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Why Is the Catholic Church Turning Its Back on Girls?

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I grew up genuflecting at mass every Sunday. In second grade, I got to wear a tiny tiara with an attached veil to my First Holy Communion and developed a little obsession on St. Francis of Assisi. My early spiritual development was safely in the hands of the Catholic Church.

Thank God it's not there now. And neither is my daughter's.

If the abuse scandals were not enough, now the Archdiocese of St. Louis is issuing warnings about a nefarious organization that is spreading toxic ideas to the young girls of this country. The offending organization? It's not the mafia or ISIS or Citizens United. It's the Girl Scouts.

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Those evil thugs in their little green and brown uniforms. You'll never believe what they've done!

First, the Girl Scouts promote contraception and "abortion rights." If that wasn't bad enough, they've had the audacity to claim as role models Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, two women whose life work has been dedicated to dismantling prevailing sexist attitudes, laws and practices that keep women oppressed. Worse still, they have formed partnerships with organizations that oppose Catholic values. The offending organizations include Amnesty International, Coalition for Adolescent Girls, and Oxfam. According to the letter, these partnerships are "especially troubling" because they put dangerous ideas in minor girls' heads—ideas like sex education and that they are entitled to reproductive freedom.

I'm sickened that the Church is failing its youth yet again.

OK. That's not totally fair. The Catholic Church has a thing about abortion and contraception. At least they're consistent and principled about it, right? But it's not just the age-old tensions between reproductive rights and the Catholic Church that provoked the warning letter. The Archbishop of St. Louis, Robert J. Carlson, also cited the Girl Scouts as problematic because they support transgender and homosexual rights. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri issued a "statement of inclusivity," which explained how to welcome a transgender child to the group.

How is it that a religious institution opposes inclusion?

Archbishop Carlson went on to encourage pastors to discuss alternatives for the Girl Scout trips that meet on parish property. He also disbanded the Catholic Committee on the Girl Scouts, which sponsored Catholic programs for the scouts.

These new measures mean that the 4,000 girl scouts in the St. Louis area in troops that meet in parish offices will now have to meet in public libraries, community centers and religious centers.

Gee, thanks Catholic Church, for throwing out young women and leaving them to rely on the kindness of other institutions. Wouldn't it be nice if they didn't have to find an alternative to the Church?

In an accompanying guide to the letter, the archdiocese provided answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Devout Catholics want to know if buying Girl Scout cookies compromises their faith. According to the guide, "[e]ach person must act in accord with their conscience." The concern is that the percentage of cookie sales make their way to Amnesty International and OxFam. That claim, however, was refuted by a Girl Scouts spokesperson who said that all cookie sale proceeds stay within the local area to fund local and regional programs.

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I'm sickened that the Church is failing its youth yet again. The Church should applaud the inclusion practiced by the troops in Missouri. They are models of citizenship, peace and love. Maybe instead of issuing warnings about the Girl Scout, the archdiocese should devote its time and resources to any number of actual problems. St. Louis is eight miles from Ferguson, where Michael Brown was shot by police, sparking racial tensions and civil unrest in the area. Maybe the Catholic Church could work toward greater social and racial equality instead of trying to interfere with Girl Scout cookie sales.

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