An devotee of Scouts BSA (formerly known as Boy Scouts of America) recently asked “where in Catholic Church teaching is scouting required to be only for boys?” I don’t think the writer of that question, expected an answer, but it is a good question.
Nobody should be surprised that Catholic doctrine is silent on whether scouting programs should be gender based. Scouting programs tied to a parish are human institutions, that should support the faith of its members whether they be boys (Trail Life, Scouts BSA, TSG) or girls (Heritage Girls, Scouts BSA). However, our inquiry should not end there. The Church expects us to exercise our prudential judgement to determine what is best. Is there a good reason for a scouting program, like Trail Life, to be exclusive? I believe the answer is “yes.”
The catechism teaches that Men and Women are of equal dignity, but different.
“By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.” CCC 2393
These differences are physical, moral, and spiritual in nature, but they are also complementary.
“Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.” CCC 2333
Understanding that men and women are different, it follows that some programs, like Trail Life, should be designed to meet the unique physical, moral, and spiritual needs of boys learning to be men. Trail Life is an excellent part of any parish’s ministry for boys to grow into the strong men of faith needed in the Church today.