Scouts, and the bishops couldn’t turn a deaf ear. So they want to know, what’s the story?”

I think we all know what “the story” is, Sister. Some Girl Scout leader sometime somewhere mentioned someone who supports birth control. And we can’t have that, can we?

Seriously, it’s that ridiculous.

Religious Right leaders have been playing this game for years. As my colleague Rob Boston reported earlier this year, Focus on the Family and FOF founder James Dobson have accused the group of pushing “a philosophy that includes humanism and radical feminism.” Two years ago, Charles W. Colson called for a boycott of the annual cookie sale.

Now the bishops have decided to get in on the fun.

According to an AP account, critics say the Girl Scouts have ties to Planned Parenthood (they don’t) and shouldn’t take stands on abortion, birth control and sexuality (they don’t). They also shouldn’t have any contact with any groups like the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam that don’t toe the bishops’ line on family planning.  

The critics blast the Girl Scouts' membership in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which (horrors!) has sometimes supported discussion of sex and sexuality. The U.S. organization sets its own policies, of course, and doesn’t necessarily follow the leadership of the larger association, but apparently that isn’t good enough for the folks with the torches and pitchforks.

The critics also complain about a 1993 decision that allowed girls to “substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs” for the word “God” in the Girl Scout promise – "On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country." That opens the door to everyone from Atheists to Zoroastrians! Can’t have that, can we?

Conservative Catholic activist Mary Rice Hasson told the AP, “The leadership of the Girl Scouts is reflexively liberal. Their board is dominated by people whose views are antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

So now we’re getting to the crux of the matter. The Girl Scouts are a nonsectarian group that welcomes girls and women from many perspectives about religion and teaches them to be strong and independent.

I’ve never been a member of the Girl Scouts, but my AU colleague Rebecca Davis-Nord has. She says she learned first aid, camping, public service and “definitely to think for ourselves and to value ourselves as young women.”

No wonder the bishops have them on the rack.

Here’s the bottom line: The Religious Right and the Catholic hierarchy are increasingly joining forces to try to impose their doctrines on every aspect of American society. They want dominion, and they’re pulling every conceivable lever to get it.

Just say no – and buy another case of Do-Si-Do’s.